A277 Zenith Diving Chronograph
Diving chronographs don’t make sense on any level. The point of a dive watch is to separate the inner from the outer, resistance to water pressure. Pushers are, by definition, moving parts on a case that connect outer to inner. That is problematic. But maybe I’m thinking too hard about it? Because let’s be clear, this a very good looking chronograph, isn’t it? Zenith seem to have been incapable of producing a bad design from the 60s until the late 80s. When you add a rotating bezel into the the Zenith parlance, things get even better.
The ref. A277 was only produced for two short years, not a huge success or seller in period. It came in two versions. One run with blued steel steel and a five pointed star on crown, and this latter iteration with gold hands and a four pointed star. The 40mm case is C-style compressor, like the Heuer, there’s a rubber gasket around the entire outer that gets compressed as water resistance goes up. That gasket has holes in it for the pushers and crown, meaning as it compresses down it bites on the stems, creating resistance. Though I wouldn’t try it out now, five decades of rubber deterioration later. The case really wins me over for the muscular lugs though, very of their era and interestingly beveled. One other great design note, the paddle of the chronograph hand rests perfectly below the length of the double indices at 12 to create an even gap all around hand’s the end shape.
I know Zenith is fond of a reissue, but I kind of hope they leave this one be. Not for any lack of faith, but because there’s something cool about the A277 being a watch you have to stumble across on a late night paging through watches for sale. You don’t get to an A277 easily, and that’s a good thing. I suspect, though, the obvious harmony of this design will prove too alluring for them. Because, though it doesn’t make any logical sense, the A277 works on every other level. It’s rare, sure. But more importantly it’s a design pretty far off the normal Zenith path that really works: a window into what a different diving El Primero line might’ve looked like in the 60s had it sold better. Today it’s a footnote to the brand, but a damn cool one.
This example, too, kills it. The case is full and sharp. No damage on the dial, where one usually sees some spotting or corrosion on these. The tritium is a perfect cream and its bezel is ghosted. And its on an original Gay Freres ladder for Zenith. It comes from a well-regarded Miami retailer.
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