Fifty years ago, the first commercially available quartz watch debuted. The Seiko Astron was soon followed up by the Zenith El Primero, the world’s first full-rotor automatic high-beat chronograph. That same year saw a total of three self-winding chronograph movements.
As it happens, only one of those is still in production and Zenith is celebrating that accomplishment with the El Primero High-Frequency Anniversary Boxset.
It’s amazing that we still have El Primero. When Zenith watch company sold to Zenith Radio Corporation, the new owners ordered everything sold off or discarded. Charles Vermot, a Zenith employee, hid away the tooling and plans for El Primero. It’s a good thing that he did because Rolex ordered such a large quantity that Zenith had to go back into production.
The boxset takes a look at the timeline of the El Primero and consists of three 50-piece limited edition El Primero models. There’s also an empty cushion for a future 1/1000th of a second chronograph. The set comes with the El Primero 1969, a faithful reproduction of the original watch, which was accomplished by laser scanning the original watch in the Zenith museum.
The Zenith Chronomaster is also present—a watch capable of oscillating at 36,000 vibrations per hour. The final watch is the ultimate incarnation of El Primero—the Defy El Primero 21.
No word on what this impressive set will sell for, but something this historic will be worth it.