This Zenith is, by definition, an oxymoron. Black rainbows don’t exist in the physical world, but do exist—if only just—in El Primero. The Rainbow is an El Primero with a complex and fascinating history, from 1992 introduction with one calibre, to 1995 Elite Rainbow introduction with another, to 1997 EP Rainbow with flyback. The models are uncommon, hard to research thoroughly, and ground for some seriously fun collecting.
The 1995 Rainbow El Primero was updated and built by Zenith to the specification of the French Air Force, following the XX and YEMA Superman. The watch needed to sustain eleven G, huge pressure and temperature deviations, and be highly legible at the slightest glance. In addition, the chronograph needed to be a flyback. That is to say, one may press the reset in while the chronograph is running and safely zero all measurements.
More commercial variants were released alongside with the same calibre 400 in-house, column-wheel, hi-beating modern caliber. All that was then cased in quite substantial 40mm steel (though nothing like the modern reissue’s staggering 45mm). Porcelain dials, two-tone cases, and even elusive ‘mango’ orange dials exist from this original run. This black dial Rainbow is considerably rarer that white production. So uncommon, in fact, that I’m only familiar with two other examples which have come to the secondary market, a few years back. All told, not many Rainbows were produced in the original run at an estimated 1600 steel examples. Far fewer in this debonair black.
This example has a full case and just beautiful tritium. It is important to note that these lugs came with this very rounded shape from factory and are in fact not just grossly overpolished. The dial is blacker than Vader’s helmet and the tritium has turned a perfect cream tone. Its bezel is just starting to ghost. It comes with box and papers, remarkably, from a well-regarded London retailer.
Find this Black El Primero Rainbow here from Subdial for 3150 GBP.