World of Watches (Singapore) - - Features -


rock star among move­ments in more ways than one, the El Primero was un­leashed to the world in a rel­a­tively lowkey press con­fer­ence in Jan­uary 1969, which be­lied its ground-break­ing specs. Not only was it the world’s first au­to­matic in­te­grated chronograph move­ment, it also fea­tured an es­cape­ment that blitzed along at an un­prece­dented 5Hz which of­fered bet­ter chronom­e­try and the abil­ity to mea­sure elapsed times to an ac­cu­racy of a tenth of a se­cond. An en­gi­neer­ing coup; but Os­car Wilde hit the nail on its head when he com­plained that peo­ple knew the price of ev­ery­thing and the value of noth­ing. In 1975, Zenith’s then-amer­i­can own­ers de­cided to fo­cus on mak­ing quartz watches and or­dered the El Primero’s pro­duc­tion equip­ment dis­man­tled and sold as scrap. In­stead of com­ply­ing, an in­trepid em­ployee spir­ited away the El Primero’s tech­ni­cal plans and tool­ing bit by bit af­ter work. Thanks to Charles Ver­mot, the El Primero resur­faced in 1984.

To­day, the El Primero re­mains among the fastest beat­ing me­chan­i­cal move­ments at 5Hz, in the com­pany of a few brands that have caught up with high beat move­ments in re­cent years. Though it started life as a chronograph, El Primero can now also be found in Zenith’s time-only watches such as the Syn­op­sis, which drops the chronograph func­tion but fea­tures an up­dated es­cape­ment with sil­i­con wheel and lever vis­i­ble through an open­ing on the dial. It has also made its way into the watches of Zenith’s sis­ter brands within the LVMH group: TAG Heuer, Hublot, and Bul­gari.

Au­to­matic chronograph move­ment beat­ing at 5Hz, with 50-hour power re­serve Di­men­sions: 30mm x 6.6mm Num­ber of parts: 278

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