The new Chronomaster Revival A385 teaches us one thing: the magic sauce with re-editions is to get the impression holistically right, even on a meta-level: it is not sufficient to just time-machine an old design into present time, as this can cause an odd melange of vintage design that clearly shouts, ‘modern production technology’.
Zenith avoided this entirely through careful specification of the design elements on the one, and reliance of what they have anyhow on the other side.
Precisely, Zenith used the exact same case dimensions of the original, same dial layout, same hands, same crystal shape (although this is sapphire, now), but also tried their best to emulate production standards of times gone by: if you look at the eggshell texture and dial printings or the chronograph hands, for example, you clearly notice a degree of exactitude and/or finesse which resembles such times, but would not exactly be acceptable on a modern watch:
Zenith also re-created, with considerable effort, the original Gay Frères bracelet, a move that is controversial, to say the least, as the design is attractive and original, but also comes with the flimsiness of old times. Clearly, from a comfort and practicality point of view, this could (and should) have been brought up to modern standards.
What sets most re-editions strikingly apart from their ancestors is most often the movements, in worst cases requiring a different subdial layout, for example. Zenith is in the convenient position that the vintage movement, the El Primero automatic chronograph Cal. 400, is still very much alive, so nothing needed be changed. With this movement, the A385 is one of the most credible and convincing re-editions available, at all:
Overall, Zenith is quite successful to present a true-to-the-original modern-day version of one of its classics. The watch wears nicely on the wrist (with the caveats on the bracelet, that is), has a lot of what collectors call ‘vintage vibe’ to it and comes at an attractive price of CHF 8400 (on bracelet, CHF 7900 on leather strap).
In essence, it appears like the A385 has successfully passed the flux capacitor back from 5 decades ago.
Here at the eclecticum we have been repeatedly critical with brands that more often than not resuscitate their vintage pieces. As close as they might try to get to the original (such as Zenith did here), it still relies heavily on past laurels. There is nothing against this, as long as brands do not turn a blind eye towards the future (rest assured, with the Defy Oscillator Zenith avoided exactly that!).
(Zenith A384 Revival editions of 2020: ‘Shadow’ (left) and ‘Lupin The Third – 2nd Edition’ (right))
But this remains a look back to a ‘golden era’ of watchmaking, when brands largely were… looking forward!
Of course, my side note should not be seen as criticism towards this watch. But it is a reminder that your past should not be your future.
That aside, the Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385 is for sure one of the most attractive of the brand’s recent revivals, and even beyond that!