Zenith: Chronomaster Original29 June 2021
Original by name, original by substance. Few watches have been as influential and truly iconic as the Zenith A386, which made its debut in 1969 as one of the first steel watches to be equipped with the revolutionary El Primero calibre – the world’s first automatic high-frequency integrated chronograph movement.
While Zenith has paid tribute to many of its emblematic historical references, including gold versions of the A386 in its Chronomaster Revival collection that debuted during the El Primero’s 50th anniversary, a steel re-edition as part of the permanent Zenith collection has long been something that Zenith collectors and chronograph aficionados have been eagerly awaiting. But beyond a modern reinterpretation of this enduring staple among chronographs, Zenith has gone a step further with the Chronomaster Original, which masterfully retains the singular relevant design of the A386 while packing the performance of the 21st century version of the El Primero boasting 1/10th of a second precision and time measurement.
Upon a first glance, the Chronomaster Original, and the A386 it’s based on, appear nearly identical. The 38mm round bezel-less steel case with a raised and domed crystal, the pump-style chronograph pushers, the faceted lugsand the mix of radial brushed and polished surfaces throughout are indistinguishable between the past and present models. The steel bracelet has been reimagined, foregoing the open “ladder” design of the 1960s for solid links that are sumptuously chamfered and decorated in the same fashion as the case.
Undoubtedly, the most visually distinctive design element of the A386 is its dial. Its unique aesthetic language includes the emblematic tri-colour chronograph registers in shades of grey and blue, the trapezoid date window at 04:30 and the red chronograph second hand. All these intrinsic parts have been passed down to the Chronomaster Original, with a few subtle updates to match the boost in performance. The black inner scale surrounding the dial of the A386, once used to calculate time spent working using a 1/100th of an hour time division system, finds a new purpose in the Chronomaster Original, with its 1/10th of a second chronograph hand making a rotation around the dial in 10 seconds, totalling 100 measurable time units. Substituting the tachymeter scale on the outer circumference on the dial, a 1/10th of a second chronograph scale takes its place, allowing for the measurement and reading of elapsed time in precise fractions of a second. And for instantaneous, precise reading of the 10th of a second, the paddle-shaped seconds hand of the original A386 has been replaced with a straight, red-lacquered hand. The logo has also been updated to the more contemporary script Zenith uses today.
The result of 50 years of gradual improvement and a true mastery of the automatic high-frequency chronograph movement, the Chronomaster Original is equipped with the latest version of the El Primero calibre, dubbed the El Primero 3600. With its high frequency of 5 Hz (36’000 VpH), the movement is able to precisely offer a true 1/10th of second indication. Its autonomy has also been rendered more efficient, with an extended power reserve of 60 hours. Visible through the sapphire display back, the new architecture features a sleeker and more open design, revealing a blue column wheel and open rotor marked with the five-pointed star Zenith.
Apart from the signature steel with tri-colour dial configuration (CHF 8.400 with strap and CHF 8.900 with bracelet), the Chronomaster Original is available in two other versions: A steel case with a “reverse panda” black dial with silver chronograph registers (CHF 8.400 with strap and CHF 8.900 with bracelet), and an 18k rose gold version with the tri-colour dial (CHF 18.900).