Technology Zenith - Renaissance: the A386 in blue - Style...

Zenith – Renaissance: the A386 in blue – Style and Trend

If you know Zenith and its watches, it is likely that you also know the famous story of Charles Vermot, a watchmaker at Zenith, who locked an attic of the manufacture in the 70s to preserve its mechanical heritage. It is one of the most moving stories in the industry, which highlights the importance of traditional watchmaking for its heritage and those who depend on it.

Zenith has been sharing this story for a few years now, since the Maison renovated and opened its factory to visitors. You can therefore visit the Vermot attic, sealed with all the components and machines that made it possible to manufacture the famous El Primero movement of the brand. In doing so, Zenith found precious treasures, including a never before seen variant of the A386 El Primero dial – the tricolor dial with three shades of blue. In this spirit, Zenith publishes a special Chronomaster Revival “Manufacture Edition” presenting this new dial, available only online or by visiting the Manufacture Zenith.

Chronomaster Revival “Manufacture Edition” © Zenith

Before going into the details of this watch, it is important to underline why the El Primero movement (and the A386, the first watch to house this movement) still matters today. In 1969, after five years of development, Zenith introduced the El Primero chronograph, the world’s first high-frequency automatic chronograph, beating at a frequency of 5 Hz and accurate to 1 / 10th of a second. Although other remarkable chronographs were introduced around the same time, Zenith’s was the most precise and integrated, rather than a chronograph module added to an automatic movement. Vermot was one of the watchmakers who had worked on the development of the El Primero and, as we now know, this movement is the greatest champion and savior. The El Primero remains, to this day, one of the most precise mechanical chronograph movements – even Rolex used it in its Daytona, which proved to be Zenith’s saving grace.

Renaissance: the A386 in blue

Dials © Zenith

When the quartz crisis broke out, Zenith, like many others at the time, decided to stop producing mechanical movements – all tools, machines and components were basically labeled as unnecessary, to be sold and disposed of. Vermot, convinced that mechanical watchmaking would not only make a comeback but be the future of the company, spent his last months at Zenith working late, hiding in an attic the plans, tools, machines and binders containing the instructions on the making of these movements, forgotten by the management who were most likely concerned about keeping the company afloat. In the mid-1980s, Rolex wanted to modernize its emblematic Daytona with an automatic movement and turned to the El Primero, asking Zenith to produce a movement that the manufacture had not produced for nearly a decade. It was at this time that Vermot revealed the existence of the attic, preserved with the heritage of Zenith, which saved the company which embarked on the production of El Primero movements.

Renaissance: the A386 in blue

Chronomaster Revival “Manufacture Edition” © Zenith

In addition to all the components and detailed instructions on how to produce the movement, it turned out that there were also dial prototypes for the original A386, the watch that was introduced in 1969. One of the dials featured the three counters in different shades of blue. The original A386, which has since become a popular commodity on the vintage market, featured a beige / gray / dark blue combination. Although it is not clear, even for Zenith, if this variation of blues was intended for production, its original purpose does not really matter – the dial is part of the history of Zenith and it is a reason enough to re-launch it today.

The Chronomaster Revival “Manufacture Edition” presents this white dial with blue counters in the same Revival case that Zenith created in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of El Primero: 38mm, in stainless steel with pump type pushers which are an exact reproduction of the original model A386 and, of course, housing the El Primero movement. Designed as an exclusive item, the Manufacture edition is available to people who visit the Zenith Manufacture but, given the current situation, Zenith also made it available on the e-commerce platform until the reopening of the Manufacture for visits. The platform is gradually deployed, starting with Italy, France and Switzerland, then with Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. To commemorate the special place occupied by the watch in the history of Zenith, the packaging imitates a book which can be displayed on a shelf and carries a map of the Zenith factory. It also includes a reproduction of the vintage dial and a comic strip on Vermot, created by the Swiss designer Cosey.


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