Introducing the Zenith Chronomaster Original With El Primero 3600

Some brands have been busier in 2021 than others, and of them, few is that more apparent than with Swiss watchmaker Zenith. Launching this year with the Chronomaster A385 Revival, followed quickly by the now-acclaimed Chronomaster Sport, and then less than a month later by the Defy 21 in green ceramic— it’s obvious the historic chronograph maker did not come in 2021 to mess around. 

Catapulting this year with such a bang, the brand still hasn’t slowed down heading into the spring and now summer, most recently unveiling two more updates to their Chronomaster line with the A3817 and then the Revival Safari, and today introducing its still latest yet with the new Chronomaster Original.


The new Chronomaster Original is the brand’s latest iteration of the original 1969 El Primero ref. A386, an iconic design that needs little introduction and is best known as one of the world’s first automatic chronographs. Yet, beyond a straightforward homage alone— such as those introduced in 2019 for the El Primero’s 50th anniversary— the new release includes not only vintage-inspired aesthetics, but possibly more notably is powered by Zenith’s industry-advancing caliber El Primero 3600. In this regard, by its vintage aesthetics and impressive, forward-looking mechanics, the new Chronomaster Original represents some of the best that Zenith has to offer, with an eye to its iconic history, but with its focus clearly on the future. 

The high beat El Primero 3600 powering the new design is same movement first placed into regular production at the start of this year with the Chronomaster Sport, and in this context represents the second use of the non-limited use of the caliber within the brand’s catalog. Among its various features, the mechanism most notably includes a 1/10th second chronograph counter alongside a new outer scale on the dial to match it, together allowing for the wearer to measure and quickly read elapsed time in precise fractions of a second. The 36,000 vph frequency movement otherwise is also capable of measuring chronograph seconds, a chronograph counter up to 60 minutes, and running seconds via the dial’s triple registers, in addition to standard hours and minutes via a pair of baton hands and the date via a 4:30 aperture.  All of these features come powered via a 60-hour reserve, itself wound via an open-work rotor marked with the five-pointed star signature of Zenith.

Outside of the movement, the watch itself is available in three different options, with a traditional tri-color sub-dial version available in both steel and 18k rose gold, as well as an alternative colorway model featuring a reverse panda dial and faux patina accents. Each of the variants use the same 1969-derived 38mm El Primero case, as well as feature an exhibition case back displaying its impressive movement. Like many previous Chronomaster watches, and notably those within the vintage El Primero homage design world, the Chronomaster Original models feel well sized and approachable, combining an elegance and utility and helping it easily fit into your collection and daily routine. 

The new Zenith Chronomaster Original in steel will be priced from $8,400 on calf leather strap to $9,000 on the triple-link steel bracelet, while the gold model will be marked at $19,100 and on a strap only; both the steel and gold models will be serially-produced on a non-limited basis. Zenith.

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Caleb is a freelance writer based out of New Jersey. Since entering the world of watches, he has spent much of his time exploring the neo-vintage trend covering historically inspired, modern timepieces. Today, Caleb finds his greatest interests in utilitarian designs with outsized value propositions and in the personal stories behind up-and-coming brands.