Zenith shook an industry and design community when it brought the El Primero A384 wristwatch to market in 1969. The iconic timepiece acted as a debut vessel for the brand’s El Primero automatic chronograph calibre—making it the world’s first high-frequency automatic chronograph. From the black and white “panda” tachymeter dial to the faceted stainless steel case, the design enchanted collectors and influenced other watch designs from the period. To honor the anniversary of both the movement and wristwatch, Zenith will release the El Primero A384 Revival—a historically accurate recreation, reverse-engineered and only featuring updates that actually improve the product.
Visible is the original 1969 case design, stretching a respectable 37mm in diameter. The enhancements come inside and out—from a sapphire glass lens (instead of acrylic) and an exposed caseback to the El Primero 400 chronograph movement, which has been thoughtfully developed from the original El Primero movement over the last 50 years. Remarkably, the original movement was almost lost when Zenith changed hands in the ’70s. Zenith watchmaker Charles Vermot, who oversaw the El Primero’s components, hid both pieces and tools—against the orders of the company. He was asked, after his retirement in the ’80s, about the tooling and immediately returned to the manufacture in Le Locle to tear down the wall he hid everything behind.
The El Primero A384 Revival is the latest (and last) Zenith commemorative 50th anniversary piece and as far as vintage rereleases go, it’s an undeniably successful take on retro-futurism, outfitted for the needs of today’s watch-wearers. And at $7,900, it’s not as wildly priced as collectors may expect.
Image courtesy of Zenith