Tropical Dial A384 Zenith El Primero

Zenith in 1969 was firing on more than all creative cylinders. They went up to 11, 12, and then 36,000. The cases went for pure revolution over evolution. Gay Frères invented a new, very summery, and very 70s bracelet. Wether the calibre 3019 PHC was the first automatic chronograph or not, it was certainly the most technically accomplished. It was so good even Rolex cribbed it. But those fantastic achievements are only the canvas here, the painting has been made by time. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful tropical panda dial that this very A384. Tropical 6262s, eat your heart out.

The A384 was the more muscular, square-jawed sibling of the A386, released very shortly thereafter. At 37mm, the proportions are still in the Goldilocks zone for most of us. More estimate that production was no more than 2600 examples, which Omega would call a limited edition. Even more telling here, the design is so strong that Zenith didn’t change a thing when they ‘revived’ it. The details are lovely: fat chamfers, radial brushing, star caseback. Most overlook the A384 for the lack of tricolore subdials, but would you rather have subs made by a designer or mother nature? In this case, I have to go cappuccino. A384s are not unfamiliar to tropical tones. Many have a proclivity to go caramel. But even so, this one is particularly even, light, and delicious.

I love a Daytona. But, to reference the intro, just how a tropical 6262 can hammer for 214K CHF while this A384 with a more daring case and objectively more advanced calibre can be listed at 16K I will never understand. The best thing about great vintage Zenith chronographs is that not too many people are obsessed with them, they’re still out there in great condition and not launched into the stratosphere. We need fantastic chronographs to excited about that feel possible. Many of the truly great ones don’t feel tethered to reality or vaguely possible anymore. But the A384 is. It’s valuable, but it’s possible. Even for wildly exceptional examples like this. Long live true vintage Zenith and may they ever remain for passionate enthusiasts only.


This example ticks all the boxes. The dial is deep, evenly brown. Its tritium appears original and all present. It’s often common for the chronograph hand to be very slightly lighter in tone on these, no idea why, but that’s likely original too. The case is full and still maintains its top brushing. It may have seen a very light polish in its past, but not much. It comes on its original ladder bracelet from a well-regarded Italian retailer.