The Swiss brand Zenith, which continues its activities under the LVMH Group, is under the spotlight with the Chronomaster El Primero Full Open model, which is a member of the Chronomaster Collection and is presented to the watch enthusiasts as one of the Baselworld 2017 novelties.
The guest of our Hands On corner is a Zenith again. The brands which was imprinted on almost every watch enthusiast’s mind with its legendary El Primero model, remains on the agenda with its product line which that has been renovated in recent years and its CEO change frequency which can be regarded as a record for a long-established and relatively static sector like traditional watchmaking.
The Chronomaster El Primero Full Open model, which is part of the Chronomaster Collection from the main product groups of the brand, is available in two different sizes as 38mm and 42mm. The version we chose for our review is the 42mm diameter one with the reference 03.2081.400.
The model’s case shares the same platform with the rest of the Chronomaster Collection in terms of design. The case, which has a diameter of 42mm, offers a combination of mirror polished and satin brushed surfaces. Equipped with AR coated sapphire crystals on both sides, the case is water resistant to 100 meters. The caseback is attached to the case with four little screws.
Although I do not care much about dress watch style models, it is obviously a little unsettling about waterproofing with miniature screw or snap-on casebacks in sports models. The model's winding crown and chronograph pushers are inspired by the classic El Primero Chronograph model. A thin line is added to the heads of the piston style pushers. There is the classic embossed star logo on the top of the winding crown.
I can say that I have found this case type that I have seen in different models in the Chronomaster Collection quite successful. Obviously I like the 38mm version is a bit more (the original El Primero Ref.A386 was also launched in a 38mm case), but not because I think the 42mm is an unbalanced adaptation, but on the contrary I think the classic El Primero case design has been successfully adapted to a 42mm diameter by keeping the characteristics of the original version.
As most of the fully skeletonized timepieces, the model has no dial which explains the “Full Open” part in the model’s name tag. In fact, we have not seen this type of dial in the Chronomaster Collection for the first time as the El Primero Lightweight model has been designed in such a way as to provide the lightness mentioned in its name. However, it is the first time that we have come across a skeleton dial on a model that is relatively affordable.
The hour and minute markers are attached to an inner chapter ring. The dial is finished mostly in gray tones with red and blue accents on it. The readability issue from the most obvious disadvantages of skeletal dials is somewhat alleviated in this model, but you still should not expect a Military Watch performance. The hands and hour markers are designed in baton style and filled with SuperLuminova phosphorus material so that they can be seen more clearly in the dark. One of the interesting details about the dial is that the texts regarding the brand and model name is placed on the front sapphire crystal from the inside. The window of the date function is located at 6 o'clock position of the dial.
The model is powered by the brand’s legendary Caliber El Primero Ref.400. First launched in 1969, the movement beats at a hi-beat rate of 38000vph and offers a 50 hour power reserve when fully wound. The movement, which bears straight grains instead of the classic Cotes de Genève patterns to match with the industrial look of the model, can be enjoyed through the sapphire crystal caseback.
The Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Full Open model is offered with a variety of options including case diameter, bezel material and leather strap / stainless steel bracelet choices. The model we have for our review is the version with the stainless steel bracelet. The build quality of the bracelet, which has obvious similarities with Rolex's Oyster style bracelet, is perfect. The bracelet is secured by a Zenith signed push-button release type folding clasp. I do not need to make much comment on how it looks in terms of aesthetics, since it is quite clear where its design is inspired. However, with this model I think the black leather strap option will be more successful because will highlight the gray tone skeleton dial and movement with its monochrome look and dark, contrasting color.
The new collection, which is expected to reach sales points by June, is being offered for sale with a starting price of CHF 9900, 00.