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A Closer Look at The Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 38mm

Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 38mm

Zenith is a watchmaker that has been around for more than a century and a half. Founded in 1865 by a 22-year-old Georges Favre-Jacot in Le Locle, the Swiss brand has consistently delivered high-end and unique designs. It's changed hands since then but has not failed to provide quality luxury timepieces. Of notable mention is the most recent reimagination of the Chronomaster in the El Primero 38 mm, which merits a closer look and admiration.

The Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 38 mm history

The Chronomaster El Primero made its debut in 1969, according to Zenith. It made history as the first automatic chronograph movement to beat at a high frequency. Through the years, the El Primero Chronomaster has appeared in numerous variants and iterations. The 2017 version s the most recent version and possibly, the most memorable, but only time will tell. The El Primo Chronomaster comes in many variations with small details that give each a distinct personality. Each maintains the DNA that binds them together to the original as members of the same recognizable family. The El Primero Chronograph line has remained one of Zenith's most iconic models. The El Primero Chronomaster 38 mm offers an idyllic sizing for smaller to medium wrists has found a niche within the collection that makes it stand out to a select group of wristwatch enthusiasts who demand the finest workmanship from skilled watchmakers.


The case

The case is made of fine 316L stainless steel material. It is resistant to scratching and scuffing to retain a new look for longer. The diameter is 38mm wide, suitable for small to medium-sized wrists with a depth of 12.45 mm. Time and Tide points out the tremendous attention to the detail of the case. It features a matte brush finishing on the angular lug surfaces with a polished bezel. The styling creates a sense of depth and a high-end aesthetic. The Zenith star motif adorns the knurled crown with a bit of mirror finishing. Every little detail combines to create the personality of the timepiece with a nod to the original of 1969, with a more modern styling and enhanced functionality.

The bezel and dial

The inner bezel ring is finished with a silver tachymeter scale with black contrast for the open minute track that is set off with a red chronograph hand and Zenith star at the bottom. An aperture for the date is set betwixt four and five o'clock. The silvery background is ideal for the defining subdials with their blues, blacks, and accents of red. It looks a bit busy at first glance, but each sweeping movement reminds us that this is a precision timepiece with wondrous complications. Applied markers and indices are raised with silver frames and black and white SuperLuminova fill which are so detailed that it causes one to marvel at the time and effort that has gone into the workmanship and perfection of each component. The lume presents a powerful accent that lends enhanced legibility of the time in all lighting conditions. The entire layout is a work of art that immediately catches the eye with a refined personality and a definite intricacy that is captured both in form and in function.

The movement

Hodinkee walks us through the finer points of the Zenith el Primero Chronomaster 38 mm with regards to its power source. The movement is a classic chronograph column wheel style in an automatic platform. As far as movements go, it's not the most ornate, but the functionality and precision make it a true work of art. The blued screws that are visible beneath the exhibition case back are a nice touch that makes it all the more interesting to observe. The timing of events is accurate to within one-tenth of a second. It is a self-winding type called the Zenith El Primero Caliber 400 chronograph with 31 jewels. It beats at a rate of 5 Hz or 36,000 VpH. and measures 30 mm in diameter with a power reserve of 50 hours. While it is not the most ornate movement, the inner workings are interesting to watch.


The functions of the movement include a central chronograph hand, a 12 hour counter located at 6 o'clock, a 30-minute counter at 3 o'clock, hours, minutes in the center, small seconds at the 9 o'clock position, a tachymetric scale, and date indication. A sapphire crystal adorns the front and back of the timepiece to provide good legibility of the dial and various subdials. The exhibition case back provides a lovely view of the movement beneath. The watch is water-resistant to 10 ATM.

The strap

The strap is made of genuine alligator leather in black, with stitching. It affixes to the wrist via a locking clasp closure for security. It is also available in brown alligator leather.

The price

The price of the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 38 m is $7,900.

Final thoughts

What immediately catches the eye is the fine details that offer a bit of refinement for the eyes. Down to the smallest detail including the bright polished finish of the applied markers that gently catch the light producing a gleam, combine with the functionality of the chronograph. Although it's purely a matter of personal preference, the layout of the subdials with their carefully accented hands that are separated by layers and color hues add character and a note of fun that borders but does not quite carry into the whimsical. On the wrist, the 38mm is comfortable and light. The depth and weight are suitable for everyday wear. Neither plain nor too dressy, the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 38 is destined to become a classic with its latest iteration that takes the notion of detailing to the limits without going over the top. It's not ideal for every watch lover, but this timepiece is an example that will find a large enough audience to merit its continued production.

Lily Wordsmith

Written by Lily Wordsmith

Lily Wordsmith is a freelance writer who has had a love affair with the written word for decades. You can find her writing blog posts and articles while sitting under a tree at the local park watching her kids play, or typing away on her tablet in line at the DMV. In addition to her freelance career, she is pursuing ebook writing with an ever-growing repertoire of witty ebooks to her name. Her diversity is boundless, and she has written about everything from astrobotany to zookeepers. Her real passions are her family, baking desserts and all things luxe.

Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith

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