Shades of the Past: Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Shadow” Revives a Rare El Primero Prototype


Zenith’s history-making El Primero chronograph caliber famously marked its 50th anniversary in 2019, debuting a number of historically inspired timepieces, including a revival of the very first El Primero watch from 1969. This year, the manufacture follows up that mega-popular vintage re-edition with the Chronomaster Revival “Shadow” — the modern reissue of a rare, legendary prototype that has languished in secrecy and obscurity since 1970.

One year after releasing the storied, steel-cased Reference A384, the first watch containing the self-winding El Primero, Zenith developed another chronograph, this one with a manual-winding movement, whose case was made of blackened steel, a rarity in that era. Only a handful were actually made, and none actually made it to market. Even official Zenith records of the prototype are scarce, and only a handful of longtime employees even were aware it existed. The unconventional model got a new lease on life last year when Zenith — in its thorough search of the secret, walled-off attic where Charles Vermot (more on him here) stashed the parts and documents that preserved the El Primero through the Quartz Crisis — discovered one of the nearly forgotten prototypes.

The Revival version, nicknamed “Shadow,” retains the period-appropriate 37-mm case size of its predecessor (the same case configuration as the A384) but replaces the black-coated steel with dark matte-gray microblasted titanium. Inside, replacing the original’s manually wound chronograph caliber, is the most up-to-date version of the El Primero, the automatic 4061, with a speedy frequency of 36,000 vph, a lengthy power reserve of 50 hours, and a column-wheel-controlled stopwatch mechanism.

The dial black is highlighted by three gray snailed subdials — small seconds at 9 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, and 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock — and bordered by a gray tachymeter-scale flange.The hands and applied hour markers are rhodium-plated, faceted, and treated with white Super-LumiNova that glows a bright green in the dark.

The Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Shadow” is offered on a black rubber strap with a cordura-effect texture, which fastens to the wrist with a pin buckle made of the same microblasted titanium as the case. The watch is available now for $8,200.

5 Responses to “Shades of the Past: Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Shadow” Revives a Rare El Primero Prototype”

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  1. Matthew D

    I’d trade my Speedy for that in a heartbeat. Well executed.

    Reply
  2. Karel Filipek

    Perfect – Y Want that Watch – a Zenith – El Prinero .

    Gratis Designe , Sporty And With Carácter fom Men.

    Reply
  3. Kwik Xperiment

    Almost looked like the perfect watch to me until I noticed that the “20”, “3” and “6” on the sub dials are partially printed on an edge, on two different surfaces. Sloppy placement in my opinion.

    Reply
    • Wow, i simply can not unsee this, also thought this was an excellent piece till you pointed that out. I wonder why they did that design choice?

      Reply
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