Adventure, Adrenaline, And The Zenith El Primero Lightweight
Throughout history, mankind has ventured out from the safety of caves to explore the world. We have always felt a connection with the sky, perhaps because our distant ancestors lived in the trees and experienced freedom from terrestrial life among the branches.
Certainly, we envy birds and are jealous of animals that travel high and far as they are not weighed down by clumsy bodies.
Our ancestors took more risks (usually out of necessity) than most of us do today. Yet there are still a few among us with the gumption and opportunity to realize mankind’s desires to fly through the air, climb the tallest peaks, and race among the clouds on wings made of fabric, metal, or other space-age materials.
Mankind has found ways to mimic eagles, bees, mountain lions, our cousins the great apes, and even flying squirrels. Yes, even that humble gliding rodent has helped us to discover ways to get from place to place in a not-so-pedestrian manner.
For the more land based among you, there are many activities you could in the search for adventure and a new viewpoint on the world; many of these though would require, above all, the ability to make yourself lighter than you feel after a Thanksgiving meal. (Side note: mmmm, now I’m excited for turkey and stuffing!)
Activities like mountain climbing, bungee jumping, parkour, and even gymnastics offer extreme movements and allow you to find yourself in new environments, often providing a new perspective on movement and what is possible with the human body.
For those seeking more aerialist endeavors, there are a multitude of activities to satiate the desire for thrills and provide a more novel experience. For starters, you could try flying with hang gliders, ultralights, personal jetpacks, airplanes, or helicopters.
Others happen to be even more risky and adrenaline pumping: there is cliff diving, base jumping, skydiving and, for the seriously committed, wingsuit flying. Wingsuit flying is basically the human equivalent of a flying squirrel, and is among the most dangerous of the activities I have listed here . . . especially when flying past hard objects, e.g. planet earth.
Have a look for yourself.
Risking life and limb in pursuit of adventure
Basically, there are a variety of ways to risk life and limb in pursuit of adventure and the chance to see how the incredible animal kingdom lives. We humans have always been fascinated by mimicking birds and beasts, and to do that we usually require equipment to enable us to accomplish our adventures.
Of course, to fly like a squirrel you need a wing suit and to soar like an eagle you need a parachute. But what about the technical aspects of the activities, e.g. keeping track of exactly how long that flight was?
Well, for this comes a timepiece from a company that clearly has an affinity for such activities, displaying this affinity time and again in sponsoring adventures like Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the stratosphere (see Felix Baumgartner Skydives From Space On Red Bull Stratos Mission With Zenith On Wrist).
Of course I am talking about Zenith and the watch in question is the El Primero Lightweight.
This watch screams to be used by all those adventure seekers in the extreme sports I mentioned before. In many cases, the El Primero Lightweight should be standard equipment as it contains an amazingly competent and reworked movement matched with an ultra-light and -strong case.
Let’s go through the features one by one, because this chronograph is a lust-worthy piece with an iconic history behind it, and one of the few watches I enjoy that isn’t (according to my tastes) way out there in terms of design or features. It simply is a truly solid piece of engineering and function that will help you reach new heights, like say, the top of a mountain with a parachute strapped to your back.
Drastic weight reduction
First off, we have titanium, and a lot of it. All of the bridges and a few other components have been made out of titanium instead of the standard brass or steel. This drastically reduces the weight of the movement and adds to its rigidity and stability.
With components that weigh less, but are as strong as or stronger than the previous components they replace, the movement will be more resistant to shocks due to having a lower moment of inertia. This helps to maintain accuracy and resist deformation of parts, which can cause wear or failure.
Titanium is also extremely resistant to corrosion, which is paramount in a highly “toleranced” movement like the El Primero 400B, a variant of the original Striking Tenth’s movement. This precision and resistance to corrosion led to the next features of the Lightweight, the integral silicon parts, which help to reduce weight, increase precision, and add another touch of cutting-edge engineering.
The use of silicon combined with the titanium, mainly in the lever and escapement, helps to realize an approximately 25 percent reduction in movement weight: from 21.1 grams all the way down to a svelte 15.9 grams.
To help that cause even more, the dial and date wheel are skeletonized, allowing a view of the newly designed movement and further reducing weight. But that detail is peanuts compared to the next two elements involved in reducing weight.
The case components are, shall we say, shadows of their former selves.
Okay, that’s a weird way to say it, I’ll admit, but the changes are dramatic and very much worth the effort. Beginning with an inner case to hold the movement (you’ll know why in a moment), we have an aluminum construction that has an outer ceramic layer for extreme lightness and intense durability. It wouldn’t make much sense to have a super lightweight movement and then stick it into a heavy steel case. No, Zenith knew it needed to do things the right way.
That “ceramized aluminum” inner case is then fitted into a carbon fiber outer case comprising bezel, case band components, and case back. This case is made of layered carbon fiber machined to shape and assembled in a skeletonized fashion for even more weight savings.
Also added are a pair of titanium pushers and titanium crown, continuing the titanium trend to the exterior. The method of case assembly requires the aforementioned inner case to hold everything together, yet still results in an extremely light package.
A very light package
How light? Well, the original Striking Tenth was housed in a 42 mm steel case, and this new El Primero Lightweight is a much bolder 45 mm, yet weighs in at an incredibly trim 40 grams.
That is darn light. The only thing I have for my own comparison is my TAG Heuer Caliber 16 Carrera in steel, which weighs in at a moderately arm-tugging 120 grams. Not something you want on your arm as you soar through the sky or try to hoist yourself up some boulders.
Heck, even my smallest, slimmest dress quartz weighs in at a slightly pudgy 56 grams. But at 40 grams, the Lightweight is a very useful and almost forgetful (in that you would forget it’s even there) accessory for your wrist.
Plus, with its ruggedness and extreme usefulness touting a 1/10th of a second chronograph, the El Primero makes for a suitable adventure companion.
And just in case you were thinking about getting it wet at some point, it also is water resistant to 100 m and comes with a Nomex-coated black rubber strap for trouble-free and lightweight service. Random material-science nerd side note: Nomex is a highly flame-resistant meta-aramid fiber developed by DuPont in the 1960s that is used specifically as a lightweight material for race suits and firefighter gear.
Now El Primero Lightweight is no diver, but it is nice to know that with the carbon fiber outer case, titanium movement, and 100m water resistance, you don’t have to go babying this thing, either. It should handle whatever you throw at it. Unless you throw a bomb at it. I don’t know why you would do that, but I just wanted to clarify that does not fall under “whatever you throw at it” territory. So consider yourself informed.
Regardless, this watch is ready for some serious adventure. Be you a skydiving subscriber, parkour patron, or a wingsuit warrior, the Zenith El Primero Lightweight would fit perfectly on your wrist as you push the limits of the human body and get in touch with the world and our animal ancestors.
You never know, you might even get the chance to soar next to a falcon as you clock your descent in tenths of a second. That is, if you aren’t frozen with fear as the ground comes flying at you.
Hmm, in the weirdest way that reminds me of a breakdown, so let’s just move on to that, shall we?
• Wowza Factor * 7.95 This piece has a strong wow factor, especially when you pick it up and wonder where all the weight could have gone.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 0.99 gn » 9.705m/s2 This lust seems low, until you realize how you use it and why it needs to be low. Because, you need it to fly!
• M.G.R. * 60.12 Basically, take a Striking Tenth movement and make it out of titanium and silicon…Yes, please!
• Added-Functionitis * Moderate With a date function and a chronograph there is definitely a strong case of added-functionitis. However, the extra function of the “striking tenth” requires prescription strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for that enjoyable horological swelling.
• Ouch Outline * 9.11 – The Feeling Of Falling From 10,000 Feet Many people would say this is an exhilarating feeling, and in some cases I might eventually agree. But for me, it is stomach-wrenchingly terrifying. Though, for this piece…I might just consider jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with nothing but the watch and a supposedly “safe” parachute. Maybe.
• Mermaid Moment * Titanium, Carbon Fiber and Striking Tenths! Chronograph lovers will understand this one, as will the guys who love cutting-edge materials. So this combination really has a lot to get excited about. So excited I think I better start interviewing DJs for the reception.
• Awesome Total * 636 Multiply the movement weight by the total watch weight and you get today’s total. Now some might say that the total weight includes the movement weight, so it doesn’t count. But I like to think that this is a special circumstance, like a “watch-ception.”
For more information, please visit www.zenith-watches.com/en_en/collections-pages/elprimero.html.
Case: 45 x 13.20 mm. carbon fiber and ceramized aluminum
Movement: automatic Caliber 400B El Primero with titanium components
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; date, 1/10th second chronograph with 12-hour and 30-minute counter
Limitation: 250 pieces
Nerdwriter epilogue: before I began as the resident nerd writer for Quill & Pad, I was a normal WIS and fan of many brands. I had a chance to enter into a competition with Zenith for the release of the El Primero Lightweight and I, along with five others selected by chance, for a Lightweight Experience courtesy of Zenith.
I was given the choice of participating in a skydive experience or a balloon flight. As you probably can guess, I selected balloon flight (see the “Ouch Outline” for why) and will be going on that this fall. Keep an eye out for my personal coverage of that as well as photos of what should hopefully be a fun and perfectly safe adventure!