The balance wheel is viewed by many as the beating heart of the watch. Well there are not many that beat quite like the Zenith El Primero. This movement was introduced by Zenith in 1969 as not only the first automatic chronograph, but also with a balance wheel that rotates at a speed of 36,000 vph. That's 10 beats per second.
Over the last 12 years or so that I have been following the watch industry, this movement and the Chronomaster watches in particular, have always been of great interest to me. I felt that they were beautifully designed and the movement was a feat of engineering. That's what gets me most, the level of engineering mastery that goes into a mechanical watch. This movement, the El Primero 4021, is a column wheel chronograph measuring seconds and minutes, with a 50 hour power reserve and is also beautifully decorated. You can see this artistry through the exhibition caseback where the Cotes de Geneve finished rotor, perlage plates & bridges and blued screws really stand out.
The Zenith Chronomaster Open shown here has the silver sunray dial and dark brown alligator strap. This is more of a dress watch for sure but it works well in all situations. The dial is quite elegant & striking, with an iridescence that draws in the eye and an aperture at ten o'clock showcasing the escapement. The aperture is nicely finished with a rhodium plated surround, secured by three blued-steel screws. I will say it is very easy to get hypnotized and stare at the balance wheel beating back and forth...but I digress. You will find faceted, baton hour markers and hands all gleaming with rhodium and accented with lume. This is the only drawback of the watch as the super shiny rhodium plating against the silver dial can sometimes be difficult to read. Also positioned off of the main post is the power reserve indicator, with a red accent at the bottom of the scale. The power reserve and chronograph hands are all blued steel which is a very attractive and readable contrast.
The devil is in the details with this watch. One of those details that makes the Zenith Chronomaster Open very elegant is the tachymeter scale encircling the dial, rather then being marked along the bezel. This allows for a case with a much lower profile and a dial that takes up most of the 42 mm width. This gives the illusion of a larger case while still being very wearable. The case itself is 14mm thick and polished to a mirror finish, except for the lugs which are brushed. The alligator strap has a protective rubber lining which gives it additional durability and comfort. After owning this watch for more than a year, the strap still looks new. The model shown here has a tang buckle but Zenith has now moved to a triple folding clasp.
The Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Open Power Reserve is a beautiful example of the work done by Zenith. I feel this is a great value when you consider that you are getting a true in-house manufacture movement, that is beautifully hand-decorated, with a column wheel chronograph function.
For more information check out the Zenith website.