The Zenith El Primero chronograph is without a doubt the most popular collection the LVMH-owned watch manufacturer produces. I would even go as far to say that it’s one of the best known mechanical chronographs in the world. Launched in 1969, the Zenith El Primero chronograph is still in production and today we have yet another iteration to share with you, the somewhat aptly named “Panda”.
The Zenith El Primero “Panda” Chronographs
As you probably gathered from the photos already, there are actually two different Zenith El Primero “Panda” Chronographs to choose from. Well, technically they’re the same watch but just with the dial colors inverted. Black and silver is the prevalent theme here, hence the “Panda” designation (although Pandas are technically black and white). Not surprisingly, the inspiration for the design comes from vintage watches (it seems there are very few modern watches these days that aren’t vintage-inspired), specifically sports watches from the 1960’s and 70’s.
It was during this golden era that the ‘panda’ dial chronograph was born, so called for its pairing of a white coloured dial with contrasting sub-dials in black (generally in a 3-6-9 layout). There was also the ‘reverse panda’, which, as the name suggests, is simply the inverse of a standard panda dial. Although less common, other colors were also used in place of black or white, such as silver, but the underlying idea was the same – create a high level of contrast by placing light against dark or dark against light.
The Zenith El Primero Panda therefore, offers an example of each, although with a few decidedly modern twists. The most notable is of course the 42mm black ceramicised aluminium case, which made its debut on the limited edition model created for the Zenith / Range Rover collaboration. In order to create this lightweight but hard-wearing case, a ceramic oxide layer is chemical deposited on the aluminium surface. It looks cool and is pretty hard to scratch, making it a winner in our book.
The dial layout is akin to the more traditional Zenith El Primero Chronographs, with the time displayed centrally and then three overlapping sub-dials for the chronograph indications and the small seconds. The date is shown through a small aperture at six o’clock. The monochromatic design is particularly attractive, making the subtle red-highlights on the chronograph hands really pop. This is the Zenith we like to see, no tricks, no gimmicks, just clean design and attractive lines.
Inside is, of course, the trustworthy high-beat El Primero calibre 400B (36,000 beats per hour) offering 50 hours of power reserve and full chronograph functionality. Both models are offered on an attractive perforated rubber strap, although I think personally I would have preferred leather for that more authentic vintage feel.
In any event, the Zenith El Primero “Panda” Chronograph can be yours for US$8,600. The only thing left to decide now is which dial configuration you want. Personally I’m leaning towards the original Panda, as I really like the contrast between the silvery dial and the black registers.
For more information please visit www.zenith-watches.com.