There are over 18 types of metal, 300 expert hands and 2,500 operations at work in Zenith’s famous El Primero movement. It’s an impressive invention, and 2019 marks half a century since it started ticking. To celebrate the mechanical milestone, the Swiss watchmaker has unveiled a small range of new luxury timepieces to honour the anniversary.
In partnership with Hodinkee, the storied watch blog, the best wristwatch of the bunch is a collaboration. The El Primero Revival G381, a sleek glimpse into Zenith’s past, beautifully recaptures the shining early years of automatic high-speed chronographs — and brings back to life one of the most sought-after timepieces in the watchmaker’s archive.
The original G381 was created in the earliest days of the El Primero movement. As Zenith raced against the progress of its competitors — and more and more automatic chronographs were winding their way onto the market — the Swiss brand decided they needed to conjure up a watch that would set them apart from the horological crowd. Naturally, they turned to gold.
Limited to just 700 pieces, the original G381 was much rarer than its steel cousin, the A386. With a yellow gold case and black-on-white panda dial, the sporty creation was a stand-out — and has since become one of the most highly collectible wristwatches in Zenith’s history.
Thankfully, due to the Swiss watchmaker’s collaboration with Hodinkee, collectors now have another crack of the wrist-mounted whip. The limited edition Zenith El Primero Revival G381 recreates the charm of the original model, and offers a warm tribute to the golden era of sporty vintage chronographs — while also offering something brand new.
The new G381 is encased, faithfully, in 18k yellow gold. It retains that original 38mm case width and features a white lacquer dial clearly inspired by its first incarnation — all the way down to those panda sub-dials. Even the crown and chronograph pushers have borrowed their slightly smaller sizes from the original model.
It’s inside where things have changed; but still only slightly. The movement pays homage to the 50-year-old El Primero, and is a modern iteration of the same high-beat heart that kept 1969’s G381 on time. Named the Zenith calibre 400 El Primero chronograph movement, it boasts a fully integrated column wheel chronograph and a handy power reserve of 50 hours.
Just flip it over, and through the sapphire display caseback you’ll easily see that the movement is a direct descendant of the original. But, if you’re a would-be collector, you’d better move fast (and have a cool £19,200 to spare). The old G381 may have sold 700 units around the world, but only 50 lucky buyers will get to fasten the revival’s alligator strap around their wrists.
Want more of our favourite timepieces? Check out our last watch of the week…