The new Zenith Chronomaster Original tastefully brings the beloved A386 up to speed The new Zenith Chronomaster Original tastefully brings the beloved A386 up to speed

The new Zenith Chronomaster Original tastefully brings the beloved A386 up to speed

Zach Blass

This year, Zenith introduced the Chronomaster Sport, a killer 41mm chronograph that presented buyers with a more technically intriguing alternative to the popular Rolex Daytona. It has since proved a hit success at retail, with initial allocations immediately snagged by buyers worldwide. But Zenith purists have been itching for a bit more of a nostalgia-driven design, awaiting a permanent collection that combines a more classic aesthetic with the brand’s latest movement technology. Today we are introduced to a new trio of Zenith Chronomaster Original watches, each embodying the historic Zenith A386, while bringing the watch up to speed with a central chronograph seconds hand that can measure 1/10th of a second.

Zenith Chronomaster Original

There are two case configurations for the new Zenith Chronomaster Original: stainless steel and 18K rose gold. The cases, 50 metres water-resistant, are 38mm in diameter, more compact than the new 41mm Chronomaster Sport and faithful to the original A386 design profile. The thickness has not been disclosed in press materials, but I would infer the measurement to be approximately 13mm based on previous revival models. The slightly sloped conical bezel introduced a hint of polish to a predominantly satin-brushed front case. The almost non-existent thin bezel allows the dial to take up a larger portion of the diameter, like the A386, and the sapphire crystal is domed to evoke the vintage vibes of the A386.

Zenith has truly worked to create a case profile and finish that is as close to the original A386 as possible in order to bring a faithful tribute into a current standard production lineup. Zenith explains: “Upon a first glance, the Chronomaster Original and the A386 it’s based on appear nearly identical. The 38mm round bezel-less steel case with a raised and domed crystal, the pump-style chronograph pushers, the faceted lugs and the mix of radial brushed and polished surfaces throughout are indistinguishable between the past and present models.”

Buyers will have two (technically three) dial configurations to choose from. A silver dial with trio-colour registers is available in both stainless steel and 18K rose gold, with the hands and hour indices fashioned to match the case metal. The other aesthetic to choose from is a reverse panda configuration, only available in stainless steel, that flips the black and white elements and also incorporates a single tone throughout its three chronograph registers. The reverse panda option is also the only dial to incorporate faux-tina, the SuperLuminova® a more aged sage tone than the crisp white luminescent material found on the silver/tri-color register dials.

Zenith Chronomaster Original
a 1970’s Zenith A386 vs the new Zenith Chronomaster Original. Left Image: A Collected Man

Regardless of colour, each dial utilizes the same scales and layout. Working from the outboard of the dial in, the outermost rings convey a 1/10th of a second scale, replacing the tachymeter scale found on the original A386, to better correspond to the modern functionality of the central chronograph seconds hand – which makes one full revolution every 10 seconds. The next ring mimics the same 100 increment scale found on the A386 dial, but serves a new purpose. Instead of measuring time spent working using a 1/100th of an hour time division system, the scale now supports the 1/10th of a second scale making the complication easier to read by utilising both of the two outer rings. To ease confusion, by having an outermost ring that displays 0-10 seconds and a corresponding inner ring with 100 increments you are able to measure 10/100 or 1/10th of a second.

In the central medallion of the dial you will found applied hour indices framed by printed hashes representing the minutes. At the 4:30 position is a date aperture that will blend into each respective dial color to insure a minimal break to the aesthetic. The three chronograph registers deviate from the original scales found on the A386 due to the upgraded movement and functionality.  You have a running seconds register at 9 o’clock, a 60 minute elapsed minutes register at 6 o’clock (replacing a 12 hour elapsed hours scale), and a 60 second scale tied to the chronograph function (replacing a 30 minute elapsed minutes scale) at 3′. To ensure the 1/10th of a second complication is easier to read, Zenith has replaced the paddle chronograph seconds hand with a straight red-lacquered hand. The Zenith Chronomaster Original dial branding has been updated as well, leveraging modern and vintage typeface.

While the 18K rose gold configuration is only available on a dark brown leather strap, the stainless steel models can be purchased on either a leather strap or a stainless-steel bracelet. The silver/tri-color dial is paired with a navy blue strap to match the chronograph register at 3′ and the reverse panda variant utilises a light brown leather strap that matches the faux-tina tone seen in its luminescent material.

The A386 utilised the famed ladder bracelet collectors have grown fond of, but as a modern re-interpretation or re-introduction Zenith has opted to use the new bracelet configuration also found on the Chronomaster Sport. Its aesthetic is meant to pair with the finishes of the case, leveraging a rich satin brush on its outer components and a mirror finish in its centre. The outer shoulders of the bracelet links are nicely chamfered and visually highlight the taper down towards the double-folding clasp with five points of micro adjustment. While some may have preferred the more vintage-styled ladder bracelet, the new bracelet is a reminder that this watch is up to modern spec.

Inside the Zenith Chronomaster Original is the in-house El Primero caliber 3600. The updated caliber not only features the ability to measure 1/10th a second, but also an increased power reserve of 60 hours and hacking seconds functionality. The 36,000 vph hi-beat chronograph movement leverages a column wheel design crucial to its functionality. Considering the level of measurement offered, you can’t have a chronograph seconds hand that stutters or jumps upon actuation. The smooth and crisp start of the column wheel chronograph ensures the utmost accuracy when utilizing the chronograph and its corresponding 1/10th of a second scale.

The industrially decorated movement is quite nice to look at, thankfully visible beneath an exhibition sapphire caseback. The open-worked rotor, with a Zenith star motif, allows owners to see as much as possible of the movement in any held orientation. As you take in the movement decoration you’ll notice, the blued screws, blued column wheel, and the increased visibility of the gears powering the chronograph complication.

Zenith Chronomaster Original

Zenith Chronomaster Original pricing and availability:

The Zenith Chronomaster Original is available now for purchase from Zenith and authorized dealers.

Price: Stainless Steel – CHF 8,400 (leather), CHF 8,900 (bracelet) / 18K Rose Gold – CHF 18,900.