Zenith’s year-long 50th-anniversary celebration of its groundbreaking high-frequency chronograph caliber, the El Primero, continues at the inaugural WatchTime Los Angeles event, to be held May 3 – 4 at Downtown L.A.’s Hudson Loft. Among Zenith’s featured timepieces from its 2019 collection will be the new Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon, whose avant-garde design features two separate escapements and a stopwatch function that can measure elapsed times to 1/100th second.
The watch, which we got an early look at in Geneva and at Baselworld during the major Swiss watch fairs earlier this year, is the most complicated of Zenith’s El Primero tribute pieces, which include the vintage-look A386 Revival piece and the next-generation Defy Inventor. Housed inside a 46-mm case, in either satin-brushed 950 platinum or all-black carbon, the new El Primero Caliber 9020 is equipped with two tourbillons — one at 10 o’clock that is coupled with the chronograph function, the other at 8 o’clock to regulate the timekeeping rate of the watch. The escapement in the 10 o’clock tourbillon beats at a lightning-quick frequency of 50 Hz (360,000 vph), its carriage performing a full rotation every five seconds. What this means in practice is that when the chronograph is activated, its central hand makes a complete sweep of the dial once per second, and thus has the ability, when stopped, to measure an interval to 1/100th of a second. The 8 o’clock tourbillon escapement oscillates at a more conventional (at least for an El Primero) 36,000 vph, or 5 Hz, and separately regulates the hours, minutes, and continuously running seconds.
Along with the two tourbillons, the movement has two dedicated mainspring barrels — one for the watch, the other for the chronograph. The former provides for 60 hours of power reserve when fully wound, the latter for 50 minutes of running autonomy for the activated stopwatch, whose 60-second and 30-minute counters are displayed at 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock, respectively, on the watch’s openworked dial. The self-winding Caliber 9020, whose attributes are in full evidence through both front and back sapphire crystals, has a two-tone treatment, featuring blue-tinted tourbillon cages with the Zenith star and blue-finished bridges and baseplate with polished angles. All told, the movement has 311 components, including a satin-brushed rotor, and boasts a chronometer certification from the independent testing agency Timelab. Both the platinum and carbon versions of the case are water-resistant to 100 meters, and are secured to the wrist by a high-tech black rubber strap, either Cordura-patterned or coated with alligator leather. The platinum model is limited to 10 pieces, while the carbon model is limited to 50 pieces.
You can check out this watchmaking milestone — as well as other new pieces from Zenith’s 2019 collection, along with those from 27 other luxury watch brands — at WatchTime L.A. on May 3-4. Click here for a complete list of brands, panel info, and ticket purchases.