Zenith Chronomaster Sport: A Chronograph That Reinvigorates The Senses
Here I sit, unfocused and gazing past the empty pixels as the rhythmic synth pulses like the heartbeat of a frantic hare. Or is that pounding in my chest? Words and ideas turn to mist as I struggle to wrangle a cohesive thought from the jumble spilling over my lips, invisible but dripping like syrup in a cold pantry in the dead of winter. Thick and slow they are nudged by my effort but resist coercion and instead, dispersion and chaos are what they find in air drenching my bubble of self that seeks anything but continued stasis.
My bones creak as I shift in my mind and seat, mental exercises to spark the flame of inspiration anew. Yet here I sit, unfocused still. That stillness begets not meditation but distraction, disillusion, an impulse to run and do anything, everything, something that makes the soul dance and create even the slightest forward motion.
Yet here I sit.
Blinking, breathing, blank as fresh snow, acutely aware of the seconds creeping past that silently take note of their own frantic pace as I sit painfully focused on my lack thereof.
Ridding myself of superfluous or intentional thought is a virtue I have perverted into vice, unflinching in its own persistence. A year of this mess could do it to anyone – especially me, who pretends that it wasn’t having an effect while succumbing to its glorious banality.
So here I sit.
Deep from the recesses of my former life my hand habitually grasps at my wrist, fingers tracing the curve of a bezel that is familiar, yet new in this moment. This deviation of expectation stirs the subconscious, then the conscious, then the curiosity, and my attention is finally drawn away from the blank digital canvas to my body.
And here I still sit, only now sitting with me, clutching my wrist tightly, is something pulsing with its own life, its own urgency. Ten times a second it hops, skips, and jumps forward, mocking my inaction by way of measured consistency. My face scrunches as it considers the miniature namesake below telling the story of generations of progress and excitement with three words: Zenith El Primero.
With a start I press the pusher, and instantaneous activity springs into action, racing around and around and around, beat by beat, slices of now partitioned by white gashes in dark stone, a silver wraith floats above pools of blue and grey dotting the alabaster landscape. A manacle formed of iron encircles my wrist, keeping the march of moments close at hand.
After what seems like an age, I snap from fixated amusement and fashion a narrative to inspire and direct desire. Or, if all else fails, demand a tiny, infinitesimal sliver of brief existence to share a small creation of passion we call the Zenith Chronomaster Sport.
Zenith Chronomaster Sport
So, it turns out that a year of quasi-isolation and abnormality can do things to a person, like make them write a poem about how they can’t think of what to write until they look at something new to spark inspiration.
Luckily for me, I happen to have such an item in my possession temporarily as I test out the brand-new Zenith Chronomaster Sport fresh off the heels of its debut during the digital LVMH Watch Week 2021.
Given my now two-year absence from watch fairs, the Chronomaster is the perfect watch to usher me back in as it is both familiar and comforting while providing a perfect amount of zest to get excited about watches again.
This model is a new take on some of the most popular features of the El Primero variations over the years and an evolution of the caliber inside. While the aesthetic is technically new, the designers have made sure to follow the visual codes familiar to the brand’s watches so there is no need to get used to a drastically altered style, instead allowing you to slide right into loving it as a fantastic design to kick off this new decade.
The new Chronomaster Sport is still a Chronomaster through and through with the triple overlapping subdials (a more than 50-year-old feature) that display the chronograph seconds, minutes, and small seconds.
The date at 4:30 is common to several El Primero models as are the applied hour markers, pump-style pushers, and ceramic bezel. But the small changes to the aesthetics and callbacks to important models of the past help hone the style while subtly alluding to some changes in the El Primero 3600 movement under the dial
The most significant change is how the chronograph actually functions and displays elapsed seconds. Instead of a central second hand that takes one minute to traverse the dial with very small (and smooth) jumps, the central chronograph second hand makes a revolution every ten seconds, stepping in rather large and distinct jumps every one-tenth of a second thanks to the legendary 5 Hz El Primero movement with the central chronograph hand driven off the escape wheel.
The black ceramic bezel demarcates these movements with 100 small, engraved hashmarks for easy-to-read fractions of a second.
This is also why, instead of hour and minute counters, the Chronomaster Sport has minute and second counters as it needs to display the full 60 seconds somewhere since the central hand only traces ten seconds per revolution.
This is a much more useful way to organize a chronograph as timing things over an hour is probably the rarest scenario but being able to differentiate between seven or eight tenths of a second is more functional. Especially for a chronograph with a 5 Hz movement, the tiny jumps of the chronograph second hand would make for strenuous reading of the measured time.
Historical inspiration and mechanical progress
The original A386 El Primero forms the foundation for the aesthetic, as it does most El Primero models, but other editions also play a role in the new Chronomaster Sport. The A277 (a model from before the El Primero) was the basis for the black bezel and dot markers, while the Rainbow El Primero inspired the polished and engraved bezel, though that model featured a tachymeter scale instead. The late 1980s and early 1990s De Luca models provided the historical reference for the tri-link bracelet with polished and brushed segments, a widely appreciated style for an integrated bracelet.
But the updates to the movement are what really help sell the new Chronomaster Sport. Using Caliber 3600, a relatively new movement seen for the first time in a regular collection watch, the El Primero shifts from the earlier Caliber 400 into the modern era.
Aside from reducing the number of parts, improving efficiency (now with a 60-hour power reserve), and simplifying construction, Caliber 3600 changes the basic chronograph mechanism and includes silicon components to reduce the energy drain of the chronograph while keeping everything consistent and accurate.
It still uses a lateral clutch but manages to improve the useful functionality with tooth optimization and gear train adjustments.
The new configuration also makes for a more visually interesting view of the movement from the rear. The blued column wheel is more visible, and the connection from the escape wheel pinion through to the central chronograph seconds via the lateral clutch feels higher end than the earlier calibers.
The finishing is right in line with its siblings, but in context it does feel just a bit more special, and that helps to highlight the engineering of Caliber 3600.
But even then, the Chronomaster Sport feels like the chronograph that you get when you want one that just works and will last for decades, with style and versatility to boot. The design definitely hits marks that are popular with other famous chronographs and the entire El Primero line, making it incredibly easy to enjoy at first glance.
Plus, with water resistance to 100 meters there shouldn’t be much worry about this piece for daily wear which, in my opinion, is why you would buy an El Primero Chronomaster Sport: to take the lead as your go-to timepiece.
Historically that is what watches like this were designed for as well: not to be safe queens seeing daylight twice a year, but experiencing bumps, scratches, water, dirt, sweat, and everything else you encounter in your everyday life. And while the price of $10,000 for the watch on a bracelet is definitely on the high end of the typical price range for an everyday piece, it truly can live up to the challenge.
In the short time that I spent with the Chronomaster Sport I legitimately can’t say I would want it to be any different. Sure, Zenith could have been more avant-garde with design or extravagant with mechanical creativity, but it would just be misplaced for this model.
It is intended to form a backbone for the El Primero and Chronomaster, which it does excellently. As a combination of modern proportions and design choices melded with historic inspiration and pedigree, I can’t honestly see a reason not to add it to your shortlist for awesome and accessible high-beat chronographs for the decade ahead.
While many brands are fighting over having the best blue-dialed steel sports watch, Zenith is sticking to making one of the best high-precision chronographs in the world. It clearly was a bit divisive upon its launch as people made the predictable comparisons, but such is to be expected when you are one of the originals that has been around for longer than many have been alive.
In the end, the success of this watch will be measured not by one quarter’s sales statistics but by continued popularity over the next decade.
Most importantly for myself, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to spend a limited amount of time with it so I could really appreciate just how solid and well designed the Chronomaster Sport is. It does a lot of things right. And for a watch asking to be your go-to, I feel it presents a good case for choosing this update as a base for a collection.
So while you sound off in the comments, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 8.6 The design is rock solid, and the movement makes it enjoyable to actually use the chronograph. What’s not to like!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 87.6» 859.063m/s2 The rapidly revolving chronograph hand is enough to make me stay up late playing with the movement, counting the seconds in style!
- M.G.R. * 61.3 The mechanical updates to Caliber 3600 make for an incredibly functional chronograph that makes using it a breeze, and the updated power reserve sets it apart from the competition!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate Like other watches in this category, a date and a chronograph make for such a great pairing of functions that it’s clear I must recommend regular strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the chronographic swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 9.6 A cut in your tongue from incredibly sharp chips! Sometimes when you eat a delicious snack, it has consequences. Like when you start munching on some bagel chips and they are so hard with such sharp edges that by the time you’re done your mouth is in pain as the chips sliced up your delicate tongue. But like with delectable treats, I’d gladly accept this damage again if it ensured I’d get the Chronomaster Sport on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Look at that chronograph hand go! Many people enjoy chronographs, but what makes some special is when that chronograph hand moves faster than normal, and, boy, does this one get moving! It’s almost enough to start picking out china patterns!
- Awesome Total * 721 First take the diameter in millimeters (41) and multiply by the water resistance in atmospheres (10), then add the number of components in the movement (311) to arrive at a healthy and respectable awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.zenith-watches.com/en_us/chronomaster-sport.
Quick Facts Zenith Chronomaster Sport
Case: 41 x 13.6 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber 3600, 60-hour power reserve, 36,000 vph/5 Hz frequency, column wheel control of chronograph, lateral clutch, officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, (hacking) seconds; date, chronograph with 1/10th of a second display
Strap: integrated steel bracelet or rubber strap with Cordura fabric texture
Price: $9,500 (rubber strap); $10,000 (integrated steel bracelet)