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.

The new Zenith Chronomaster El Primero 38mm watches have arrived at Topper!

The Zenith El Primero Caliber 400 is one of the most important manufacture mechanical movements of our time. It has been Zenith's signature movement, which has been used since 1969, and has been deployed in chronographs from many different brands over the years, including the Rolex Daytona for just over a decade between the mid-eighties and the year 2000. Now that the Caliber 400 is utilized exclusively by Zenith, the brand is deploying it where the movement ultimately belongs: as the centerpiece of the Chronomaster collection, in a wide variety of both modern and vintage-inspired executions.

Today, we're excited to present finally the new Chronomaster El Primero 38mm watches (reference 2150) at Topper. The most popular modern application of the chronograph movement at Topper Fine Jewelers has been the 03.2150.400/69.C713. While this watch used to be referred to as the "El Primero Original 1969", It has now been rebranded as part of the "Chronomaster" collection. While the name change may have slipped by you, you are more likely to have noticed that this year the dial underwent some subtle changes. This post takes a look at how the dial has changed, and also looks at some of the other variants of the 38mm El Primero for 2017.

The Caliber 400 is visible through the Chronomaster's exhibition caseback.

More often than not, a 're-issue,' or a reproduction of a vintage edition is done so using a brand new, or fully modern movement. In the case of the Chronomaster El Primero 38mm, the modern, and the original variants are essentially using the same column wheel-actuated movement which beats at 36,000 VPH or 10 beats per second. For those wanting a more modern movement for 2017, the 100 beat per second El Primero 21 is just starting to hit stores. In addition, next year will mark the commercial adaptation of the revolutionary Defy Lab collection which features an entirely new type of escapement. The caliber 400 in the chronomaster is about maintaining the heritage of a movement that was revolutionary in the sixties for laying claim to the title of the first automatic chronograph.

Presenting the new Chronomaster El Primero on the left, and the outgoing variant on the right.

When a watch undergoes cosmetic differences but the reference number doesn't change, brands refer to it as an "in line change". That's what we have with the 03.2150.400/69.C713 for 2017. As it was before, it is still the 03.2150.400/69.C71

Here is a photo of the outgoing reference:

Note the larger overlap on the outgoing 38mm Chronomaster, and the text on the subdial at 6:00.

And a photo of the new version:

Minimal subdial overlap, and a dial that emulates the original from 1969 characterize the new Chronomaster.

A closer look at the dial on the new 38mm Chronomaster El Primero.

For 2017, Zenith subtly updated a few key points of the Chronomaster with the aim of boosting legibility, and simplifying the dial – both changes that bring the watch closer than ever to the original. For starters, text on the dial has been removed: the "automatic" callout across the six o'clock subdial, as well as the "36,000 VpH" line below twelve o'clock.

Also noteworthy is how the hours register on the new variants is now 'beneath' the small seconds and minute registers at three and nine o'clock, and all three subdials are now smaller. The slightly overlapping subdials has always been a signature of the El Primero tricolor series, but in the previous layout, the minute registers were obscured by the hour register between 16 and 23 minutes making the watch less functional for those wishing to measure time with the chronograph. It's a nice update – and one that directly addresses those who saw the overlap as more of a distraction, than a pleasant visual quirk of the design.

The new 38mm Chronomaster El Primero on a 6.5" wrist.

The outgoing 38mm Chronomaster El Primero on a 6.5" wrist

At only 12mm thick, the 38mm Chronomaster wears quite compact for a chronograph.

With more and more of our guests at Topper choosing watches under 40mm, the 38mm 12mm thick 03.2150.400/69.C713 has been our most popular watch this fall at this price point. The in-line change has not altered the price as it remains at $6,700 retail on a strap and $7,100 on a bracelet.

There have been many other subtle changes and evolutions to other design configurations of the Chronomaster line this year. If you are interested in learning more about the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster collection, or have questions about the availability of this dial layout in other models, we'd welcome you to inquire by calling Topper Jewelers at 888-730-2221 or emailing

Photos by aBlogtoWatch contributor Zach Pina. Follow him on Instagram

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.