Zenith, “El Primero”
The “El Primero” self-winding chronograph was launched in 1969. It was the world’s first and the only one in its category to measure short periods of time to one-tenth of a second. The lever escapement movement beating 36 000 vibrations / hour (high mechanical frequency) and is fitted with a central rotor mounted on ball bearings. The coordination of chronographic functions is operated by column wheel. 50-hour power-reserve.
At this time, two versions of the calibre exist:
· Z 400, instantaneous change of date with quick setting; 31 jewels, diameter 30 mm., height 6.5 mm., 280 components.
· Z 410, instantaneous change of date and day with quick setting, month and moon phases; 31 jewels, diameter 30 mm., height 7.55 mm., 354 components.
Zenith, “El Primero”, Ref. 01-0200-415, so-called “TV screen” or “Fernsher” or “The Big Blue”
Introduced in 1972, this reference was produced in a limited series of 4 950 examples in total until 1978.
The watch is nowadays nicknamed “TV screen” or “Fernseher”, for the “tv set” because of this particular shape between square and “tonneau”-shaped. This model is also called “The Big Blue” among collectors.
Another 50 “TV screens” “ElPrimero” were manufactured with a black dial in 1978, Ref. 0-0201-415. This marks the end of the model and brings the total production to 5 000 examples. These black “TV screens” were the last Zenith “El Primero” of the 1970’s.
With its heavy and robust 43 mm. stainless steel case, the watch has an extremely virile look. At the time, this watch design was used as a theme for the letterhead of Zenith-Movado S.A. The brand advertises the watch as “A new elaborately styled model with larger, easy to use press levers, replacing the usual push buttons”.
The model was delivered with two different integrated bracelets. The first one, massive, with large links, gives a powerful look to the watch. These bracelets were made by a company called Chatelain. When Chatelain was bankrupt, Zenith had to resort to the NSA bracelets, made by Novabit S.A. The second-generation bracelet is lighter, some would say more refined and probably much more comfortable to wear, thanks also to its patented deployant clasp.
The case-back is engraved “SURF STAINLESS STEEL” with the reference number “01-0200-415”. Under the special cut mineral glass, an attractive blue dial with three subsidiary silvered ring dials (high lighting the case design) for the subsidiary seconds, 30-minute and 12-hour recorders, an aperture for the date of the month at 4 o’clock, and, on the outside, a 1/5th division, surrounded by a blue tachometer. The watch is powered by the famous calibre “El Primero” 3019 PHC, beating at 36 000 vibrations / hour.
· Rossler, Manfred, Zenith, Swiss Watch Manufacture, p. 252.