At first glance, the new Zenith Chronomaster might look like other watches in the market with the same complication, however, despite some aesthetic similarities, there are a number of notable differences that distinguish it as innovative and desirable in its own right.
In terms of case and dial design, the new chronograph bares a strong resemblance to the Rolex Daytona. The three subdial layout on the dial, the ceramic marked bezel and the robust polished steel case and bracelet all follow the same aesthetic codes. This is a stylish watch that fits nicely on the wrist. It looks smart and functions perfectly. Pushers are responsive and exact in their interaction with the movement and the hands-on dial.
The fact of the matter is that the new Chronomaster is a good value watch from a manufacturer who knows a thing or two about the chronograph complication. There is an argument to be made that the Chronomaster has a superior movement to others. Back in the 1990s, the Zenith El Primero 400 movement was considered good enough to grace the inside of the Rolex Daytona (ref. 16520). Rolex have since developed their own and the El Primero has lived on with the original brand. For the Chronomaster, Zenith have produced the calibre 3600 which takes advantage of modern materials and manufacturing processes to improve the functionality of the movement and allow measurement of the time interval to one-tenth of a second.
The new 3600 movement for Zenith is the latest version of the original El Primero calibre to be used in a regular production model.
If you think about it for a moment, it is an incredible achievement for a mechanical chronograph at this scale to be so precise. The new 3600 movement for Zenith is the latest version of the original El Primero calibre to be used in a regular production model. While at first glance it looks nearly identical to the older 400 serial number, there have been some major technical upgrades.
What Zenith have done is clever and distinguishes the new movement as an innovative addition to the chronograph market. They have altered the lateral clutch, column-wheel-controlled mechanism usually found for chronographs that have a sweep second hand rotate around the watch face every 60 seconds, and by changing the set up of the column wheel with a pinion running off the escape wheel, generated a gearing that can produce a sweep of the second hand every second. Meaning that the watch can measure a tenth of a second interval on the dial.
Normally this would be a bad idea. Running the chronograph in such a manner – off the going train of the mechanism – drains power and the time-keeping accuracy of the watch can be affected. Zenith has deftly introduced silicon into the mechanism, so the inertia is minimal and the power required for the chronograph is reduced so as not to affect the watch’s balance wheel. It is a smart and inventive use of new materials into a traditional movement set up.
The Zenith Chronomaster provides a link to the past prowess of the brand in manufacturing chronographs.
Aspirational lifestyle videos aside – whether on the Zenith website or satirical Instagram accounts – the Chronomaster is a smart offering in terms of horology and Zenith should have pushed this angle more in the promotional material. The new chronograph is a unique offering in the luxury watch market and provides a link to the past prowess of the brand in manufacturing chronographs second to none, as well as showing Zenith’s ambition for the future.