Zenith offers a second version, with a black dial – besides this we note: certeris paribus:
A display-back shows the new movement, in the meantime carefully and partly open worked to allow a better glimpse in its inner workings, a blued finish added to the column wheel, and the rotor carries a relief engraving:
Finally, there is a new steel bracelet with secure lock, which according to Zenith is also modelled after a vintage one Gay Frères made for the De Luca, as well as a textile-cum-rubber strap (which we have not seen yet).
The allure of a brutally honest wrist-companion
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: no one would sleep outside of a Zenith boutique or retailer to get one’s hand on the new Chronomaster Sport. That´s fine, a solid and classical ´luxury tool` comes to our mind – instead of being addicted to fashion or glamour – and for sure the watch is far from being a gadget only.
Yet it is an immensely attractive and significant watch, that just delivers what one would expect (but not often gets) from fine Swiss watchmaking today: loosely modelled after one of Zenith’s most iconic pieces, it slots nicely between the ubiquitous Valjoux 7750 powered watches (which are technically also a nice distance behind), and the finer, modern automatic chronographs from Blancpain (those Piguet-based chronographs are also used by Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, …), Czapek or Parmigiani.
On a finer granularity, the Chronomaster Sport further slots squarely between the likes of the OMEGA Speedmaster or the Breitling Navitimer one the one, and the Rolex Daytona on the other side, all iconic chronographs on their own right.
Design aside, all of them have their specific strengths and features, with probably the Speedmaster competing most fiercely: timekeeper-focussed (co-axial escapement, Master Chronometer) vs. chronograph-focussed (1/10th seconds counter, column wheel), manual vs. automatic – your choice! Especially since OMEGA now offers a real bang for the buck with the recent introduction of the Cal. 3861.
But the white elephant in the room is the Rolex Daytona – ‘the’ quintessential chronograph, and an icon far extending the realm of watches. There is a historical connection between the two, both are ‘sports chronographs’ with similar design codes, and both were at least for 12 years powered by the same El Primero (base) movement. Its guesswork but reasonable to assume that the Daytona would perhaps not have happened wouldn’t be there the El Primero, which allowed Rolex to keep a comparatively slim case. More like Zenith, Rolex has continuously improved their movements, but Zenith has closed that gap now.
Priced at about 30% above the Chronomaster, the stretch between the two watches is what we would call ‘manageable’ (provided one could mentally pass the 10k € barrier). But do you get 30% more? We have our doubts, based on features alone, but here individual preferences count.
What is less manageable is the availability, or the lack thereof, of the Rolex. This is a crucial impediment for the latter, an allure for some (probably not the ‘purist’ collector we have in mind…) and a practical advantage for the Zenith. But does this tip the scale, for a collector? These are ‘environmental factors’, and not those intrinsic to a given watch. Whether the Chronomaster is a replacement for a Daytona or only a distant second choice, that is your call, only.
Now, the fact that Zenith upgraded its most known and legendary movement is an important notion. The brand signals that it believes in its future, and this expressed in how they did it more so than in the fact that the El Primero has been updated at all: Zenith kept the key ingredients (36,000 A/h, column wheel, core architecture) and spent efforts where the movement needed it: there is the 1/10th of a second counter useful to substantiate the ‘El Primero’ moniker (we guess we all agree that your hand is less precise that this chronograph…), the 60min counter (yeah, no 30 min one!), the keyless works and with it the crown positions are now laid out exactly as most other watches, and it finally got a hacking function.
But one significant update is a bit hidden behind all these features: the movement has been made easier to assemble, and now also is designed such that additional functions can be better integrated.
You have to digest this: despite being more than 5 decades in production now, the original El Primero never really has been properly industrialised! With the Cal. 3600, Zenith has done this, and done in a way that much more is straightforward (comparatively!) to achieve. As we mentioned above, it offers benefits – serious ones.
The new Zenith Chronomaster Sport with the new Cal. 3600 is a significant step. It is a (luxury) mainstream watch for sure, but one done with measure and aplomb. It is an important watch which offers true watchmaking excellence at an attractive price point, and shows that even there real watchmaking, instead of ‘product development’ can and does take place (at times). Also, it should be of importance when we think about sales figures, because it will speak to quite a few people which are in the market for something solid that delivers and feels like a good investment – in the long run. Good news, as it is industrialized up to date.
It is therefore only fitting that Zenith chose the ‘Sport’ collection to take inspiration from the famous De Luca, which signalled that modern Zenith watches could be successful on their own right… now this we think cannot be coincidence!