Zenith watches, founded in Switzerland in 1865, is famous for a number of firsts, including building the world’s first integrated automatic chronograph movement, the El Primero, in 1969. This caliber remains the most precise series-made movement to date thanks to its high frequency balance that beats at 36,000 vibrations per hour.
Today, Zenith (owned by the LVHM luxury group) continues to build the El Primero and Elite calibers for its own various timepieces and for other brands in the watch industry at large. Additionally, the brand continues to innovate with its watches, and while the recently released Defy collection is impressing seasoned collectors, the brand offers a host of other lines perfect for the budding collector that are sometimes half the price of the Defy.
Here we take a look at three Zenith collections that represent the brand’s opening price points and offer budding collectors with a great Zenith starter watch.
Zenith Pilot Watches
The most beloved watch in Zenith’s pilot series– inspired by the aviation watches of the 1950s and the dashboard instruments that Zenith supplied to the military – is the Type 20 Chronograph. These watches have true vintage appeal, thanks to the oversized onion-like crown and the 45mm case size diameter. Clean and easy-to-read dials are a signature of this series, with large luminescent Arabic numerals and filled hands. These watches are powered by the El Primero 460 automatic caliber with 50 hours of power reserve and are offered in a variety of case metals, dial, and strap color choices, including military green, blue, and burgundy. A great choice for a vintage pilot look, these watches tend to retail for just about $6,700 to $7,100 new.
Considered a great entry-level price for new collectors, the Zenith Elite line consists of the Elite Classic watch and the Elite Chronograph Classic. The Elite Classic is a three-hand watch that is 39mm in diameter and houses an Elite 679 automatic movement. Zenith first unveiled the Elite thin movement back in 1994 and continues to produce a host of Elite calibers. The three-hand Zenith Elite Classic watch retails for about $4,700 new and is a study in chic refinement.
Clean and sophisticated in design for a chronograph, the Elite Chronograph Classic houses the automatic high-frequency 254-part El Primero 4069 caliber. It offers a two-counter column-wheel chronograph and central seconds. The watches measure 42mm in diameter (perfect for any wrist size) and are water resistant to 50 meters. The Elite Chronograph Classic is a bit pricier than the Elite Classic, starting at just over $7,000 new for steel.
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero
The Chronomaster line of watches includes a 38mm simple chronograph and range to a 42mm three-counter chronograph with a much more elaborate dial. The Chronomaster El Primero watches are offered in steel and are water resistant to 100 meters. The 38mm versions house the El Primero Caliber 400 with 278 parts in the movement and 31 jewels. The case is the original 1969 case style. These watches retail for about $7,100. The larger 42mm size with tachymeter scale on the inner bezel ring houses the 326-part El Primero Caliber 400B. With a central chronograph hand and a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock on the dial, the watch also offers date indication at 6 o’clock, as well as a small seconds counter at 9 o’clock. This model is often the one turned to by the brand for its partnerships with cars and has colorful blue and red accents on the dial. It retails slightly less than the other Chronomaster El Primero versions at $6,700 new.
Main image via Zenith.