We all know the story of the first three automatic chronographs hitting the scene in 1969. It’s a bit of watch industry lore that lives on today in vibrant forum discussions and marketing materials from the surviving brands. If there’s one movement name that lives on to this day as a result, it’s certainly that of Zenith’s effort in the race, the El Primero. The Heuer-Breitling-Buren-et.al consortium produced the iconic caliber 11, while Seiko had their 6139, each prized by collectors to this day. However, the El Primero had a certain panache thanks to the zippier name and quite literally, zippier movement.
Zenith released three watches containing their El Primero in 1969: the A384, A385, and A386. In recent years, the brand, now situated within the LVMH portfolio, has been reviving these classic references to mostly high praise. One has been left out, however, and that is the A385, with its striking brown gradient dial. The A385 marked the first appearance of such a dial design, and remaining examples have become quite collectible as a result. It was only a matter of time then, before Zenith revived this unique reference to complete the trio.
Like the modern A384 and A386, the A385 sticks very close to the original formula. It uses the same 37mm case as you’d have found on the original, and of course comes packing the automatic, column wheel chronograph they call the El Primero beating away at a studious 36,000 VpH. The steel case features a radial brush across its top, pushing all focus to the star of the show here: that dial.
Creamy yellow at its center, gently fading to a dark brown, the dial of the A385 oozes early ‘70s character. White sub dials and a red timing seconds offer a spell of contrast to the otherwise warm dial. Together, they create a truly unique aesthetic that surely won’t be to everyone’s taste, and that’s not a bad thing. A date window sneaks into the scene at 4:30 as is customary with the El Primero, and as you’d have found on the original. Unlike the OG, the new execution brings a sapphire caseback to the mix, offering a view of the EP caliber 400 inside.
The new A385 is being offered on a light brown leather strap at an MSRP of $7,700, while a steel ladder style bracelet will be available sometime next month. More from Zenith.