Swiss luxury watchmaker Zenith unveils an extremely lightweight and avant-garde sports version of its highly successful El PRimero Striking 10th chronograph featuring high-tech materials. Issued in a 100-piece limited edition, the El Primero Lightweight model teams a titanium and silicon movement with an ultra-sporty carbon case.
Introduced for the first time in 1969, the El Primero calibre overturned existing conventions by asserting itself as the first-ever automatic chronograph to boast an integrated construction. Also impressing observers by beating at the exceptional frequency of 10 vibrations per second (36,000 vibrations per hour), it is still the world’s most precise series-made chronograph calibre. Over the years, Zenith has steadily fine-tuned its legendary movement in order to optimise its precision, its reliability and its performance.
The brand with the guiding star has also taken up the challenge of associating its high-frequency chronograph with other complications such as the tourbillon, the perpetual calendar and the split-second function. In 2010, Zenith reinvented the “jumping seconds” in presenting the El Primero Striking 10th. Equipped with a sweep seconds hand making ten jumps per second and a complete turn of the dial every ten seconds, this chronograph not only measures but also displays tenths of a second with extreme precision. To enhance the performance of this mechanism requiring a considerable amount of energy, the Manufacture from Le Locle notably fitted it with a double chronograph wheel in silicon, a material three and a half times lighter than classic alloys.
Zenith is now taking a new turn by unveiling a sportier and even more avant-garde version of the El Primero Striking 10th. The watchwords are lightness, performance and originality. Through combining technological innovation with creative daring, the engineers and watchmakers of the Manufacture were tasked with the mission of reducing the weight of the watch to an absolute minimum, yet without making any compromises on its precision, its sturdiness and its reliability – just as an engine designed for competition is optimised while bearing all these factors in mind. The sizeable feat began with the movement.
Based on its latest research relating to new materials, Zenith chose titanium – a light and resistant metal widely used in aeronautics – to machine the main elements of the movements that are the heaviest parts of the watch when they are made in brass: namely the mainplate and five bridges (barrel bridge, balance bridge, pallet bridge, pallet-wheel bridge and chronograph bridge). The Manufacture has also maintained the silicon double chronograph wheel, while adding a lever and an escape-wheel made from the same high-tech, light, antimagnetic material that is harder than steel and guarantees excellent efficiency. The result is a one-quarter lighter engine weighing just 15.45 g (compared with 21.10 g for a similar classic movement).
In terms of the watch exterior, the designers reworked and subtly enlarged to 45 mm the original 42 mm case of the El Primero Striking 10th, while also seeking to make it as light as possible on the wrist. The choice of carbon with its fine black colour and its “chequered” effect evoking the world of competitive racing fits the bill perfectly, while also reinforcing the technical and sporty look of the model. The inner structure of the case is made of ceramised aluminium, a cutting-edge material that is at once light, sturdy and hard (1800 Vickers, as against 160-200 for 316L steel). The two chronograph pushpieces are in titanium. The openworked lugs accentuate the aerodynamic profile of the watch and ensure a perfect flow into the integrated black rubber and high-performance Nomex synthetic fibre strap equipped with a triple folding clasp providing optimal security and comfort.
The new El Primero Lightweight is also distinguished by its highly original dial featuring a dynamic reinterpretation of the collection’s design codes. Openworking the central part further enhanced the overall lightness-oriented effect while providing a clear view of the El Primero calibre (also visible through the transparent caseback).
The disc-type date display has been lightened and reworked with pierced numerals standing out on a small red disc at 6 o’clock. The facetted hands have been hollowed as much as possible and then highlighted by a luminescent coating. The light grey, blue and anthracite colours recapture the three emblematic colours of the 1969 El Primero chronograph that have become iconic brand features. The red sweep seconds hand with its small Zenith star accurately measures feats to the nearest tenth of a second.
El Primero 4052 W, automatic
Calibre: 13 ¼ ‘’’ (diameter : 30 mm)
Thickness: 6.60 mm
Frequency: 36,000 VpH – (5 Hz)
Power reserve: min. 50 hours
Finishes: Oscillating weight with “Côtes de Genève” pattern
Titanium components: mainplate, barrel bridge, balance bridge, chronograph bridge, pallet bridge and pallet-wheel bridge
Hours and minutes in the centre
Small seconds at 9 o’clock
Date window at 6 o’clock
Chronograph with 1/10th second display:
– 60-minute counter at 6 o’clock
– 60-second counter at 3 o’clock
– I/10th second indication by the chronograph hand
Case, Dial and Hands
Diameter: 45 mm
Opening diameter: 38.50 mm
Crystal: Cambered sapphire crystal glareproofed on both sides
Caseback: Transparent sapphire crystal
Water resistance: 10 ATM
Dial: Openworked with three coloured counters
Hour-markers: Rhodiumed, facetted and enhanced with Superluminova SLN C1
Hands: Rhodiumed, facetted and enhanced with Superluminova SLN C1
Nomex-coated black rubber strap and black triple folding clasp