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Less is more. That’s the logic behind the Zenith El Primero Hand Wound, a back-to-basics variant of the famed El Primero chronograph that eschews a winding rotor in favor of a slim profile and an exquisite case back vista.
It may seem odd to encounter a Zenith El Primero without automatic winding. The famed high-beat chronograph rose to fame in 1969 as the world’s first integrated (all components designed together) automatic chronograph. Removing the winding system from an El Primero evokes the same visceral shock as seeing KISS perform without makeup or catching a glimpse of a Ferrari in British Racing Green.
But somehow, the Zenith El Primero Hand Wound pulls it off. Paint or not, KISS can keep the beat, and so can the 36,000 VpH El Primero sans rotor. Even better, the transformation yields real gains with respect to wrist stance and visible movement finishing.
On the wrist, this 40mm stainless steel El Primero Hand Wound sits lower and sleeker than any of its automatic-winding corporate cousins. The removal of a winding rotor and winding train allows Zenith’s watchmakers to pare the mass and thickness of the case to the absolute minimum. Combine the svelte steel case with the classical white-on-black dial, and the result is a killer look that plays well with any attire and any occasion.
Within the slim profile of the El Primero Hand Wound, a Zenith caliber 420 El Primero sings its distinctive 5hz song with the same precision as any automatic variant. The 52-hour power reserve – far more than the industry standard 42 – remains intact. But the true highlight of this movement is the sheer visibility of the works. All cobalt blued screws, grained wheels and levers, peralge of plates, and brushed bridges sprawl in full view through the expansive case back sapphire window. Even El Primero purists and automatic winding devotees must admit that no rotor-saddled variant of the famous Zenith reveals this much of the legend to the eye of the owner.
Don’t believe it? See for yourself in this video showcase of the Zenith El Primero Hand Wound. Want more? See this watch – and its awesome case back spectacle – in high-resolution images on:
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Video and content by Tim Mosso.