Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm

The Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm Ref 24.2014.400/01.R576 is a chronograph, featuring the eponymous legendary movement beating at 5 Hertz and delighting purists with its sublime smoothness. This year, Zenith, the watch brand based in Le Locle, has unveiled two new watches equipped with this iconic movement.

This detailed review of the Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Image of Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm

Beneath the pure, white veneer of virtuous behaviour, everyone has a dark side. Indeed, our personalities are imbued with good and bad. It is the magnitude of each trait which determines our overall honesty and our value to society at large.

The yin and yang of our characters defines who we are. No personality can exist without both light and shade. Indeed, it is often the dark side of our character which recognises evil and protects us from harm.

Image of Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm

Ref 24.2041.400/21.R576

The latest chronographs from Zenith display both a sense of lightness and shade, upholding my belief that everyone and everything has a quotient of good and a touch of the dark side. One version of the watch is supplied with a black dial and three silvery-white subdials, while its sibling is delivered with a predominantly silvery-white dial and contrasting black subdials. As a man who likes to believe his morals outweigh his sins, I am naturally drawn to the latter version of the Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm.

The dial

The silver-white dial is beautifully adorned with a sunray motif. The rhodium-plated hour and minute hands are faceted and lined with luminescent treatment. The hour markers share a similar appearance to the aforementioned hands, featuring rhodium-plating, faceted edges and lined with SuperLuminova.

Image of Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm

Three subdials dominate the canvas, providing a glorious contrast with the surrounding vista. At 3 o’clock is a 30-minute chronograph register, positioned at 6 o’clock is a 12-hour chronograph register, while a small seconds display is located at 9 o’clock.

A trapezoidal date aperture also resides at 6 o’clock. It proclaims the date in black text against a pure white disc, ensuring notable ease of read off. Encircling the dial is a tachymeter scale, making it easy to determine the speed of a moving object.

Last, but not least, is the central chronograph seconds hand. It is supremely slender, features a red tip and is adorned with a star-shaped counterweight. Its lithe profile interacts with the mintuerie making split-second time intervals simple to discern.

This is a highly legible dial. Nothing feels cluttered and everything is of sufficient scale to be easily read. There are no fussy, extraneous details to inhibit the objective of determining time or reading off elapsed time intervals.

The case

Measuring 42mm in diameter, the ‘special black ceramicised aluminium case’ is of neutral proportions, offering widespread appeal, neither appearing too small nor too large. Moreover, the dark tones of the case have an exquisite sultry quality that I personally find most enchanting.

Image of Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm

The case has a depth of 12.75mm, hence it does not sit too high upon the wrist, reaffirming the sense of neatness. The lugs flow from the caseband in one smooth curving line, enticing the strap to encircle the wrist.

Image of Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm

Upholding the stealth-like, dark side of the timepiece is a black, sporty rubber strap with a series of round indentations on its epidermis. The result is a stylish aesthetic which coalesces wonderfully with the remainder of the watch.

The rear of the watch features a pane of sapphire crystal, allowing sight of the legendary self-winding movement within.

The movement

The Zenith El-Primero is an iconic column-wheel chronograph movement, harking back to 1969. Its history is the stuff of legend and it has become regarded as one of the finest automatic chronograph movements in existence. Recently, my colleague, Mark McArthur-Christie, reviewed the Zenith Elite Chronograph Classic and talked at length about its El-Primero 4069 movement.

Image of Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm

The Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm is equipped with an alternative version of the Zenith El-Primero, the Calibre 400 B. This movement is a certified chronometer. It measures 30mm in diameter and contains 326 components. In common with other El-Primero movements, the balance oscillates to a frequency of 36,000 VpH (5Hz), delivering an enviable level of accuracy.

Despite much functional virtue, Zenith has not overlooked the niceties of finishing. The oscillating mass is decorated with Côtes de Genève motif and the bridges and maniplate are adorned with perlage. Moreover, the wheels are circular grained and some screws are blued. Beyond the impressive functionality of the movement is an adherence to fine watchmaking protocol with impressive craftsmanship manifest.

Most pertinently, pressing the push piece at 2 o’clock is met with a smooth, non-jarring and positive action. Actuating the chronograph causes the central chronograph seconds hand to leave its starting position without any wobble or shake. Indeed, the hand glides effortlessly.

The El-Primero is renowned for its exalted creation and with this version, the Calibre 400 B, that reputation is upheld. This is a magnificent movement.

Closing remarks

Few things in life are without a modicum of naughtiness, bad or sin. However, despite its two-tone appearance there is little to suggest that this version of the Zenith El Primero is anything less than unimpeachable and blameless. It delivers style, ease of use, peerless operation and mechanical rectitude. Yes, it really is that good. Indeed, despite appearances to the contrary, perhaps this watch does not have a darkside after all.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Zenith El Primero 36,000 VpH 42mm 
  • Reference: 24.2014.400/01.R576
  • Case: Black Ceramicised Aluminium; diameter 42 mm; height 12.75 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; date; small seconds; chronograph.
  • Movement: El Primero 400 B, self-winding movement; frequency 36,000 vph (5Hz); 31 jewels; power reserve min. 50 hours; 326 components.
  • Strap: Black ‘sporty’ rubber strap supplied on PVD-coated Titanium triple folding clasp.

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