Zenith El Primero Chronograph 18ct 1969 Mark 1

£16,500

100% Genuine & All Original

All Functions Working Perfectly

Fully Inspected, Serviced and Guaranteed

Large 37mm, 18ct Yellow Gold Zenith Swiss Made Case

Immaculate Original Unrestored Gold Dial and Hands

Very High Grade Cal 3019, 31 Jewel Movement in Sparkling Condition

Movement Serviced and Calibrated and Currently running at +4 sec/day

New Blue Zenith Crocodile Strap with Original Zenith Gold Buckle

A Truly Important Watch in Absolutely Immaculate Condition

High Quality Hardwood Presentation Box Included

VGWL 12 Months’ Written Warranty Included*

VGWL Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee

Free UK Next Day Delivery!

Free Worldwide FedEx Delivery

VGW Reference: Z734
Price

£16,500

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Description

Zenith is one of the oldest watch companies, est. 1865 and one of only a handful which still produces its own mechanical movements today. The company has an almost unparalleled record of technical achievements. Notably, in 1929, Zenith won world renown at Kew Observatory (England), when a Zenith wristwatch won first prize for an accuracy of better than 0.6 seconds per day.

During the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Zenith held a lead in producing many of the most commercially successful, and technically advanced, chronograph wristwatches. The technical expertise and craftsmanship which went into these watches were immense. Just a brief look inside the case back of any chronograph is enough to demonstrate how complicated these watches are, – making these very expensive watches to produce.

Zenith has also been recognised with more than 1500 awards and has over 50 individual movement designs to its name, making it the Swiss brand with the most awards for precision.

Why This Watch Is Important

Put simply, in 1969 Zenith produced the world’s first automatic chronograph, the El Primero. This example, from 1969, and from a limited production run of only 250, is one of the rarest and most desirable. This is also a ‘time capsule’ piece, by which we mean it has seen little to no real use and has always been kept in pristine condition.

The Stats..

Model Ref G 382, Calibre 3019 PHC, Produced 1969 to 1970, Case Number 009E465,  making this the 9th production example of only 250 pieces ever made.

Some Context

Some of you may know there has been some confusion and debate over what would seem to be the relatively straightforward question: Which company (or group of companies) was the first to produce an automatic chronograph?

What is not disputed is that on January 10th 1969, the Zenith-Movado group publicly announced to the press and showed the first working sample of the first automatic chronograph. To underline the significance of its achievement, Zenith named it the  El Primero – meaning: The 1st! Its main competitor project, led by Heuer and Breitling, waited until March 3rd of the same year to do the same. It is also true that both groups chose the Basel Fair held in April 1969 to officially launch their competing models. However, due to the considerable technical challenges of manufacture, Zenith took a little longer to achieve serial production. Heuer-Breitling delivered 100 pre-production prototype Chronomatics to its major distributors in April-May 1969, however, while the Chronomatic was widely advertised, retail availability followed sometime later. Exactly when this was is a little unclear. But retail availability of the El Primero commenced in October 1969. So, you may see that the answer to this question depends on precisely on the criteria.

The Movement

While precisely which manufacturer was first to produce the world’s first automatic chronograph may be open to some conjecture, there is no doubt the Zenith El Primero was the far greater technical achievement. A high frequency 36,000 bph, column wheel, automatic chronograph, of integrated construction, with a 50-hr power reserve, and a quick-set date function was quite something! Not only this, but the El Primero was, and also remains, the only mechanical movement ever able to measure time intervals to within a tenth of a second. In fact, the 31 Jewel movement was so advanced, that when Rolex decided to upgrade its ageing hand-wound Valjoux Cal.72 movement in its Daytona chronograph to an automatic in 1988, it chose to buy and fit the Zenith El Primero movement. Rolex then continued to use this movement until the year 2000 when it finally began to make its own chronograph movements for the first time!

As can be seen, the movement of this watch in first class condition. It has been fully overhauled and serviced by our chronograph specialist master watchmaker. This means it has been completely disassembled to each of its component parts, then cleaned, with the critical parts inspected under high magnification, then rebuilt using only original replacement parts as required, then adjusted before final testing, and calibration.

Following careful calibration, this watch is currently running within +4 seconds per day averaged over six positions. This is truly outstanding for any watch of this age. This movement also has a 50-hour power reserve when fully wound.  We are therefore more than pleased to offer 12 months’ warranty on this watch movement*.

The movement is correctly signed Zenith, Swiss Made, with the Calibre number 3019 and 31 Jewels.

*Please note – our 12 months’ warranty is only applicable if the full list price is paid.

The Dial

Only 250 pieces of El Primero G 382 model in 18ct gold, with an all gold dial, were made.  700 of the G 381 with gold cases and White dials were also produced, whereas 2,500 of each, of the steel cased A 384, A 385 and A 386 models were produced, making 7,500 in total.

This is the original, unrestored dial. It has applied baton hour indices with remaining original lume. The hands are also original with remaining original lume. As this is a gold dial it has not suffered any degradation over time at all and so we have left the dial and the original hands, totally untouched. As can be seen, each is in amazingly good condition. The hands are not quite as perfect as the dial, but for the sake of the originality and because this is a very special watch, we have left these as they are. If you wish to buy this watch and you would prefer us to restore the hands, we could do this, although we would recommend against. 

The outer scale is known as a Tachymeter scale and can be used in conjunction with the chronograph function to measure speed, or distance travelled. Also a Pulsations scale for measuring heart rate.

The Watch Case

The 18ct yellow gold watch case measures 37mm, excluding the original Zenith signed winding crown. The case is in almost perfect condition with no evidence of anything other than very careful and gentle hand-polishing. It is completely scratch free and the lugs are sharp, with almost new edges. The chronograph pushers are also in immaculate, indicating the watch has seen very little use.

The inside of the case-back is correctly signed; Zenith, Swiss Made with Swiss Geneva 18ct hallmarks. Externally, the case-back carries the case serial number 009E465.

The case-back is of full thickness, has never been engraved and also shows no signs of wear visible to the naked eye.

As ever our standard advice applies: Vintage watches should be kept clean and dry at all times.

The Strap & Buckle

An original new Zenith high quality Blue Crocodile strap is fitted with the original Zenith gold buckle.

The Box and Papers

Although there are no original papers with this watch, the numbers and markings on the watch are all correct, dating the watch to 1969. Detailed particulars will be included with our purchase receipt and 12 months’ warranty*. A separate insurance valuation for the replacement value of this watch will also be provided at the time of sale along with our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ which states: “If this watch proves to be anything less than totally authentic, or not as described, Vintage Gold Watches of London will offer you a full refund at any time”.

As with all our watches, this watch will be sold under our 14 days no quibble sale or return policy.

The watch will be supplied with a new, high quality, hardwood presentation box, as shown.

In Conclusion

This truly one of the most magnificent and important vintage chronograph watches from one of the absolute leaders in its class. We think the price is most realistic, perhaps even a little generous considering the market for important chronographs, in recent years.

A word on our prices – We always try our hardest to acquire the very highest quality watches we can find, before restoring these to the highest possible standards. We then offer these at the fairest prices we can, taking into account our pre and post sales care and service. This approach means we will never be the cheapest, but nor will we be the most expensive. Indeed there are some well-known stores in West London which are highly successful charging between two to three times the price you see here. We therefore consider our prices to be fair, given the quality of watches we have to offer.

We are happy to accept PayPal as this is the quickest method of payment. However, if you would like to pay by UK cheque or by UK bank transfer we will be pleased to assist you with this and pass on a 3% saving to you. Similarly, if you wish to pay by International SWIFT or Bank Wire Transfer we will provide you with our BIC / Swift number and our IBAN number.

If you have any questions please call on our Landline 0207 727 7095 or Mobile 07515 949250 or if calling from overseas, on Landline +44 207 727 7095 or Mobile +44 7515 949250.

Please note, we also welcome part exchanges. If you have a watch or small collection for sale, please contact us as we will be happy to discuss.

We will also be happy to Service your watch, Repair your watch or Restore your watch, all at ‘sensible’ prices. Please see here.

Please take a look at our other fine vintage gold watches.

Thank you.