The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.

New Duo of Zenith Anthracite & Tri-Colored El Primeros



Perhaps the two best selling watches in the Zenith collection over the past five years have been their "tri-color" pieces with multi-colored subdials inspired by the first Zenith El Primero from 1969. This year, Zenith has a new riff on the tri-color with two watches featuring an anthracite sunray-patterned dial similar to the popular initial release of the limited edition El Primero 410. The unique new color treatment provides a timepiece that functions well in either sporty or dressy situations. This post takes a look at this new dial color on both the Chronomaster model, noted for its "open heart" dial, and the new 36,000 VPH.

Above is a photo of the new anthracite dialed 36,000 VPH next to one with a color scheme similar to the first El Primero chronograph which inspired these new versions. The color scheme on the new anthracite dial models remain similar to the original, though the colors used on the subdials are in a different order.

Let's look first at the Chronomaster model whose signature element is the partially skeletonized dial, a design feature influenced by Zenith watches of the early 2000s. The first Chronomaster was introduced in 2003 and featured an identical skeletal opening allowing a view of the pallet fork and escapement wheel. For the past several years, these two components have been made of silicon which both extends the service interval of the component and makes the opening more visually interesting with its different hues. Though Zenith claims to test their pieces beyond COSC requirements, it is interesting to note that the Chronomaster Open is also a certified chronometer.

Below are more photos of the new anthracite-dialed Chronomaster.

The 42mm steel Chronomaster adornes a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides.

The dial aperture of the Chronomaster reveals the beating heart of the 4061 caliber with silicon escapement wheel and pallet fork.

The 30-minute and 12-hour subdials remain intact from the original El Primero inspiration, though the seconds subdial, now part of the "open heart", consists of a 3-handed indicator with seconds markers on the beveled edge of the dial aperture.

A closer look reveals the guilloche finish of the sub dials.

The full dial view shows a thoughtful use of multiple contrasting colors to provide high legibility and great aesthetics.

The familiar and classic piston-type pushers and signed crown of the El Primero.

The north end of the 4061 caliber viewable through the sapphire case back reveals the backside of the balance wheel and the skeletonized plate giving view through the movement.

The south end of the 4061 caliber reveals some parts of the famously integrated chronograph mechanism. Note also the "Certified Chronometer" indication on the rotor.

The abbreviated yet functional lume signature of the Chronomaster.

The 36,000 VPH sports an identical color scheme to the Chronomaster, though it keeps its dial completely intact and retains the silver small seconds subdial at 9:00. There are other differences between the two models worth noting. First, the caliber 400 within the 36,000 VPH uses more traditional escapement materials in contrast to the modern silicon parts used in the Chronomaster (4061 caliber). The 36,000 VPH also lacks the chronometer certification that is present in the Chronomaster. While Zenith's internal standard for accuracy El Primero (completed and cased) watches is claimed to exceed those of the COSC (movement only) test of -4 to +6 seconds a day, it is worth noting that Zenith chose not to send them for certification. Unlike the Chronomaster, the 36,000 VPH does include a date complication deftly located at the six o'clock position.

Below are photos of the 36,000 VPH.

The anthracite dialed El Primero 36,000 VPH. The dial surface is whole with the exception of the date aperture at six o'clock. Note that the color white is used for the small seconds subdial versus the 30-minute counter for the Chronomaster.

A closer look reveals the guilloche finish on small seconds subdial. Note the subdial color swap from the Chronomaster.

The north end view of the 400 caliber through the sapphire case back of the 36,000 VPH.

The south end of the caliber 400. Note that unlike the Chronomaster, The 36,000 VPH lacks indication of being a certified chronometer, though Zenith claims its internal testing surpasses COSC requirements.

The lume signature of the 36,000 VPH is more complete than the Chronomaster, including lume for all but the 6 o'clock hour where the date aperture resides.

The historical "tri-color" dial of the original El Primero will no doubt remain a popular choice. However, for someone looking for an alternative aesthetic reminiscent of Zenith's famous color scheme, and that also spans the spectrum between sport and dress wear, these anthracite models are attractive choices.

The Chronomaster model retails at $8,400, and the 36,000 VPH at $6,700. How do you like these new dials?

The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.