Toward the end of the 1960s in Switzerland watch manufacturers were working to develop the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. Leading brands Breitling, Heuer-Leonidas, Dubois Depraz, Hamilton/Buren worked to develop a micro-rotor caliber, and in Japan, Seiko was working on its own automatic chronograph movement. Zenith, coupled wth partner Movado managed the development of an automatic chronograph movement, and showcased a working prototype in Geneva, naming it El Primero, meaning ‘the first’. A technological victory for the brand, and using a dry lubricant based on molybenum sulfate to deliver a high precision rate, and a power reserve of over 48 hours.
During this era most calibers paced around 21,600 or fewer vibrations, but this beast beats at 36,000 semi-oscillations per hour. The timepiece was equipped with an oscillating weight which automatically wound the mainspring, and equipped with an outer segment that was crafted from tungsten carbide. The design provided the rotor a high specific gravity and therefore the slighest movement from the wearer’s forearm created energy for the mainspring. This chronograph has a column wheel controlling the functions while most of the other manufacturers used coulisse switching due to expense.
There were two versions of the El Primero created initially, Caliber 3019 PHC a chronograph with date display and Caliber 3019 PHF that has a full calendar and moon-phase display. The trend during this time was tone-on-tone dials, so these models boasted a wide range of colors, and played on contrasting effects to increase readability of the counters. The color combination of light grey, anthracite and blue became iconic for the brand. There have been many versions since these original timepieces, but it is important to note that it takes about nine months to make a single timepiece within this collection. A series of over 2500 operations are performed by 300 expert handcrafts with 18 different metals. Evolving over the years, the Zenith El Primero has additional complications, and now comes in 23 different versions and continues to be bold and creative with every timepiece. Certainly the brand works to push ahead and be a leader in the watchmaking industry.
So if you are looking for something with precision and style, this timepiece is a good fit for you. A little trendy with a lot of history, you can be a leader and show others what watches should be.