Reviewing Zenith’s El Primero 410

Reviewing Zenith’s El Primero 410

Arthur Touchot
By Arthur Touchot May 7, 2014

Before I review the new Zenith El Primero 410 Triple Calendar, I think it’s only fair to mention Zenith is one of the brands that triggered my passion for watches, and the iconic El Primero, which debuted in 1969, remains my Achilles’ heal. Of course, this also means that I feel reserved whenever Zenith announces a new El Primero. But I must confess the new 410 may be one of my favorite timepieces this year.

El Primero Historique, 1969
El Primero Historique, 1969

Zenith carved a special place in the watchmaking industry when, in 1969, it released the Calibre 410, one of the world’s first automatic chronographs. This column-wheel chronograph movement saw more than three decades of regular production, and became an icon among watch collectors because of its reliability, but in 2000, it was finally retired.

Caliber El Primero 3019 PHC, 1969
Zenith’s Calibre 3019 PHC, known as Calibre 410, released in 1969.

Perhaps spurred on by the demand for their vintage pieces, the small manufacture from Le Locle ultimately decided to bring it back for the El Primero 410, a watch that respects the heritage of the Calibre it houses, while embracing modern trends. Specifically, the new El Primero 410 takes after a 1970s prototype by Zenith, which sold at Christie’s for over $40,000 on May 14th, 2012. Two years on, Zenith has released what looks like a finished version of said prototype.

Zenith-made 1970s prototype which sold at Christie’s for over $40,000 on May 14th, 2012.

While the placement of subdials, calendar apertures, and tachymeter remains the same in the El Primero 410 Triple Calendar, the size of the case is significantly increased, from 38mm to 42mm. Zenith also threw out the two-tone white and grey color scheme for a stunning silver sunburst patterned dial. This combines beautifully with the blues of the moonphase display and chronograph seconds hands.

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The new Zenith El Primero 410 Triple Calendar.

The changes in size and color bring a little more clarity and readability to an otherwise multi-functional dial, which displays a 30-minute register at 3 o’clock, a 12-hour register with integrated moonphase at 6 o’clock, and a sub-seconds dial at 9 o’clock.

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The new El Primero features a stunning silver sunburst patterned dial.

The column-wheel chronograph movement, viewable through a sapphire case back, and beating at 5hz with 390 components, provides power to the triple calendar and chronograph functions, and it’s a stunning movement to watch.

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The Calibre 410, viewable through a sapphire case back.

The only disappointment comes from a lack of focus on the details. The day and month apertures are a little too small for my taste, and get buried underneath the hour and minute hands, while, the Zenith star at the end of the central chronograph hand partially blocks the moonphase when it’s not flying around the dial.

A modern man’s watch with soulful past.

Overall, the new Zenith El Primero 410 is still one of my favorite watches this year. It’s a modern man’s watch with the soul of a vintage icon. The El Primero 410, limited to 500 pieces worldwide, is priced at $11,000. It comes with an alligator leather strap and a signed deployant buckle. For more details, visit Zenith online.