Zenith Chronomaster Original: Singapore Price And Review

With all things El Primero, the proverbial apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Zenith Chronomaster Original
Chronomaster Original in stainless steel (left) and 18K rose gold

Since its 1969 debut, the legendary El Primero automatic chronograph movement has cast a very long shadow over the many iterations that bear its name in both spirit and function. The original El Primero broke new ground as the world’s first high-frequency integrated chronograph movement that beat at 36,000 vibrations per hour (context: regular chronographs beat at 28,800 vph).

While most of today’s El Primeros still display their predecessor’s high-speed frequency, there have been some that broke the speed barrier, registering up to 360,000 vph even for more even more precise chronograph measurement, exemplifying Zenith's relentless pursuit of innovative timekeeping. Which makes the brand’s latest Chronomaster Original somewhat of a wistful throwback.

Zenith Chronomaster Original
Chronomaster Original in steel with bracelet

Zenith has stuck its neck out to proclaim the Chronomaster Original the “long-awaited successor” to the epochal A386 model that was unveiled with the first El Primero movement.

As it with the A386, the Chronomaster Original sports a round 38mm case sans bezel. Elsewhere, the modern version’s domed sapphire crystal, pump-style chronograph pushers, tapered lugs and combination of radial brushed and polished surfaces on the case and bracelet hark back to the original’s aesthetic. Similarly, the Chronomaster Original features a dial with tri-compax chronograph sub-dial that overlap each other, sheathed in shades of blue, light and dark grey, as well as facetted hour markers, half-lume hands, and trapezoid date window at ‘4:30’, that are emblematic of the A386.

Zenith Chronomaster Original
Zenith Chronomaster Original in 18K rose gold

On close inspection, however, El Primero aficionados will notice that the original’s central chronograph hand, which featured a ‘paddle’ design, is replaced by a simple long and elegant hand. More tellingly, the tachymeter scale that frames the A386’s dial is repurposed on the new Chronomaster Original, marked by a new scale that marks elapsed time to 1/10th of a second.

Used in tandem with the watch’s central chronograph hand, the feature is a visual expression of the watch’s new engine, the El Primero 3600 automatic movement. The latest iteration of the El Primero calibre, the El Primero 3600 that was launched in 2020 in the Chronomaster Sport collection boasts the same high-frequency attribute of the original, beating at 36,000 vph, along with improved qualities such as hacking seconds for more accurate time-setting, quick-set date function, and longer 60-hour power reserve. Viewed from the back, the El Primero 3600 stamps its mark with a star-shaped rotor, and a large blue column wheel for a more dramatic presentation.

Zenith Chronomaster Original

The Chronomaster Original’s careful blend of old and new, combining familiar designs with modern upgrades and a conundrum-inducing variety of styles with steel and rose gold cases alongside dial variations, make for a reflective stock-take of how far the El Primero has come. Not quite a watch of the past or the future, but rather, a very present manifestation of the magic and influence of the storied El Primero.

Zenith Chronomaster Original

 Case

38mm stainless steel or 18k rose gold

 Dial

Silver with tri-colour sub-dials, or matte black with silver sub-dials

 Movement

Automatic chronograph Calibre 3600

 Functions

Hours, minutes, small seconds, 1/10th second chronograph

 Power reserve

60 hours

 Price

Stainless steel with calfskin strap (S$12,400)
Stainless steel with bracelet (S$13,100)
18K rose gold with calfskin strap (S$27,800)

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Ex Managing Editor

Like most people these days, Melissa tells the time with her phone. She considers serious timepieces works of art and thinks the perpetual calendar is the handiest complication to date (pun not intended). She's also a Grammar Nazi but promises not to judge if you can't tell the difference between "guilloche" and "guillotine".


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