During the quartz crisis of the 1970s, as brands started to veer away from traditional mechanical timekeeping, one rogue watchmaker would play a pivotal role in ensuring the future of one of history’s most important watch movements.
In 1975 Charles Vermot, one of the original watchmakers who worked on Zenith’s famed El Primero movement when it was created more than 50 years ago, was appalled at the management’s decision at the time to cease its production. Taking matters into his own hands, he gathered all the technical plans and tools necessary to produce each component of the El Primero movement, hiding them in a walled-off section of the attic in Zenith’s manufacture. It would be the rediscovery of this horological treasure that would mark the first step in continuing the legacy of this high-precision piece of watchmaking.
Among this time capsule was a small, unlabelled box containing a number of remarkably preserved dials. The El Primero movement was introduced to the world in 1969 in the form of the A386, instantly recognisable by its tri-colour dial, presented in silver, blue and black. In this box, however, was a version instead in three different shades of blue, of which no previous records existed.
Now Zenith is bringing this prototype into production with the Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition. A true collector’s piece, the 38mm stainless-steel case with pump-style pushers is an exact replication of the A386, while just as with the original at its heart beats the high-frequency El Primero movement.
As typical with Zenith’s Manufacture pieces, the watch was intended to be exclusive to visitors to the Zenith manufacture in Le Locle, however given the current limitations on tours the watchmaker has also made it available for purchase directly from its website until the manufacture reopens to the public. Fittingly for a watch with such a storied history, it comes presented in packaging mimicking a book cover and bearing a blueprint of the Zenith manufacture on the front, accompanied by a comic book about Charles Vermot by Swiss cartoonist Cosey.