In horological history, the release of the Zenith El Primero in the late ’60s stands out as one of its more defining moments. Dubbed the first-ever automatic chronograph to be made in production, the El Primero to this day remains largely unchanged and truly an icon.
If you have been following us for some time now, you would know that we don’t very often put out modern Zenith El Primeros on the site, so to see one here is a bit of an anomaly- and for good reason, because this is a very unique El Primero. Allow me to explain.
The watch we have on offer here is the Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Poker Chip”, Ref. 97.G383.400.38.C880, which was limited to 200 pieces and was a collaborative edition with SJX Watches back in November 2021. There is something strangely mysterious and appealing about this watch, perhaps due to the familiarity of it being an El Primero, but vastly different aesthetic we usually expect from the brand. According to SJX, the watch is loosely inspired by the disco-era El Primero G383, a funky looking watch that looks unmistakably from the 60s and 70s era.
The dial on this watch has a very quirky aesthetic to it with the disco-era flavour very apparent here due to the generous application of Super Luminova all over the dial, coupled with a “poker chip” motif at the centre of it all which ties everything together. To balance out the almost excessive and loud design on the dial, the design team opted for a fairly restrained, compact, micro-blasted titanium case to present the watch in its full glory. This gives the watch a very subdued, minimalistic two-colour look, despite the elaborate dial design.
Encased within this 38mm titanium case is the El Primero 400, which is an identical calibre found in the Poker Chip’s inspirational model G383 and all other El Primeros of the past. It features a hi-beat 36,000 Vph (5 hz) and boasts a respectable power reserve of 50 hours.
For many collectors and enthusiasts (including myself), the Zenith El Primero holds a special place in our hearts due to what the watch represented when it was first introduced. It is certainly a refreshing sight to see a well-designed contemporary version of a true vintage classic in this particular edition, and I am sure many Zenith enthusiasts would share my sentiments.