Everyone’s favorite chronograph (by which I mean my favorite chronograph) received a total overhaul today with the release of this all-new Chronomaster Sport. You might be thinking, as I did, that Chronomasters (or, as most of us simply call them, El Primeros) were already pretty sporty, and you’d be right, but this new Chronomaster Sport takes it up a few notches in aggressive design. More importantly, it also receives an updated El Primero movement which has numerous refinements.
Aesthetically, we see a bolder version of the El Primero, highly reminiscent of the older De Luca thanks to its rather large black bezel. This new Zenith is much more attractive, in my opinion, both in the execution of its bezel, which feels is now ceramic and feels more contemporary, and in the dial. While they both featured the standard white/black dial options, I’m glad this time around Zenith has kept the tri-color dial firmly intact, giving the watch a bit of whimsey that is so desperately lacking in many of today’s dead-serious chronograph watches. The steel case is pretty reasonably sized at 41mm, especially for something that explicitly carries a “sport” moniker, and I’m guessing that it’s going to wear a little smaller than that due to the large bezel.
That gorgeous, and wide, polished ceramic bezel is a bit more revealing than it at first seems, however. Instead of your typical tachymeter bezel, which I’ve never found especially useful to begin with, you find marks for tenths of a second. That’s because El Primeros use 36,000 BPH (or VpH, as Zenith styles it) movements, which therefore beat 10 times per second, a very precise and convenient subdivision of time. This special El Primero, like the famous Striking 10th before it, takes just 10 seconds to move the chronograph’s seconds hand all the way around the dial instead of the usual 60.
All El Primeros have tenth of a second chronograph precision, but there’s almost no way you’d be able to actually discern precisely which tenth of a second the hand was on. By dedicating the entire bezel to just 10 seconds, instead of 60, it’s much easier to actually use that tenth of a second precision.
Inside beats the movement for which Zenith is legendary, the El Primero. But this isn’t just any El Primero, this is the new El Primero 3600, which incorporates numerous updates and refinements to the horological staple from ’69. While this isn’t the very first time we’re seeing the 3600, this is the first time it’s been offered in a regular production watch, and it is perhaps a sign that a “Striking 10th”-esque future may be coming to the Chronomaster line generally.
Looking at the EP 3600 with the rotor out of the way, we can start to appreciate the beauty, and almost industrial aesthetic, that the new movement brings. In addition to changes that allow the chronograph seconds hand to rotate the dial once per ten seconds, Zenith has also managed to increase the power reserve from a respectable 50 hours to an impressive 60 and add hacking (stop seconds) to the watch to make it easier to set. Of note is that, contrary to some commentary on this watch, this isn’t the first El Primero to hack. So far as I know, that award would go to the old El Primero Synopsis, a historical oddity (that I, and apparently I alone, loved). While I was never actually deterred by the lack of hacking in an El Primero (I find it somewhat refreshing that I don’t even have to attempt to line up the seconds when I set it, actually), I know a significant percentage of watch collectors were, so I think this will be very well received.
Overall, the Chronomaster Sport is an attractive, and aggressive, addition to the El Primero lineup. It continues a trend in LVMH to add large, ceramic bezels, which we recently saw in the TAG Heuer Carrera line, and I dare say that the EP 3600 movement is taking on some of TAG Heuer’s characteristic industrial design, aesthetically speaking, not that that’s a bad thing. I expect we’ll see more ceramic bezels in future models from both brands, but more importantly, to me anyway, we’ve seen a nice influx of new El Primero models and updated movements lately which suggests that El Primero, and Chronomaster, is not forgotten while the brand devotes much of its attention to Defy. Hopefully, the future for this movement and line of watches remains bright.
Zenith’s making this new model, at least for the moment, available in two dial colors, simply black or white, both with tri-color subdials, and you can get it on bracelet or strap. Specifically, the white dial is available on a blue strap while the black dial is a bit more serious on its black strap. I’m a bit indifferent as to the bracelet versus strap question on this one, as I think they both look great, although you’ll pay $500 more for the bracelet. That said, the new Chronomaster Sport is clearly positioned to be near the top of the full production Chronomaster line, priced at $9,500 on strap, so $500 isn’t really that big of a difference at the end of the day.
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