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Zenith El Primero


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Zenith El Primero 36'000 VpH Steel 42mm Silver
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Zenith El Primero 36 000 VpH Chronograph Automatik Stahl...
£3,820
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Steel 46mm Silver
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Automatik Herrenuhr 03.2520.400/...
£5,401
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Zenith El Primero Red gold 40mm Silver
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Chronograph 18K Roségold...
£10,038
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Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Gold/Steel 46mm Silver
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Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Chronograph Ref. 51.2061.405...
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Zenith El Primero Yellow gold 38mm Silver
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Chronograph 18K Gold 17.0240.410
£10,319
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Steel White United Kingdom, Shrewsbury
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Open 1969 Watch
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Steel 37mm White United Kingdom, Harrogate
Zenith Lupin The Third - El Primero Chronomaster A384 Revival...
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Zenith Chronomaster Sport Steel 41mm Black No numerals
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Zenith Chronomaster New Unworn Giffted with Original Strap &...
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Zenith El Primero 36'000 VpH Steel 42mm United Kingdom, London
Zenith El Primero Chronograph
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Titanium 45mm Black No numerals
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Rolling Stones Limited...
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Zenith El Primero Steel 40mm Black United Kingdom, Kent
Zenith El Primero Rainbow Flyback tritium dial mint
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Rose gold 45mm United Kingdom, London
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster XXT Quantieme Perpetual Calendar
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Zenith El Primero Steel 40mm Black No numerals
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Zenith El Primero Pacific
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Lady Steel 37mm Silver
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Zenith Lady Star El Primero Chronomaster Diamanten Automatik...
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Steel 38mm
Zenith El Primero Chronograph Tri Color "Final Edition"...
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Lady Rose gold 37mm Grey Arabic numerals
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Zenith Chronomaster Star El Primero 18KT Rose Gold
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Zenith El Primero 36'000 VpH Steel 42mm Grey United Kingdom, Bishop's Stortford
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Stainless Steel 03.2040.400/26....
£5,300
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Zenith El Primero Titanium 37mm United Kingdom, London
Zenith Revival El Primero Safari Ref 97.T384.400/57.C856 2022
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Zenith Chronomaster Sport Steel 41mm Black No numerals
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Sport 41mm Rubber Strap...
£9,319
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph 40.5mm Silver Arabic numerals United Kingdom, London
Zenith El Primero Triple Calendar Moonphase Chronograph...
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Steel Silver United Kingdom, HAYES
Zenith El Primero Chronograph
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Zenith El Primero Titanium 37mm Black No numerals United Kingdom, London
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Revival Shadow Titanium...
£4,800
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Steel 42mm Black
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Zenith El Primero Retrotimer Chronograph Automatik Stahl...
£4,259
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Ceramic 45mm Grey No numerals United Kingdom, Kings Langley
Zenith El Primero Skeleton Chronomaster - Ref: 49.2520.400/98....
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Zenith Chronomaster Sport Steel 41mm White
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Sport White Panda Watch...
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Zenith El Primero 36'000 VpH Steel 42mm Grey No numerals United Kingdom, Swansea
Zenith El Primero Vph
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Zenith El Primero White gold 38mm United Kingdom, London
Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary A386 Revival White Gold...
£17,000
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Zenith El Primero Steel 44mm Black Arabic numerals United Kingdom, London
Zenith El Primero - Complete box and papers
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Zenith Chronomaster Sport Steel 41mm White United Kingdom
Zenith Chronomaster Sport Unworn
£8,395
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4.80 (422)
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Yellow gold White United Kingdom, Surrey
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph 'Limited Edition' FULL SET
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Zenith El Primero Gold/Steel 44mm Silver
Zenith El Primero Rattrapante Big Date Rose Gold and Stainless...
£10,484
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4.95 (149)
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Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Gold/Steel 45.5mm Black
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Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Chronograph 85.2060.405/23.C714
£6,068
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Zenith El Primero Original 1969 Steel 38mm Blue No numerals United Kingdom, Kings Langley
Zenith Chronomaster Heritage 146 El Primero - 2018 Model...
£4,995
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4.89 (169)
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Steel 42mm Silver
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 03.2040.4061 42mm Steel Watch
£4,271
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4.95 (42)
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Zenith El Primero Steel 37mm White No numerals United Kingdom, Birkenhead
Zenith A384 Revival El Primero
£4,950
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Zenith Chronomaster Sport Steel 41mm United Kingdom, London
Zenith Chronomaster Sport Chronograph Black Dial 2021
£7,750
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4.91 (583)
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Titanium 42mm Silver
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero II
£8,154
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4.86 (712)
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Zenith Chronomaster Sport Steel 41mm White
Zenith NEW Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Sport White Panda...
£9,054
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4.71 (763)
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Zenith El Primero Steel 45mm Silver No numerals
Zenith El Primero
£5,004
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4.87 (158)
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Zenith El Primero Steel 37mm United Kingdom, London
Zenith El Primero Revival 'Lupin the Third' 2nd Edition
£12,995
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4.80 (422)
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Steel 42mm Silver
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Automatik Edelstahl Herrenuhr...
£7,289
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Zenith Chronomaster Sport Rose gold 41mm White
Zenith Pre-Owned Chronomaster Sport Chronograph 18.3100.3600/...
£15,489
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4.90 (1,446)
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Zenith El Primero Tourbillon White gold 45mm Black
Zenith Grande Class Tourbillon 65.0520.4035/21.c492 18k White...
£51,770
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4.83 (285)
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Yellow gold 40mm United Kingdom, Bolton
Zenith El primero rainbow chronograph
£5,300
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Steel 42mm Transparent No numerals
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Full Open
£7,335
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4.89 (580)
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Zenith El Primero Steel 37mm White
Zenith El Primero Revival A384
£5,652
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4.86 (712)
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Steel 45mm Silver Roman numerals United Kingdom, London
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Open Skeleton 45mm Power...
£3,250
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4.85 (261)
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Ceramic 45mm Black No numerals
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Bullit
£4,746
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4.87 (158)
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Steel 37mm Grey United Kingdom, London
Zenith Vintage El Primero Chronograph
£7,995
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4.80 (422)
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Zenith El Primero Chronograph Gold/Steel 39.5mm White
Zenith El Primero Rainbow Chronograph Stahl / Gold Automatik...
£3,838
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Titanium 37mm Blue No numerals
Zenith Pre-Owned Zenith x Revolution & The Rake Chronomaster...
£12,900
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4.90 (1,446)
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Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Steel 45mm Silver
Zenith El Primero Stratos 03.2062.4057/69.r515 45mm Steel Watch
£4,530
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4.95 (42)
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Zenith El Primero Espada 33mm United Kingdom, Me15 7ez
Zenith ESPADA
£150
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Steel 42mm Black
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Power Reserve Open $10K MSRP 42...
£4,742
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4.96 (208)
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Zenith El Primero 36'000 VpH Steel 42mm
Zenith El Primero 03.2046.400
£5,393
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4.86 (712)
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Zenith El Primero 410 Rose gold 42mm Silver
Zenith El Primero 410 Complete Calendar Moonphase Watch...
£13,064
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4.84 (1,226)
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Zenith El Primero Tourbillon Ceramic 45mm Black No numerals
Zenith El Primero Tourbillon Chromomaster
£31,065
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4.89 (580)
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Zenith El Primero 36'000 VpH Steel 42mm Black
Zenith El Primero 36'000 VpH Chronograph 03.2080.400/21.C496...
£4,138
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4.85 (189)
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Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Steel 46mm Silver
Zenith El Primero Stratos Automatik Stahl Herrenuhr Ref....
£4,865
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Zenith El Primero Steel 40mm Silver No numerals
Zenith Pre-Owned Zenith Chronomaster T Open 03.0240.4021/02.C495
£4,271
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4.90 (1,446)
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Zenith El Primero 36'000 VpH Steel 42mm Grey No numerals
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Chronograph
£6,040
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4.94 (209)
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Zenith El Primero Steel 42mm Silver United Kingdom, Redhill
Zenith El Primero Chronograph Striking 10th Limited Edition...
£6,550
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Rose gold 45mm Silver United Kingdom, London
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Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Grande Date Moonphase 18ct Rose...
£9,250
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4.86 (122)
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Zenith Chronomaster Sport Steel 41mm White No numerals
Zenith Chronomaster Sport 41mm El Primero White New Unworn
£9,017
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4.89 (300)
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Zenith El Primero: The First Movement of Its Kind

The Zenith El Primero was the first automatic chronograph caliber in the world. Oscillating at a high frequency, this movement can measure 1/10th of a second. Current top models can even time to 1/100th of a second and boast a double tourbillon.

By Chrono24

High Performance and Precision Since 1969

The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Zenith is inseparable from their famous chronograph caliber, the El Primero, which means "the first" in Spanish. The movement was released in 1969 and is considered the first automatic chronograph movement ever produced. The El Primero earned the brand with the star logo its place in horological history and has since become Zenith's showpiece.

Thanks to an unusually high balance frequency of 36,000 vph (5 Hz), the movement can measure 1/10th of a second – a feat that remains a rarity in mechanical chronographs to this day. Despite its frequency, the caliber has a power reserve of 50 hours when fully wound. In comparison, the Valjoux 7750 from ETA only has a power reserve of around 44 hours.

Today, the El Primero powers various watches in the {model-189,Chronomaster}, Defy, and Pilot series. The El Primero 21, introduced in 2017 and found in some watches in the Defy line, increases the movement's already legendary precision by a factor of ten. It is fitted with two oscillation/escapement systems – one for the time display, which runs at 5 Hz, and another for the chronograph. The latter boasts an incredible frequency of 50 Hz, which allows timing to 1/100th of a second.

Other highlights include El Primero movements with a double tourbillon or fusee. The double tourbillon version relies on a tourbillon each for the time display and chronograph function, while the El Primero Fusee with a tourbillon uses a fusee and chain mechanism to modulate the force of the mainspring. Zenith's watchmaking brilliance extends to movements with so-called Gravity Control. Here, the balance and escapement are part of a gyroscopic regulating module that continuously realigns itself to counteract the effects of gravity.

Reasons to Buy a Watch With an El Primero Movement

  • High balance frequency enabling measurements to 1/10th of a second
  • El Primero 21 with two escapements, measures 1/100th of a second
  • 50-hour power reserve
  • Top models with a tourbillon or Gravity Control
  • World's first automatic chronograph caliber

Prices for Watches With El Primero Calibers

Model/Reference number Price (approx.) Material, Movement
Defy Double Tourbillon / 40.9000.9020/78.R582 106,000 USD Platinum, EP 9020
Defy Zero G / 18.9000.8812/79.M9000 93,500 USD Rose gold, EP 8812 S
Academy Christophe Colomb Equation of Time / 18.2220.8808/01.C631 68,500 USD Rose gold, EP 8808
Defy Fusee Tourbillon / 10.9000.4805/78.R916 61,000 USD Carbon, EP 4805
Chronomaster Tourbillon / 65.2050.4035/91.C714 50,000 USD White gold, EP 4035
Chronomaster / A386 19,000 USD Stainless steel, EP 400
Defy Extreme / 87.9100.9004/03.I001 18,500 USD Microblasted titanium and rose gold, EP 9004
Chronomaster Sport / 03.3100.3600/69.M3100 10,500 USD Stainless steel, EP 3600
Chronomaster Original / 03.3200.3600/69.C902 8,300 USD Stainless steel, EP 3600
Pilot Type 20 Chronograph / 03.2434.4069/20.I010 6,600 USD Stainless steel, EP 4069
Chronomaster Revival El Primero A384 / 03.A384.400/21.C815 6,400 USD Stainless steel, EP 400
Chronomaster El Primero TV / 01-0200-415 4,700 USD Stainless steel, EP 3019PHC
Prime / 01-0010.420 2,600 USD Stainless steel, EP 420 (manual)

How much does a Zenith El Primero cost?

Zenith chronographs outfitted with an El Primero caliber are available starting at 2,500 USD on Chrono24. For this price, you can find well-maintained models from the 1990s and early 2000s. Prices for watches from current collections, such as the Chronomaster Open with a partially skeletonized dial, start closer to 7,000 USD. Expect to see prices around 8,200 USD for a Chronomaster Original with the classic tricolor dial. Set aside at least 2,000 USD more if you want to purchase a model with the state-of-the-art El Primero 21 caliber.

You'll find watches with a double tourbillon, Gravity Control, or fusee at the upper end of the price range. These watches demand between 60,500 USD and 105,000 USD.

Vintage refs like the A384 and A386 are particularly popular with collectors, and will set you back between 14,000 USD and 19,000 USD, depending on the exact model and condition. Watches powered by the El Primero but not made by Zenith are also coveted among collectors. Some popular examples include the Rolex Daytona ref. 16520 and TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 36. The latter is available on Chrono24 starting around 4,600 USD, while the Rolex demands closer to 38,000 USD.


Vintage El Primeros

The first Zenith timepieces to feature the then-groundbreaking El Primero caliber were the references A384, A385, and A386. The A386 is considered by many to be the archetypal Zenith chronograph thanks to its iconic dial design with three subdials, each in a different color. The 30-minute counter at 3 o'clock is blue, the 12-hour counter at 6 is dark gray, and the small seconds at 9 has a light gray hue. A red chronograph hand adds the perfect amount of color to the dial, and the round, 38-mm stainless steel case gives the watch a classic overall look. Well-maintained examples of this watch can be purchased on Chrono24 starting at 19,000 USD.

The A384 and its sibling, the A385, look markedly different than the A386. Both have a tonneau-shaped case with accentuated edges. The dial of the A384 is a typical panda layout, i.e., white background with black subdials. The dial of the A385, on the other hand, features a radial color gradient ranging from light beige to brown with contrasting white subdials. An A384 in good condition costs around 14,500 USD. The A385 almost seems like a bargain in comparison at just under 8,800 USD.


Revival and Retro Models

For a number of years now, Zenith has offered a range of retro and revival models that hark back to the designs of the very first El Primero watches. For example, fans of the A386 should check out watches in the Chronomaster Original collection. The ref. 03.3200.3600 is a fan favorite because it shares so many characteristics with the original, including a 38-mm case and tricolor subdial design. Inside this case, however, you'll find the caliber EP 3600, a modernized version of the El Primero offering an updated 60-hour power reserve and a stop-seconds mechanism. It is easy to identify watches with this movement by the subdials at 3 and 6 o'clock, which are now 60-second and 60-minute counters, respectively. Moreover, a scale to measure tenths of seconds replaces the tachymeter scale on the rehaut.

A stainless steel Chronomaster Original costs around 8,300 USD on Chrono24. If you'd prefer a rose gold model, expect prices closer to 18,000 USD.

If you'd like a watch that comes as close to the first El Primero watches as possible, the Chronomaster Revival collection is worth a closer look. The Chronomaster Revival El Primero A384 ref. 03.A384.400/21, for instance, is a near replica of the 1969 model. Even the El Primero 400 caliber powering the modern watch closely resembles the original. You can buy this timepiece on a leather strap for around 6,400 USD. For around 500 USD more, you can get the same watch on a so-called ladder bracelet which, as its name suggests, features middle links arranged like a ladder.


El Primero 21 – Precise to 1/100th of a Second

In 2017, Zenith introduced the El Primero 21, a new family of calibers that once again expands the functionality of this iconic movement. To display the time, the calibers rely on a balance that beats at an impressive 36,000 vph. The chronograph, on the other hand, has its own oscillation/escapement system that runs at a frequency of 360,000 vph or 50 Hz. This enables the movement to measure 1/100th of a second – quite a remarkable feat for a mechanical caliber!

You can find movements from the El Primero 21 line in watches from the Defy 21 and Defy Extreme collections. These movements are oftentimes intricately skeletonized, allowing the wearer to admire the finely tuned mechanics in all their glory.

A Defy 21 with a skeletonized caliber and titanium case costs around 9,800 USD on Chrono24. Versions made of ceramic or carbon are slightly more expensive and cost between 12,000 USD and 14,500 USD. If you'd prefer a rose gold Defy 21, be sure to budget around 35,500 USD. The Defy Extreme is equipped with a more robust case and costs between 14,000 USD and 19,000 USD.


Zenith El Primero Plus Tourbillon

Some Zenith El Primero calibers also boast a tourbillon. One example is the caliber EP 4035, which powers the Chronomaster Tourbillon, Pilot Type 20 Tourbillon, and Defy Xtreme Tourbillon, among others. The common thread between all these watches is the minute-tourbillon prominently displayed at the 11 o'clock position. This feature displaced the small seconds dial, which is usually at 9 o'clock.

Depending on the model and case material, prices range from around 19,000 USD for a stainless steel Chronomaster Tourbillon to nearly 46,500 USD for a black-coated titanium Defy Xtreme. The latter is water-resistant to 1,000 m (100 bar, 3,280 ft).

Zenith also offers a tourbillon version of the state-of-the-art El Primero 21, the EP 9020. This movement boasts a separate tourbillon for the time display and the chronograph. The frequencies remain the same at 5 Hz and 50 Hz, respectively, meaning you can also use watches with this caliber to time to the nearest 1/100th of a second.

Zenith currently uses the El Primero 9020 in the Defy Double Tourbillon. This watch features a skeletonized dial and comes in platinum, carbon, or sapphire crystal. Prices range from 87,500 USD to 105,000 USD, depending on the case material.

Fusee Tourbillon – Constant-Force Mechanism

One particular highlight of this luxury manufacturer from Le Locle, Switzerland, is the El Primero 4805 Fusee Tourbillon caliber. Unlike other El Primero movements, those with a fusee do not have a chronograph function. However, this mechanism ensures a constant driving force from the mainspring via a fusee and chain, resulting in extreme precision. Of course, the tourbillon at 6 o'clock is not to be overlooked.

The EP 4805 was first presented in 2015 in celebration of the company's 150th anniversary. The movement was housed in the Chronomaster El Primero Tourbillon GFJ. The last three letters of the model name, GFJ, are the initials of the company's founder, Georges Favre-Jacot. The El Primero Tourbillon GFJ is available with a ceramic or 18-karat rose gold case. Plan on spending around 64,500 USD for an unworn example. More recent models with this type of movement like the Defy Fusee Tourbillon cost between 60,500 USD and 77,500 USD, depending on the version.

El Primero Zero G – Defies Gravity

Zenith further exhibits its watchmaking prowess with the Zero G versions of the El Primero. Movements like the EP 8812 feature Gravity Control, a gyroscopic regulating module for the oscillation/escapement system that continuously realigns itself regardless of the watch's position. This ensures the balance and escapement are always in the ideal position and, thus, minimizes the effects of gravity. As a result, movements with this module boast exceptional levels of accuracy.

Watches powered by an El Primero with Gravity Control include, among others, the Academy Christophe Colomb Equation of Time, which earned Zenith the "Complicated Watch Prize" at 2011's Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. This gold watch is available on Chrono24 starting around 69,000 USD.

A more recent model with this module is the Defy Zero G, which is available in titanium, carbon, or rose gold for between 72,500 USD and 93,000 USD.


Zenith's Speedy Sports Watches

Most of the chronographs powered by the Zenith El Primero have an elegant, sporty design. The watches make great everyday watches for the office and beyond. However, Zenith also has some El Primero timepieces that are true sports watches. The Stratos Flyback and Rainbow Flyback are two such models that are particularly beloved by fans. Both watches have a 45.5-mm case, rotating bezel, and are powered by the calibers EP 405 or EP 405B. Unlike the standard El Primero, the 405 features a flyback function, meaning you can reset the chronograph to zero and start it again with the single push of a button.

You will find well-maintained examples of the Stratos Flyback and Rainbow Flyback for around 5,700 USD on Chrono24. The special edition Stratos Flyback Striking 10th with the caliber EP 4057 costs around 1,400 USD more. The chronograph seconds hand on this watch only needs 10 seconds to make a complete rotation.

Chronomaster Sport

The Chronomaster Sport joined the Zenith portfolio at the start of 2021. This timepiece is aimed at fans of classic racing chronographs. Its fixed ceramic bezel with a tenths of seconds scale is particularly reminiscent of racing classics like the Rolex Daytona or TAG Heuer Carrera. However, the dial with its tricolor subdial design clearly makes this watch a Chronomaster.

The Chronomaster Sport is outfitted with the new El Primero 3600. This movement boasts a 60-hour power reserve and, to the delight of many fans, a stop-seconds mechanism.

The 41-mm watch is available with a stainless steel or 18-karat rose gold case. Be prepared to spend around 17,500 USD on a gold version. A stainless steel watch costs around 10,500 USD on a three-piece link bracelet and 9,500 USD on a rubber strap.


The El Primero With Three Hands

At the start of 2022, Zenith unveiled a whole new line of watches powered by the El Primero caliber. The design of the Defy Skyline is a nod to classic sports watches from the 1970s. The watches in this series feature an octagonal stainless steel case, integrated bracelet, and twelve-sided faceted bezel. The sunburst dial in black, blue, or silver has a perfectly aligned pattern of engraved four-pointed stars. Applied luminescent bar indices mark the hours.

The most notable thing about the Defy Skyline, however, is that it's a three-hand watch. The hours and minutes are displayed centrally, while a subdial at 9 o'clock is home to the running seconds. The watch's EP 3620 caliber is a true El Primero, meaning the second hand only needs 10 seconds to make a complete rotation.

The official list price for a Zenith Defy Skyline is 8,400 USD.


1969 – A Pivotal Year

In the mid-1960s, the watch world was embroiled in a race to release the world's first automatic chronograph caliber. Zenith, Seiko, and a collaboration between the brands Breitling, Heuer, Büren, and chronograph specialist Dubois Dépraz were in a neck-and-neck race.

Breitling, Heuer, and Büren presented the result of their collaboration in March 1969: the Calibre 11 with a chronograph module and micro-rotor. For technical reasons, the crown of this movement was placed on the left, while the two chronograph push-pieces were on the right.

Zenith had introduced their El Primero in January 1969, i.e., two months earlier. Unlike the Calibre 11, Zenith's El Primero was an integrated chronograph movement. That meant the movement was fully designed for the purpose of timing, and its components fit together perfectly. The Calibre 11, on the other hand, had a chronograph module that was mounted onto a base movement. Though introduced first, the Zenith El Primero wasn't available on the market until the autumn of 1969. The Japanese manufacturer Seiko sold the first wristwatches powered by an automatic chronograph movement in the early summer of 1969.