From the attic

Do You Love Vintage Chronograph Watches? Then You’re Gonna Love This


May 21, 2020 Watches By
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Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) has moved online and Baselworld 2020 is canceled, but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. Stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases here.

Historical Swiss watch manufactures can be a bit like storybook castles — more often than not, if a company is housed in old facilities, there’s at least one room with archival material, old tooling or something of the like that takes on the air of some Hogwarts-esque chamber of horological secrets.

Such is the case at Zenith, in Le Locle, Switzerland. The “genier” (or attic) of the building is the same in which a rogue Zenith employee named Charles Vermot famously hid the El Primero chronograph tooling back in the 1970s, despite being ordered to destroy it during the midst of the Quartz Crisus. Vermot had the foresight to look to a time in the future when mechanical watchmaking would make a comeback, and we have him to thank for the survival of the El Primero chronograph movement, which has gone on to power countless watches since the tooling’s rediscovery in the 1980s.

In 2018, while rummaging through the grenier ahead of the celebration of the El Primero’s 50th anniversary in 2019, employees discovered an unlabeled box. Upon opening it, they were greeted with the sight of several never-used dials, including the iconic A386 El Primero tri-color dial as well as another version using three shades of blue for the different sub-registers. Stunned at this discovery of what may have been a prototype A386 dial hidden by Vermot himself, Zenith decided to put it into production in a new watch.

What we have now is a Zenith Revival piece — a reproduction of the original A386 from 1969, housing an El Primero cal. 400 automatic movement, but using one of these unique blue dials. Housed in a 38mm stainless steel case and featuring pump pushers, the new watch was originally intended for sale exclusively to visitors of the Zenith Manufacture in Le Locle — however the company will make it available via e-commerce given the coronavirus and restricted travel/visitation. The U.S. will be among the last countries for which the e-comm website will be unveiled, however, so if you’re an American collector, you may want to get on the phone to one of your Italian friends — they’ll be getting first crack at the e-comm site.

The Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition — which retails for $8,700 — will come with special packaging, a comic book about Charles Vermot and his story made by Swiss cartoonist Cosey, and a reproduction of the dial found in the Zenith atelier.

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Oren Hartov

Oren Hartov is Gear Patrol's watches editor. He knows what time it is, and one or two other things.

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