Zenith A385 El Primero Ref. A385 Circa 1969
Zenith’s history as a major horological innovator is one that watch insider’s know well, but may surprise new collectors who are unaware of the marque’s insider appeal and the respect a vintage Zenith commands in the watch collecting community. The innovations Zenith is responsible for in the space of movement manufacturing and design – particularly with chronographs – is as interesting as their watches are uniquely beautiful.
For Zenith fans, the stars of the range have always been the El Primero references – chronos with striking, sculptural designs and whimsical finishes that are truly unlike anything else produced in-period or since. The El Primero reference A385 was made between 1969 and 1970 in very limited numbers, with most estimates being under 2,500 examples made. While the immediate visual appeal of this watch should leave no question as to why A385s are so sought after by serious watch collectors, the history that ticks away within its chunky, but brilliantly well-proportioned case adds another layer of intrigue to the El Primero’s appeal. The El Primero Caliber 3019 PHC/400 movement that powers this watch was not only the first automatic chronograph movement that Zenith brought to market, but recognized by many students of horological history as the first automatic chronograph movement ever!
The particular ref. A385 we have here is a beautifully well-preserved piece of watchmaking history and displays thick lugs with the trademark beveled edges that make these watches such showstoppers still highly visible. It’s the perfect El Primero for the collector looking for an example with a dial that shows no major flaws, but has a few bits of honest wear – notably some very light tool marks in the registers – that make it a watch one can wear daily without fear of ruining a museum-grade piece.It also retains its original lume on both its dial and handset, and it has aged to a beautiful dark yellow on the dial and a slightly brighter shade of yellow on the hands. For anyone that wants to wear vintage, wants their vintage watch to have a compelling story and significant history, or just wants a killer looking piece that’s different from the usual suspects, this El Primero is the one.
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