Zenith: The Ever-Beating Heart

by Pearlyn Quan

Zenith shines a new light on the El Primero Calibre 3600 with its new iteration of the Chronomaster Open.

In the world of the chronograph – otherwise known as a timepiece with precision stopwatch functionality – Zenith is the stuff of legends. In 1969, the Swiss luxury watchmaker forever changed the world of watchmaking with the unveiling of the El Primero, the world’s first automatic high-frequency chronograph calibre.

Since its release, the 36,000 VpH (5 Hz) beat rate El Primero has remained the automatic chronograph calibre par excellence, renowned for its tried-and-tested reliability and absolute precision.

A recent update to the OG El Primero calibre 400 from 1969 is the El Primero calibre 3600 1/10th of a second automatic high-frequency calibre – and over the past 18 months, Zenith has entirely reworked its flagship Chronomaster line around it.

The new-look Chronomaster Sport was launched in 2021 to great commercial success, setting a new benchmark for automatic sporty chronographs. The watch was even awarded the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2021 “Chronograph” prize, and this year at Watches & Wonders, Zenith is expanding the line with the introduction of new versions in rose gold.

New-Look Chronomaster Open

The newest, and final, reveal from the reworked Chronomaster line was announced at Watches & Wonders 2022 – and it certainly pulls no punches with an entirely redesigned Chronomaster Open that allows you to admire its intricate inner workings like never before.

Originally launched in 2003, the Chronomaster Open broke new ground as the first chronograph with a partially-open dial to reveal the regulating organ and escapement.

The latest iteration of the Chronomaster Open in 2022 retains the iconic tri-colour dial configuration of the original A386 from 1969, but with a transparent twist. Instead of eliminating the small seconds counter at 9 o’clock entirely (as was the case with the previous versions of the Chronomaster Open), the three counter colours are retained using a hesalite crystal element that serves as a readable sub-dial, while allowing a view of the silicon star-shaped escape wheel.

The slimmer round case now measures 39.5mm wide, as compared to the previous 42mm model, and features slimmer lugs and more pronounced polished bevels on the edges. The recognisable “window” has also been reinterpreted as circular openings with chamfered edges, featuring an open base plate and bridges that allow for a clearer view through the sapphire back. On display is the El Primero 3604 1/10th of a second automatic chronograph movement, with an open star-shaped oscillating mass which efficiently delivers a power reserve of 60 hours.

Marking the completion of Zenith’s seminal chronograph collection, the new iteration of the Chronomaster Open lies somewhere between the sleek sportiness of the Chronomaster Sport and the historically-inspired Chronomaster Original, and seeks to shine a light on the extraordinary chronograph movement at the heart of it all.

Available in steel with a white or black dial, the watch comes with either a steel bracelet or cordura-effect rubber strap. A rose gold version featuring a white dial with a blue cordura-effect rubber strap is also introduced in the new line, along with a boutique-exclusive edition in steel with a blue dial and steel bracelet.

“Master of Chronographs” Exhibition

Running in tandem with the launch of the watch novelties at Watches and Wonders was Zenith’s “Master of Chronographs” exhibition,  a new 360-degrees platform which paid tribute to the Manufacture’s illustrious past and its countless achievements that contributed to the advancement of mechanical chronographs for over 50 years.

Combining educational activities, experiences and interactions – both physical and digital – the exhibition featured 15 rare and historically significant pieces dating from the late 19th century to the present.

The curated selection of watches highlighted how Zenith went on to conquer high-frequency precision with modern and singularly designed chronographs, endowed with fractional measurement of time with 1/10th and 1/100th of a second precision.

Innovative “Watch Clinics” at selected Zenith flagship boutiques around the world will also offer an up-close and personal educational watchmaking experience, where participants will be able to learn the inner workings of the chronograph movement and try their hand at putting one together themselves under the guidance of a watchmaker.

Images courtesy of Zenith, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.

Related Links:

Latest Zenith Chronomaster Original Gets the A386 Rewind

Zenith Chronomaster Sport: Decisecond and Counting

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