Mk2 A386 Zenith El Primero
‘The want’ is very strong with vintage Zenith. As a blanket term, ‘vintage Zenith’ covers so much: the original covergirl, G381, A277, Moonphase Calibre 3019 PHF Prototype, I could go on. In that list most definitely lies the A386. Its design is attractive, the contrasted overlapping big-eye subs uniquely lovely. The automatic cal 3019 is as gorgeous as it was groundbreaking and this was the first watch to house it. It also happens to be a complete sleeper to the general population. Watch people get it, no one else cares. Personally, that is my ideal.
I’ve jested previously that while three competitors were fiercely competing to develop the world’s first automatic chronograph, Zenith finished just behind first and then named it the ‘we did it first guys, promise.’ There’s a sliver of truth in that. If you want to make history, just write it instead. The first auto chronograph is more a case of convergent evolution, where many manufactures were locked-in on the problem. Whoever you believe to have reached the accomplishment first, there is no argument that Zenith’s approach was the most technically competent; a completely integrated 278 component, column wheel, 36000 vph, auto chronograph. That, make no mistake, was a technical masterclass.
Zenith’s recipe was audacity inside and outside here. Tri-color subdials? No one did that in the 70s, or the thick grey outer track. Angular lug design on that 38mm case to match, a bit shark-nosed. Voila, you have an icon of the last century—the A386. Although you see the A386’s influence across many other styles of Zenith chronograph, just 1500 were produced in this original tri-color flavor (according to M. Rössler). This mark 2 variety is distinguished by its case, which has a groove where the lugs merge with its case body, yet not ‘nato’ star engraved on its caseback as with the mark 3.
Moreover, this example is in strong condition. The lugs are still full, though the watch has seen a previous polish it was executed quite professionally. More detail on that is on the retailer’s listing. Its tritone dial is remarkably well-preserved, with a delicate, even patina. Its tritium tones are matched, all still present. It comes running in spec from a well-regarded retailer.
Find this A386 here from Wrist Icons for 18500 GBP.