Hands-On With The New Zenith Chronomaster Original Ecommerce Edition

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Zenith has shifted focus to their Chronomaster Original collection in recent months with the first watches introduced over the summer, and an online exclusive in the Ecommerce edition revealed just last month. It builds on the well established frame set forth with the regular production Chronomaster Original watches, and it translates the original design language first established in 1969 to something perfectly relevant and wearable in 2021. We’ve talked a lot about Zenith El Primero Chronograph watches this year, from the bright spots to the, well, other, but the Chronomaster Original A386 seen here might be the most approachable we’ve seen yet. 

Upon introducing this watch it was easy to poke a bit of fun at the ‘Ecommerce’ label applied to the name, and while it still feels an odd choice, there’s nothing on the watch itself that denotes it as such, so no harm, no foul, as far as I’m concerned. In use and on wrist this watch is quite compelling, which forgives a lot in the naming department.

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$8400

Hands-On With The New Zenith Chronomaster Original Ecommerce Edition

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
El Primero 3600
Dial
White, tri-color
Lume
Super Luminova
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Grey leather
Water Resistance
5 atm
Dimensions
38mm
Thickness
12.9mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Push/Pull
Warranty
3 yrs
Price
$8400

It’s no secret that we’re fond of the A384 Chronomaster Revival series, which has a seemingly limitless ability to adapt to any material or color Zenith can throw at it. The retro case packs a ton of charm into its diminutive 38mm footprint. It just feels special on the wrist. It is however, a little trickier to pull off as a daily wear given it’s unusual shape. Not that it can’t be done, of course, but would the round case of the A386 be a bit more flexible day to day? Probably. 

It all comes down to that case. And this is a good one. Lines are sharp and crisp, with a high and tight radial brush finish atop the lugs. It frames the dial beautifully, allowing the fine details and texture to pull the eye toward the bright dial. There is a whisper of a chamfer on the lugs, but the transition from surface to surface is razor sharp. The lugs gently slope toward the wrist, but from an angle, you’ll notice a bulge on the underside that prevents a flush meeting point between case and wrist. More on that later. 

There are a number of traits carried over from the original A386 that you’ll notice and appreciate in the Chronomaster Original, chief among them being the 38mm case size. I’ll pause to mention that I’ve been wearing a 36mm 124270 a lot lately, so my on-wrist approximate size calibration has been out of whack, and while the Zenith doesn’t feel big by any stretch, I’d have guessed it was a solid 40mm. That’s not to say it felt too big, but it does wear larger than the 38mm implies.

This case size and shape provide a level of inconspicuousness to this watch, but the dial itself is anything but. This is pure Zenith El Primero with the oversized tri-color registers dominating the landscape. They aren’t overly colorful, ranging from navy to shades of grey, but they stand out as unique identifiers to the watch’s identity. Of course, the stepped date aperture at 4:30 also plays into that, love it or hate it, it’s part of the El Primero package at this point. 

What sets this dial apart from other tri-color dials is the chapter ring, which itself is rendered in the same three colors appearing on the sub dials. It’s a nice touch that doesn’t really jump out at you but adds a level of distinction the more you look at it. 

The registers themselves all count to 60, which is also rather unusual for a chronograph, but it denotes the new El Primero 3600 inside, which will time down to a tenth of a second. Starting the chronograph sends the timing hand around the dial in 10 seconds, with the register at 3 o’clock totaling the seconds, the register at 6 o’clock the minutes, and the register at 9 o’clock displaying the running seconds. It’s pretty cool in action, assuming you have the reaction speed to make proper use of it.

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This movement certainly elevates the watch overall in terms of stature among other in-house chronographs out there. I might lack the same master chronometry spec of the 3861 in a Speedmaster, or overall smoothness of the 4130 in a Daytona, but it’s unique in its own ways and has a heritage that commands respect. This watch is priced between the two watches referenced above (in retail terms, at least) and holds its own in the process. If anything, it highlights the value of the Speedmaster and its incredible bracelet, and on the flipside the absurdity of the market pricing of a steel Daytona. All three are fantastic chronographs, and the price delta between them feels unwarranted for the most part. 

I will say, the lack of a truly great bracelet is the one thing that sets the other two apart from the Zenith, and the one thing holding this watch back from true greatness. The grey suede strap that ships with the Ecommerce edition features some colorful stitching, looks great on the wrist, and is certainly comfortable, but it’s missing the ‘wow’ factor of the new Speedmaster bracelet or the Oyster bracelet. 

This is a comfortable watch on wrist, but it doesn’t sit as flat as the A384 case (nor as flat as a Daytona or Speedmaster fwiw). The exhibition caseback bulges out of the bottom just enough to elevate the entire case off the wist. It’s not an annoyance, but at this price range, these are the kinds of details that matter, in my view. Many a great watch can be had for the $8,400 Zenith is asking for this watch. I’d argue it’s worth it, given the build quality, the movement, and yes even the history – but if you’re buying one watch to wear day in and day out, over the course of many years, these are important details to consider. 

Overall this is a beautifully executed watch from Zenith. It’s taken a well established and well loved design, and shown us just how ageless it can be when done properly. The Chronomaster Original is a big step in rebuilding a foundation for Zenith, and if you haven’t been paying attention to the brand for whatever reason in recent years, it’s high time you do. This is the clarity of voice I’ve been waiting for, it’s not trying to be anything else, it’s simply moving the El Primero forward in a way the Revival and Sport models do not. As much as I like those two collections, they are referential where the Chronomaster Original is, well, original. Zenith.

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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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