Zenith works in a number of vintage territories, such as motorbikes, but more importantly classic cars. The El Primero 36.000 VpH Classic Car fits the image perfectly, with its high-speed column-wheel chronograph movement, the classic three counters in different colours, a “brushed engine” finish on the dial, and the perforated leather strap that recalls driving gloves. This year Zenith will be involved in over 50 classic car events all over the world.
The detailing is very nice, with a well-proportioned fluted crown, and two pushers with “piston-ring” detail in two colours. The information on the dial is well laid out, with subdials that are superposed but nonetheless retain their functional legibility, and all parts of the subdial scales visible. There are three scales at the edge of the dial, a tachymeter ring, followed by minutes, and then the seconds scale with fifth-second divisions, matching the 5-Hertz speed of the movement which provides a resolution of up to a tenth of a second. The hour markers have a faceted design matching the hands, and are correspondingly equipped with SuperLuminova. The dial is framed by a brushed steel case with a narrow bezel providing maximum space for the dial. At 42 mm in diameter and 12.75 mm thick, it is very wearable. The brown calfskin leather strap has a protective rubber lining and a steel triple-folding clasp. Water resistance is 10 bar, 100 metres (resistant to splashes, no showering or swimming).
My only problem with the dial is the way in which the seconds scale is interrupted by the hour markers, so that you can’t get the tenth-of-second accuracy if the chronograph seconds hand happens to be stopped in the segment of one of the hour markers, or over the date window. I suppose that I’m behind the times, and mechanical watches are now more about looks than function: I find myself writing this comment about incomplete scales on chronographs with great frequency. But in this case, Zenith has a rare in-house movement of extraordinary prestige that runs faster than most and permits one-tenth second accuracy, so why not highlight this exceptional heritage with a scale that can be read all the way around?
El Primero 400B movement
The watch is powered by the El Primero 400B self-winding movement, which runs at 36,000 vibrations per hour, 5 Hertz, and provides a power reserve of 50 hours.
Price and reference
The Zenith El Primero 36.000 VpH Classic Car is reference 03.2046.4002/25.C771, and its price is €6,900, attractive considering the in-house movement. It will be available from about September 2016.