Zenith Adds a Black Dial to the Chronomaster Original Family

It is perhaps a reflection of all the good work Zenith has done over the last few years that a new variant of the Chronomaster Original can arrive and it feels like a watch that has simply existed for years. The El Primero 3600 powered line of vintage influenced chronographs feel timeless in a way that only a small handful of watches can – those few that have been around for decades and gone through only incremental changes. Under the hood, the Chronomaster Original is about as tech forward as you can get when it comes to mass market chronos from a heritage Swiss brand, with its impressive 1/10th second counter. But the dial, on this new version, does the neat trick of creating something brand new to the line that seems both obvious and every bit as classic as the “original” Original. 


When we think of the Chronomaster Original, it’s the tri-colored subdial arrangement that immediately comes to mind for most. That is the design characteristic of the dial that feels most essential. You could be forgiven for asking yourself the question: did this ever come in black? The answer, until now (and for this case size) was “no,” but here Zenith has unveiled a new Chronomaster Original that substitutes the cream white backdrop of the earlier version of the watch for a simple black. White and black as options are so ubiquitous in this segment that it’s genuinely surprising this watch was only just introduced as a secondary option. Zenith, of course, already makes this watch in a handful of other more playful variants (a blue dial, a special boutique only model with a multicolored tachymeter, and so forth) but something as simple as a basic black option is only just now materializing. 

On the Chronomaster Original, the black dial was what you’d expect a black dial to do. I think, in a sense, it gives the watch a more “professional” vibe, but let’s be real, that could be the product of years of exposure to the notably black dialed Speedmaster Professional, and the sober “pro” sports watches made by Rolex, and other brands. Black seems to be the way to go if you want to express a sense of seriousness in your watch design, and if that’s what you, as an owner, want to convey. One of the reasons I always liked the Chronomaster (and many other Zeniths) is the playful use of color found in watches that meet or exceed all of the benchmarks reached by their competitors. And even in this black variant, we still get a bright red chrono seconds hand as an accent, and the typical tri-color subdial layout. 

Everything else about this Chronomaster Original is identical to earlier iterations of the watch. The movement, already mentioned, is the star of the show here from a technical perspective, with a seconds hand making a full rotation around the dial in just ten seconds when the chrono is engaged. It has a 60 hour power reserve and makes use of a column wheel for actuation of the chronograph features. 

The 38mm stainless steel case is time tested and ultra wearable, based on the A386 case shape from 1969. As is frequently the case with El Primero equipped watches, the date window has been cut at 4:30, which is a love-it or hate-it proposition. My personal view is that this spot on the dial is fairly unobtrusive, and it’s hard to imagine it being placed anywhere else.

The new Chronomaster Original with a black dial is available on both a steel bracelet for $10,000, and on a leather strap for $9,500. Zenith

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.