The Swiss watchmaking company Zenith has been providing some of the most precise self-winding chronographs for more than 50 years. It celebrated that feat with the revival of its popular timepieces, leading to the birth of the Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary Watch Collection. The catalog pays tribute to vintage watches that became iconic because of the Zenith El Primero Chronograph Caliber – the first automatic movement that can measure up to one-tenth of a second.
Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary Watches: A Glimpse to a Great Past and Future
The Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary watches made waves when they were unveiled in early 2019. The collection gave the industry a glimpse of Zenith’s innovations of the past through the three limited-edition revived watches. These timepieces are packaged in a premium cushioned satin gray box which comes with a built-in touchscreen, and watchmaker’s lights and tools, making them look like fine-tuned treasures that came straight from a museum.
The anniversary box set had more surprises besides an alluring set of watches. It also showcased items that got collectors excited. One of those is the actual die of the chronograph coupling-wheel bridge, the core component to the signature El Primero movement that Zenith has been using through the years in its iconic collections, such as the Zenith Chronomaster and Zenith Defy. Another is a teaser for future Zenith watches. To elaborate, the box cushioning had a blank slot for one more El Primero watch. While the final watch of the collection had yet to be revealed at that time, it was expected to be as impressive as the three limited-edition watches. Consequently, the collection became one of the most coveted Zenith timepieces of all time.
Prices at a Glance: The Limited-Edition Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary Watches
Zenith El Primero A384 Revival
Original Revival of the 1969 Reference A384
Automatic El Primero column-wheel chronograph movement
36,000 VpH frequency5 atm water resistance
50 hour power reserve
White-lacquered dial with black-coloured counters
Original revival of the "Gay Frères" ladder bracelet
Zenith El Primero A386 Revival
Automatic El Primero column-wheel chronograph movement
Caliber El Primero 400
36,000 VpH frequency
5 atm water resistance
50 hour power reserve
White-lacquered dial with three colored counters
Leather strap with stainless steel pin buckle clasp
Zenith Defy El Primero 21
1/100th of a second Chronograph movement
36,000 VpH frequency
10 atm water resistance
50 hour power reserve
Brushed titanium case
Openworked dial with two different-coloured counters
Leather strap with titanium double folding clasp
How much is a Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversarywatch?
The Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary watches, excluding the Zenith El Primero A384 Revival, come in a set worth $50,000 USD. While the price is a good deal for three luxury timepieces, the collection is hard to obtain because there are only 50 such boxed sets produced by Zenith.
What exactly made El Primero 50th Anniversary watches exceptional that Zenith mostly released them as limited editions? Below is a detailed explanation for each model under the catalog.
Prices for the Zenith El Primero A386 Revival Watches
The limited-edition Zenith El Primero A386 Revival is based on Zenith’s most iconic timepiece, the 1969 El Primero Chronograph. Like its predecessor, it features silver, dark gray, and blue sub-dials, tachymeter markings close to the bezel, pushers at the 2 and 4 o'clock positions, and a crown at the 3 o’clock position.
What’s new in this Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary remake are the overlaid sub-dials formation, the transparent sapphire case back that replaced the original opaque steel variant, and the modern El Primero Caliber 400 that also has a one-tenth-of-a-second precision and a 50-hour power reserve.
The Zenith El Primero A386 Revival is among the more prominent models of the Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary Collection because of its homage to the design of the brand’s first El Primero Chronograph watch. You can buy the Zenith El Primero A386 Revival for $9,000 USD.
Prices for the Zenith Chronomaster 2.0 El Primero Watches
The Zenith Chronomaster 2.0 El Primero is an upgraded version of Zenith’s Chronomaster watch of the ‘90s. In terms of the internal mechanism, the limited-edition Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary timepiece adopts the El Primero 3600 caliber that is more powerful than what the original Chronomaster had. The movement lets the chronograph hand finish a full rotation in 10 seconds instead of a minute. As a result, elapsed time up to one-tenth of a second is readable from the bezel. Moreover, the caliber boasts an extended power reserve of 60 hours.
Design-wise, the Zenith Chronomaster 2.0 El Primero watch also deviates from the original. It has a silver sunburst dial replacing the plain white one encased in gold, a date window at the 6 o’clock instead of the 4 o’clock position, and a thick black or blue bezel with chronograph markings. It comes with either a matching black or blue alligator strap and costs about $10,950 USD each.
Prices for the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Chronograph Watches
The Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Chronograph defies the norms of contemporary and past caliber standards, making it worthy of becoming one of the 50th Anniversary limited edition watches. It beats the precision touted by the 2017 Zenith Defy 21 and other vintage chronographs from the same brand.
The Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary timepiece levels up precision to one-hundredth of a second, as the scale on its bezel shows. This is possible because the caliber 9004 within it vibrates 360,000 times per hour at 50Hz or ten times faster than the iconic 1969 El Primero Chronograph. Additionally, the chronograph hand completes its rotation within a second.
The Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Chronograph transcends traditional design as well. Its smaller silver, dark gray, and blue dials rest on a bigger skeletal dial that conspicuously upscales beauty by leaps and bounds. Furthermore, the pushers are rectangular instead of round for easier presses. You can buy the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 watch for $12,500 USD.
Prices for the Zenith El Primero A384 Revival Watches
TheZenith El Primero A384 Revival,a separate mid-2019 release, was the last timepiece collectors needed to complete the 50th Anniversary box set. Therefore, it was the most anticipated out of all the commemorative watches. The watch did not disappoint, even becoming more renowned than the A386 Revival.
The A384 Revival timepiece is the most popular out of all the Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary watches because it is the most historically accurate, even though it underwent modern manufacturing methods. From the white dial and three non-overlapping black-and-white sub-dials down to the black tachymeter bezel and mushroom-style pushers, everything contributes to the uncanny resemblance to the original A384 chronograph from 1969. The only exception is its movement upgrade to the latest El Primero caliber 400 and the use of sapphire instead of acrylic glass.
Also, the Zenith El Primero A384 Revival is the only timepiece from the catalog that is not a limited edition. It is still in production to this day and is affordable for a luxury watch from a big brand. In fact, the watch goes for as low as $6,600 to $7,000 USD.
Vintage Zenith El Primero Watches
The classic Zenith El Primero watches that the Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary Collection was based on are as in-demand as their modern-day successors. Buyers are put on a waitlist, though, just to purchase one from authorized sellers because these watches are so rare. Below are the vintage models’ current estimated prices and key selling features.
The 1969 Zenith El Primero Chronograph Ref. A386
The original Zenith El Primero A386 from the ‘60s is best known for integrating caliber 3019 or the first automatic chronograph with one-tenth-of-a-second precision, its tricolor sub-dials, and stainless-steel ladder bracelet from Gay Freres. Only 2,500 pieces of the watches were made between 1969 and 1971 because of the production halt caused by the quartz movement. Consequently, it became challenging to purchase one. Price-wise, the vintage watch goes for nearly $13,000 USD.
The 1994 Zenith Chronomaster Ref. 30-0240-410
The Zenith Chronomaster watch from 1994 is the first Zenith watch to have a see-through caseback to showcase the beauty of the El Primero Caliber. It also has a moonphase indicator at 6 o’clock position and a tachymeter scale on its white dial encased in yellow gold. The strap is in brown leather. Second-hand versions of the watch are currently priced up to $8,000 USD.
The 2017 Zenith Defy 21 Ref. 95.9002.9004/78.R584
The Zenith Defy 21 from 2017 is a force to be reckoned with in the watch industry because of its caliber 9004 that beats at 360,000vph with a precision of up to a thousandth of a second. There’s more to that, though. The timepiece has a stunning openwork dial and leather strap that comes in a shade of blue, and a durable build with titanium as the housing material and water resistance reaching 100m. The classic Zenith Defy 21 is quoted at $13,000 USD.
The Story Behind the Zenith El Primero Caliber Movement
The Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary watches are being considered nowadays as prized possessions. This is all thanks to the developments started by the original Zenith El Primero Caliber.
The story behind the success of the celebrated watch started in 1962. Zenith began creating the first automatic wrist-worn chronograph that year.
In 1969, the landmark movement called the El Primero 3019 PHC was rolled out. The chronograph was the first in the market to deliver accuracy up to one-tenth of a second, being driven by a column wheel at 36,000vph. It was later known as the original Zenith El Primero Caliber. The first watches that integrated the movement that year, based on production serial number, were the A386 followed by the A384.
Developing automatic mechanical chronograph calibers became a challenge to Zenith because of the height of the Japanese quartz revolution in the ‘70s. Fortunately, the movements became sought-after again a decade after. In the ‘80s, the El Primero Caliber was picked by Rolex to be the heart of the Daytona timepiece. It was tailored for the model, though, so it had a reduced speed of 28,800vph at 4Hz.
The El Primero Caliber became Zenith’s strength once more after the successful partnership with Rolex. In the ‘90s, it proudly displayed, literally, the movement via its Zenith Chronomaster Collection that had transparent sapphire case backs.
By 2010, the high-precision movement was visible on a Zenith watch’s face. Showcasing that was the vintage El Primero Striking 10th that had engraved bezel scale markings similar to what the 50th Anniversary watches have today.
The biggest El Primero caliber innovation happened in 2017 in the form of the El Primero 9004. The movement, as previously discussed, ran at a market-leading frequency of 360,000vph to be able to deliver precision that is up to a hundredth of a second. It was first used in the original Zenith Defy El Primero 21 watch that launched in the same year.
Are Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary Watches Good Investments?
Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary watches are definitely worth investing in. The watches in the collection maintain their high value through the years primarily because of the use of top-notch calibers that have been tried and tested since the ‘60s. With that, buyers know that even modern iterations of a reliable Zenith El Primero vintage watch can run with the highest precision other chronographs cannot match.
Another reason for value retention is the rarity. With three out of four models from the collection limited to just 50 pieces, it is to be expected that hardcore collectors are willing to pitch in higher prices compared to other seekers just to get their hands on one from legitimate resellers.
Five Reasons to Buy a Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary Watch
Purchasing a Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary watch is worth it for collectors and enthusiasts. In fact, Zenith produced an official tribute video series that outlines up to 50 reasons why. Below are the best five reasons:
1. Zenith El Primero watches have been around for 50 years.
2. The timepieces reached the highest precision in the market.
3. The watches “beat” with the iconic Zenith El Primero caliber movement.
4. The timepieces are meticulously made for nine months by more than 30 people.
5. The collection is from an award-winning and trusted Swiss brand.
Zenith El Primero 50th Anniversary Watch: An Icon on the Wrist
The El Primero 50th Anniversary Watch Collection is a testament that Zenith values its rich past and continues to improve on its selections for the future. The catalog’s greatest strength is none other than its caliber, the iconic Zenith El Primero movement, which have been providing patrons with the most accurate chronograph time readings since the ‘60s.