An auction house designing limited editions of one of the most iconic chronographs out there? That is precisely what Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo did earlier this year. This Zenith El Primero Ref.386 featured a dial made from Lapis Lazuli and will be the only El Primero Ref.386 ever to be made with a platinum case. It sold last weekend at auction for CHF 250,000,-, setting the record for highest auction price ever for an El Primero, with the proceeds going to Zoé4life, A Swiss charity part of the Childhood Cancer International Network. After this watch, Zenith and Phillips have joined forces again for two more limited editions.
One of the great things about an auctioneer creating a watch is that they really know the ins and out of a particular model through all the different periods of its existence. This becomes especially clear when we look at the two new limited editions that they created of the El Primero. For this project, Aurel Bacs, Senior Consultant at Bacs & Russo and Alex Ghotbi, Head of Watches Continental Europe & Middle East for Phillips, took the perspective of Zenith in 1969 and imagined how the El Primero also could have looked. For the first watch, which is limited to only 20 pieces, they opted for a black dial with gold subdials and gold printing. Combined with a gold case, it truly knows how to capture the spirit of the time when the El Primero was introduced. It is even reminiscent of the black and gold livery of the Lotus John Player Special race cars, which played a lead role in the Formula One championships of the 1960s.
For the second limited edition of the El Primero, they take a different approach. Here a stainless steel case features the historic dial design, yet where the original dial features dark grey, grey, and blue subdials, are they here replaced by brown terracotta tones. Combined with a strap to match, this results in a refreshing creation that, at the same time, looks period correct. Zenith also includes a remake of the original “Gay Frères” ladder bracelet, making this limited edition of only 49 pieces even more desirable.
Zenith CEO Julien Tornare says about these limited editions “We couldn’t resist: adding up the production runs gives you the year the El Primero was born; and both in their own way draw on the El Primero’s rich heritage while creating modern classics in their own right.”
Both watches are fitted with El Primero caliber 400, which is, of course, not only an automatic chronograph movement but also runs on 36,000 VpH (5Hz), which can be seen as a signature frequency of the El Primero. The launch of these two watches is also a fitting end of the El Primero 50th Anniversary World Tour, which took the revolutionary chronograph and it’s impressive history to its fans across five continents.