VIDEO: The Zenith Chronomaster Original White is a faithful remake of a chronograph classic

VIDEO: The Zenith Chronomaster Original White is a faithful remake of a chronograph classic

Fergus Nash

 It’s no secret that vintage reissues have taken centre stage for the last couple of years. No matter how innovative a brand may be, there’s just something about putting a familiar favourite on the wrist that transports you whenever you check the time, without the hassle of actual vintage upkeep. Zenith know how to do it better than most, with the Chronomaster Original an absolute flagship. It’s not “sized up for modern tastes”, nor is it merely “inspired” by a popular vintage reference. Instead, this watch is a faithful recreation of the much lusted-after A386, one of the first chronographs to carry the famous El Primero movement.

The Zenith Chronomaster Original White is a chronograph classic

The dial

The dial is perhaps the most classic and recognisable of vintage Zeniths, with the tri-colour subdial layout proving attractive and practical. The added legibility of their colour difference seems to make the dial appear larger, which already betrayed its dimensions given how thin the high-polished bezel is. It has elongated numerals around the chapter ring that adds some vintage flair, while also preventing the complexity of the markers to become illegible. There’s a vintage-accurate date window at 4:30, which on other watches can be unsightly, but the colour matched wheel and integrated frame keeps it subtle. While some watches feel the need to slather their dials in text and specifications, Zenith keeps it classy with their star, logo, and the name of the movement, El Primero 36,000. The hands are keeping it simple too, with thin rectangular shapes that do their job, and a bold red seconds hand that practically jumps off of the dial.

The Zenith Chronomaster Original White is a chronograph classic

The movement

Originally released in 1969, taking nearly the whole decade to develop, the El Primero was the first integrated automatic chronograph movement, and the new generation is both a technical powerhouse, and a delight for the eyes. A beat rate of 36,000vph and some mechanical wizardry allows the chronograph to give readings accurate to the tenth of a second, while the 60 hour power reserve will be continuously topped up by the skeletonised winding rotor, decorated with the Zenith star. Pressing the stop/start pusher of the chronograph immediately unveils the Chronomaster Original’s speciality, as the seconds hand flies across the dial to complete a full rotation every 10 seconds. From this, the tenths can be measured. Through the sapphire caseback, you can see the pleasing array of grainy brushed finishes, as well as the blue column-wheel which gives the pushers that iconic ‘click’.

The Zenith Chronomaster Original White is a chronograph classic

The case

The case is another reason why the A386 is so popular, with its goldilocks proportions, nuanced shape, and bold finishing. You may not think a brushed case is anything special, but the grainy sunburst brushing across the lugs adds a whole new dimension to the watch, and the polished chamfered edges really highlights the aggressive angles of the lug tips. We may be used to a market that’s flooded with 42mm chronographs, but the 38mm size is by no means dainty. The watch carries a lot of presence on-wrist, with each element remaining harmonious, even as your eye begins to fixate on its details. Because of it’s thin bezel, the actual size of the dial is closer to 34mm, which is actually 2mm larger than the visible dial space of the 45mm Seiko Turtle.

The Zenith Chronomaster Original White is a chronograph classic

The strap

The strap is a soft grainy leather in navy blue to match the minutes subdial, with white cross-stitching that works for both casual and formal occasions. Although, the watch would look phenomenally dressy if swapped for an alligator style strap, and I can easily imagine rocking it on a Bond-style NATO. At 19mm you may not have a lot of alternative straps hanging around, but thankfully more and more options are becoming available from third party strap companies these days.

The Zenith Chronomaster Original White is a chronograph classic

The verdict

The price for the Zenith Chronomaster Original is $12,200 AUD, which is a fair sight cheaper than the original vintage examples go for. When you take into account the history and the quality of this watch, you quickly realise how well it shapes up compared to its competitors. If you love the watch for what it is, and not for the fact that it’s a vintage example which may need babying, then a brand new reissue is exactly what you should be considering.