A384 Zenith El Primero
There’s nothing quite as brave as finishing second and handing yourself a jersey with ‘THE FIRST’ on the back of it. And yet, that’s this Zenith’s story. It’s not just brave though, it’s eccentric. Zenith also crossed the finish line with more style than anyone else by some margin. And that’s what really counts. Hence, basically every watch enthusiast is just fine with calling the A384 an El Primero. Zenith seemed to think deeply and uniquely about every nanometer of their watches in the 70s, and I can’t imagine a more fertile ground for great watchmaking.
The 37mm tonneau case design you see here is utterly singular to Zenith. Star Wars has nothing on this for 70s charm. You wouldn’t see this case and think Breitling or Heuer, that’s a testament to their separation from the rest of the pack in design thinking. Then there’s the high-beat automatic chronograph calibre 3019 PHC which at its time was the most impressive chronograph movement one could buy, full stop. There are vintage touch points like the panda dial, plexi crystal, and cream tritium. In addition, these dials are liable to go quite tropical if given a vacation or two.
None of this, however, is the best part. That’s the price. Because despite being monumentally innovative, desperately pretty, and historically significant, Zenith made a few. That which is common is not valued, at least not anywhere near the scarce. But that’s a brilliant thing for you and I, because we all need interesting watches to get obsessed with which will not further ruin our bank balances or indeed marriages. We also need watches to be attainable so that everyone can understand our enjoyment. It’s not relatable to be into Journe. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there should be a place for those who want a significant watch that isn’t house money. No, 10 grand isn’t cheap by anyone’s metric. But it’s not nearly as expensive as one could make the case for it to be. And an undervalued watch in today’s market? Well that actually is a first. I take it back.
This example is one of the best I’ve seen in some time. Its case is razor sharp, said to be unpolished and for once I agree. The dial sports no damage, with lovely tritium in a cream tone. The Zenith signed crown is there, the back hasn’t been polished over. There are two bizarrely deep scratches under one of the logo’s arms on caseback, but you can’t win them all. It’s lovely. It comes from a well-regarded London retailer.
Find this A384 here from Watches of Knightsbridge for 9750 GBP.