With inaugural flights of supersonic airliners and rockets to the moon, you could say that the year 1969 epitomised speed, so it was fitting that Zenith released a watch that not only recorded this dimension, but was also the fastest beating one to do so: The El Primero.
Zenith has now introduced an exciting evolution of this iconic model and as the name implies its a lighter one, it also features a larger 45mm carbon fibre housing and the legendary El Primero caliber built from titanium for the first time.
This latest incarnation is an interesting high tech addition to the El Primero lineage that will no doubt be of interest to the avid collector and is a limited run of just 100 pieces. Despite the cutting edge advancements this new model remains inherently true to the line’s DNA stretching back to 1969 and its introduction as one of the most important chronographs of all time: the first high frequency automatic chronograph. Remarkably the El Primero is still today the most precise series-made chronograph caliber in the world.
However the El Primero has come a long way since its genesis . Over the years, Zenith has continued to develop its movement and the brand also took up the challenge of combining the high frequency chronograph with other complications such as the tourbillon, perpetual calendar and split seconds. In 2010, Zenith reinvented the “jumping seconds” by presenting the model El Primero Striking 10th. With a sweep second hand performing ten jumps per second the chronograph can not only measure, but also show the tenth of a second with an extremely precise reading. To improve the efficiency of this mechanism required a lot of energy so a 100-teeth double-wheel made of silicon was used, this made it possible for the seconds hand to move at six times faster than usual!
Zenith El Primero Lightweight – Movement and Case
So Zenith begins a new chapter by releasing this sportier and more avant-garde version of its El Primero Striking 10th. The mission for the brands engineers and designers was to create a lighter model without compromising its accuracy, robustness and reliability while maintaining that El Primero signature look.
This feat began with the movement. Based on its recent research into new materials Zenith chose the lightweight metal titanium, widely used in aviation -and a first for the El Primero – for the main parts of the movement such as the mainplate and the five bridges. They also used the silicon double chronograph wheel from the original Striking 10th model -you cant miss it, yes thats it in purple! While adding a silicon lever and escape wheel to shed even more weight. The result being the 4052 W calibre – that is 25% lighter, down from 21.10 g to just 15.45 g. The total watch weight is a mere 40g which is about half of what the regular El Primero weighs; impressive.
Well the new model may be a ‘lightweight’ but it isn’t diminutive in size, the case measuring an imposing 45mm an increase from 42mm – this however isnt likely to be an obstacle for those who appreciate this brand since other successful models such as the Chronomaster Grande Date are of a similar size.
The choice of carbon fiber for the case while reducing the weight also adds a sportier, automotive flavour to the piece with its checker pattern. I like how discretely this has been done, if carbon fiber isn’t used carefully and with subtlety it can cheapen and make things appear gaudy, but the case patterning is so reserved that it doesn’t clash with the busy dial design.
The interior has also been upgraded using a ceramised aluminium- a special blended material that not only reduces weight but also has a greater toughness than steel – 1800 Vickers compared to 160-200.
Zenith El Primero Lightweight – Dial
The dial is a distinct and rather handsome reinterpretation of the classic El Primero, that retains the signature three color Striking 10th sub dials. Considering the amount of visual interest on show here Zenith have done well designing a dial that is so legible. The semi-skeletonized section allows for a peak, while the caseback allows for an even greater view inside to see the attractive 4052 W El Primero Striking 10th movement.
The date display has been reworked with a reduction in weight achieved using cut-out numerals displayed on a red background. Complimenting this the red central 10th seconds hand and a red border circling the indexes. Perforated lugs, a titanium crown and buttons all reduce weight further, along with a lightweight synthetic fiber called Nomex used for the strap. To cut weight still further the facetted hands have been hollowed out, it seems that nothing has been left untouched in their quest for lightness!
This latest addition to this classic line with its use of contemporary materials and cutting edge technology still maintains the El Primero’s instantly recognisable characteristics, and yet looks marvellously modern too. At $22,000 it also represents great value; you are getting a stunning, cutting edge version of a legendary watch that retains the quintessential appeal of the original.
Zenith El Primero Lightweight – Pricing
At $22,000 the Zenith El Primero Lightweight is competitivly priced when compared to similar carbon fiber chronographs such as the Hublot King Power Unico All Carbon at around $20k, IWC’s new carbon fibre Ingenieur at $26,400 and the AP Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph in forged carbon which is over $30k. I’d say it is one of the better deals in the market considering what you’re getting – that is if you’re one of the lucky 100 !
Zenith El Primero Lightweight – Technical Specifications
- El Primero 4052 W, automatic
- Calibre: 13 ¼ ‘’’ (diameter : 30 mm)
- Thickness: 6.60 mm
- Components: 334
- Jewels: 31 Frequency: 36,00 VpH – (5 Hz)
- Power reserve: min. 50 hours
- Finishes: Oscillating weight with “Côtes de Genève” pattern
- Titanium components: mainplate, barrel bridge, balance bridge,
chronograph bridge, pallet bridge and pallet-wheel bridge
- Hours and minutes in the centre
- Small seconds at 9 o’clock
- Date window at 6 o’clock
- Chronograph with 1/10th second display:
- 60-minute counter at 6 o’clock
- 60-second counter at 3 o’clock
- I/10th second indication by the chronograph hand
Case, dials and hands:
- Material: Carbon
- Diameter: 45 mm
- Opening diameter: 38.50 mm
- Crystal: Cambered sapphire crystal glareproofed on both sides
- Caseback: Transparent sapphire crystal
- Water resistance: 10 ATM
- Dial: Openworked with three coloured counters
- Hour-markers: Rhodiumed, facetted and enhanced with Superluminova SLN C1
- Hands : Rhodiumed, facetted and enhanced with Superluminova SLN C1
Strap: Nomex-coated black rubber strap and black triple folding clasp
More resources about the Zenith El Primero Lightweight on the Official Zenith Website.