Hands-On With The New Zenith Chronomaster Sport & The 1/10th Second El Primero

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Zenith is returning to their Chronomaster Sport collection with the debut of 2 new El Primero fitted chronographs that set a new tone for the brand. It’s been 5 years since we’ve seen a new Chronomaster Sport, and the new execution takes a traditional approach to the concept that is clearly aimed at some of the staples of the category. Being a Zenith El Primero, it has the benefit of a robust heritage built right in. It also has a well understood design language to lean into, which Zenith walks a fine line in doing while still moving the El Primero into new territory.

The Chronomaster Sport has always been among the more progressive executions of the El Primero, quick to adapt to new trends (for better or worse), and capable of netting new customers who value modernity in their timepieces. The 2015 releases measured 45mm in diameter and a portly 14+mm in thickness and featured oversized hour makers and hands paired with squat, somewhat campy numerals within the sub dials. The tricolor color scheme was nixed in favor of a uniform appearance color matched to the dial. While handsome in some respects, it fell into uncomfortable territory in the context of the El Primero name. 

The new Chronomaster Sport line makes a good deal more sense at a glance. Releasing 2 variations, the new watch is instantly recognizable as a Zenith El Primero chronograph, and has more than a passing resemblance to the current Rolex Daytona (ref. 116500) thanks to a prominent black ceramic bezel paired to your choice of white or black dials. Of course, a version of the El Primero movement appeared within the Daytona for 12 years (ref. 16520), so you could argue it’s a fitting resemblance that’s been earned. Thankfully, the Daytona is a pretty good looking watch.

Being a Zenith, this isn’t exactly your standard chronograph, differing from a watch like the Daytona in a few important ways. The most notable is the chronograph itself, which in the Chronomaster Sport makes a full trip around the dial in just 10 seconds, tracking each tenth of a second along the way. You’ll notice the unusual layout of the bezel to allow for this measurement, which takes the place of a more traditional tachymeter that you’d usually find occupying this territory. It’s not quite as intense as the Land Rover 21 we showed you here, but it’s arguably more useful in measuring the types of things normal humans need to measure. 

 

The dial itself is dominated by three oversized registers that get the tri-tone treatment we know and love from Zenith. Here they are rendered in blue, anthracite, and light grey. The remainder of the dial is an exercise in restraint, with just minute and second hashes appearing between the applied hour batons, which are beveled and polished themselves. A date aperture appears at 4:30 and is color matched to the dial. The simple dial with prominent, legible hands and hour markers recall the rarely seen De Luca off the late ’80s and early ’90s, which is a very good thing. That watch is a story for another day, but it’s refreshing to see Zenith reference such areas of their history to such effect. 

The steel case measures 41mm in diameter and wears every bit of that on the wrist thanks to the prominent bezel. The lugs take an aggressive but uniform curve toward the wrist with a steep polished chamfer running their edge. From the top down this narrows the lug quite considerably, and forms the watch around the wrist, effectively hiding its ~14mm thickness. Overall it wears well, and if you’re the type that finds the Daytona too small, this should be perfect for you. Plus, you may actually be able to get one of these.

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Inside the Chronomaster Sport sits the El Primero 3600 beating at 5 hz and offering 60 hours of reserve. It’s the same movement we saw in 2019’s Chronomaster 2 Limited Edition release, a watch very similar to the one we see here, though more conceptual in execution. The Chronomaster Sport is a regular production model, making this the first such appearance for the 3600. The movement is visible through an exhibition caseback, and while not beautiful, it’s certainly interesting. As noted, the chronograph reads off each tenth of a second, and does so via pinion attached to the escapement itself (rather than borrowing from the gear train). There are 3,600 seconds in an hour, this movement beats at 36,000 VpH, making the math easy from there. 

The new Chronomaster Sport will be offered on a steel oyster style bracelet with a polished center link. The brushed links get a polished bevel at their edge providing some visual depth to the bracelet as a whole. The fit and finish of the bracelet is not quite on the level that you’d find on the Daytona, but it’s day-to-day serviceable. A fabric strap is also on offer in either blue or black depending on dial color that looks to suit the overall aesthetic a bit more appropriately. Yes, it looks great on a nylon strap as well. 

The Chronomaster Sport will be priced from $9,500 on strap and $10,000 on bracelet, and is available to order directly from Zenith, something we’ve never been able to say about the Daytona.  More from Zenith.

Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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