February 26, 2024
Zenith El Primero For HODINKEE

Afew months ago, HODINKEE announced its very first collaborative wristwatch, the Legacy Machine 101 in stainless steel, made with the creative minds at MB&F. The response to this watch – a casual tweak to one of high watchmaking’s most impressive products – was remarkable, with all 10 pieces selling within the first five hours after launch. Today we are proud to announce our next collaboration, again putting our own touch on one of watchmaking’s most loved and revered products. Say hello to the Zenith El Primero Original Limited Edition For HODINKEE, a vintage watch made today.

Zenith El Primero For HODINKEE

A Vintage Watch, Made Today

When thinking of with whom we wanted to collaborate on our next watch, we knew that we wanted one of the traditional Swiss old-guard. We wanted to work with a company that represents what we at HODINKEE have always loved about watchmaking – technical innovation, thoughtful design, respect for one’s history, and great value. Zenith, and in particular its El Primero chronograph – one of the very first self-winding chronographs – was an obvious choice. The El Primero movement is one of the longest produced and most highly regarded chronograph calibers in the world, and is a legend in itself, so we thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to create a watch designed with vintage watch lovers in mind, but made today?”

Zenith El Primero Original Limited Edition For HODINKEE

The El Primero Original Limited Edition For HODINKEE uses exactly the same 38mm case that was used by the original El Primero Reference A386 in 1969. The dial, which features just two registers, in homage to even earlier Zenith chronographs, allows for running seconds to be displayed above a cross-hair register, and chronograph minutes are shown at three o’clock. Here there’s a feature borrowed from one of our favorite early Zenith models, the reference A271 – you will see dashes at the three, six, and nine minute markers. These dashes allowed the wearer to time long distance telephone calls, the rates for which went up at three-minute intervals. It’s our nod to a true utilitarian function that many chronographs from the 1960s served.

This watch is everything a vintage chronograph lover aspires to own – in fact, it could have been made in 1969 just as easily as today.


Zenith El Primero For HODINKEE

Further, we wanted to celebrate the El Primero for the remarkable movement that it is – so we asked that each caliber for our limited edition be adjusted and regulated to within COSC chronometer standards, and then actually sent to COSC for certification. The caliber 4069, a two-register variation of the El Primero, proved to be a most worthy candidate for chronometer certification and indeed each watch passed with flying colors. What’s more, each watch will be accompanied by its movement’s individual chronometry report from the COSC. This is the first time a chronometer-certified movement has ever been placed into the original 38mm Zenith case.

hodinkee el primero original zenith movement

Oh, and did we mention this 38mm chronometer chronograph, with rich sunburst slate grey dial and faceted rhodium hands, does not feature a date window? You’re welcome.

Details That Make A Difference

In working with Zenith on this watch, we wanted to produce something that would be as much them as it would be us, and in doing so, we used the amazing El Primero platform and vintage 1969-style case to create what we as watch enthusiasts would want in a chronograph. The details are subtle, but to us they make a world of difference.

hodinkee el primero original zenith movement

The grey sunburst dial has a subtle but rich texture, taking on a different appearance depending on the light. While its base color is grey, you’ll catch hues of dark blue and brown as well. On the outer edge of the dial, a small rehaut is visible with a tachymeter scale, making the watch perfectly suited for a leisurely fall drive through the woods or a few good laps around the track. The two registers, each fitted with a small rhodium-coated hand, feature subtle but clear accents recalling design cues seen primarily in the 1960s.

cross hair hodinkee zenith el primero

long distance hash marks zenith el primero hodinkee

On the rear of this very special Zenith, you will find a display caseback through which you can view the chronometer-tuned version of the El Primero. This caliber 4069 – featuring 254 individual components including 35 jewels – is a full manufacture, integrated, column-wheel, high-beat chronograph. In this instance, it is specially adjusted and regulated to within -4/+6 seconds per day and guaranteed to keep time to COSC chronometer standards. The rotor reads “Swiss Made – Certified Chronometer,” while the caseback is engraved “Limited Edition XX/25 FOR HODINKEE.” Each piece is individually numbered, of course.

Zenith Caliber 4069 For HODINKEE

The 38mm case used in this limited edition is, as we’ve mentioned, identical to that of the original El Primero of 1969. The only change is the addition of the display back for viewing the movement. What is remarkable is that proportions of the case and the quality of its construction have kept it a true classic of watch design over the course of 47 years (and counting).

hodinkee el primero original zenith movement

Notice the wide bevels of the lugs, and the distinct lines between matte brushing on the upper surfaces of the case and the mirror polishing on the sides, with the chamfers in between. The crystal, though sapphire for scratch resistance, is domed like those old plexi crystals. The winding crown, designed specifically for this limited edition, is small, in perfect proportion with the case and pump pushers, and features a star, just as it should.

Zenith El Primero For HODINKEE

Zenith El Primero For HODINKEE

Most of these details were asked for specifically by the HODINKEE team, and are available exclusively on this limited edition model.

Availability And Pricing

Zenith El Primero At The HODINKEE Shop

The Zenith El Primero Original For HODINKEE is a limited edition of just 25 pieces worldwide. All of them will be available exclusively through the HODINKEE Shop, with a price of $7,900. Each piece is individually numbered and accompanied by not only the Zenith guarantee and full two-year warranty, but also the individual COSC chronometer certification. Finally, because we believe in the power of a great strap, each watch will be shipped with three straps: a black crocodile strap, a navy blue shell cordovan strap, and a black leather racing style strap, to allow the wearer to give the watch a look that reflects elegance, style, or athleticism. Your choice.

hodinkee el primero original zenith movement