Zenith Sporto

Zenith Sporto

 Since the early 1900s, Zenith has been awarded more than fifteen hundred top observatory awards for chronometry, an incredible feat for a manufacture that has only been partially discovered by American collectors.  

20th-century Zenith is largely associated with the El-Primero movement, the mechanism that made its way into many Zenith and Movado watches throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.  By '88, Rolex, having no automatic chronograph of their own, began using the El-Primero in their Daytona line in lieu of the Valjouz 72 manual winding unit.  

Rolex's adoption of the El-Primero helped to heighten Zenith's presence in the global market.  For American enthusiasts and collectors, Zenith was little known - a trademark conflict with the American Zenith Radio Corporation had kept the brand from distributing in the States - and remained that way until the late 1970s when the trademark dispute was finally settled.  

The barring of Zenith distribution inside the U.S. had led to significant dearth of early Zeniths on the market and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the brand's hearty models from the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  

The lovely Zenith Calibre 126 movement, which was in production from 1947 to 1955, had four basic manually-winding variants: the base 126 (with a sub-second register at 6:00), the 126-5 (that had a center sweep seconds hand), the 126-6 (sub seconds with Incabloc protection) and the 126-5-6 (center seconds with Incabloc).

This watch is driven by the fourth variant, the Calibre 126-5-6 and has a distinct two-tone dial with applied Arabic numerals and dark markers on the bronze outer ring and printed minute track on the inner black portion.  The Sporto, which rang alongside models like the Pilot and the Defy, was designed to accompany the wearer into more of life's activities - it could absorb the shock of a game of tennis and still look good on the wrist while sipping gin and tonics at the club.  To add to its robust movement, the Sporto came with inner acrylic case back, providing greater dust and vapor protection.  Pretty wild for the early 1950s!   

A simple, unassuming watch, the Zenith Sporto has great style and one of the better movements from the period.  Don't miss out on this excellent expression from a by-gone era!


Steel case is approximately 34mm (excluding the crown). Zenith Calibre 126-5-6 Manually-Winding Movement. Circa 1950s.

Overall Condition: The watch is in excellent condition throughout, with only very light wear marks visible on the case and case back. Genuine Zenith two-tone dial is very sharp. Outer bronze-colored outer dial and applied markers have patinated slightly. Black inner dial shows some light stippling, but printing is crisp and shows no signs of having been retouched. Sword-style hands show some light oxidation. Unsigned crown. Unsigned snap case back.

Includes one 18mm leather strap with contrast stitching and two 18mm nylon straps by Crown & Buckle.

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