Cool or not cool? The Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition

Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition

This new sports model wit a featherweight engine is an exclusive version of the El Primero Striking 10th chronograph. Discover the world of high-tech materials and avant-garde made by Zenith and let me know what you think


At the time of its launch in 1969, the El Primero caliber overturned existing conventions by asserting itself as the first-ever automatic chronograph to boast an integrated construction. Also impressing at that time the exceptional high frequency of 10 vibrations per hour (36.000 A/h = 36.000 vibrations per hour). Even today it is still the world’s most precise series-made chronograph caliber. Over the years, Zenith has steadily fine-tuned its El Primero in order to optimize its precision, reliability and performance. The in Le Locle based Manufacture has also taken up the challenge of associating its high-frequency chronograph with other complications such as the tourbillon, the perpetual calendar and the split-second function.

Historical movement El Primero of 1969 Zenith El Primero caliber 319 PHC
Historical movement El Primero of 1969. Zenith El Primero caliber 319 PHC

In 2010 Zenith reinvented the “jumping seconds” by presenting the El Primero Striking 10th. Equipped with a sweep seconds hand making ten jumps per second and a complete turn of the dial every ten seconds, this chronograph not only measures but also displays tenths of a second with extreme precision. To enhance the performance of the mechanism requiring a considerable amount of energy, the watchmakers fitted it with a double chronograph wheel in silicon, a material three and a half times lighter than classic alloys.

The maxims of the new Zenith El Primero Striking 10th are lightness, performance and originality. Through combining technological innovation with creative daring, the engineers and watchmakers of the Manufacture were tasked with the mission of reducing the weight of the watch to an absolute minimum, yet without making any compromises on its precision, its sturdiness and its reliability.

The sizeable feat began with the movement. Zenith chose titanium – a light and resistant metal widely used in aeronautics – to machine the main elements of the movements that are the heaviest parts of the watch when they are made in brass: namely the main plate and five bridges: the barrel bridge, balance bridge, pallet bridge, pallet-wheel bridge and the chronograph bridge. The Manufacture has also maintained the silicon double chronograph wheel, while adding a lever and an escape wheel made from the same high-tech, light, antimagnetic material that is harder than steel and guarantees excellent efficiency.

The stunning result is a one-quarter lighter engine weighing just 15,45 grams, compared to 21,1 grams for a similar classic movement.

The designers reworked the watch exterior and subtly enlarged it to 45 mm. The original case of the El Primero Striking 10th measures 42 mm. The task was to make it as light as possible on the wrist, so the choice of carbon with its fine black color and its “chequered” effect evoking the world of competitive racing fits the bill perfectly, while also reinforcing the technical and sporty look of the model.

The inner structure of the case is made of ceramised aluminum, a cutting-edge material that is at once light, sturdy and hard (1800 Vickers, as against 160-200 for 316L steel).

The two chronograph push pieces are in titanium.

The open worked lugs accentuate the profile of the watch and ensure a perfect flow into the integrated black rubber “Nomex” synthetic fiber strap equipped with a triple folding clasp providing optimal security and comfort.

Its dial featuring a dynamic reinterpretation of the collection’s design codes also distinguishes the new El Primero Lightweight. Open working the central part further enhanced the overall lightness-oriented effect while providing a clear view of the El Primero calibre, that is of course also visible through the transparent case back. The disc-type date display has been lightened and reworked with pierced numerals standing out on a small red disc at 6 o’clock.

The facetted hands have been hollowed as much as possible and then highlighted by a luminescent coating.

The light grey, blue and anthracite colors recapture the three characteristic colors of the 1969 El Primero chronograph that have become iconic brand features.

The red sweep seconds hand with its small Zenith star accurately measures feats to the nearest tenth of a second.

The El Primero Lightweight model brings a distinctive touch to the Zenith collections, while powerfully confirming the innovative capacities and the creating daring cultivated by the Manufacture.

The Zenith El Primero Lightweight is issued in a 100-piece limited edition.

Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition
Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition
Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition
Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition


So guys, is the watch cool or not cool? What do you think? In some ways we have seen comparable sports watches already. When I first saw the Zenith during Baselworld I thought this is a Jaeger-LeCoultre. Also I discovered details you find at Richard Mille watches. So is Zenith late presenting such an avant-garde timepiece?

No doubt, with its avant-garde technology and its youthful, dynamic look and it shows that the El Primero caliber still has a bright future ahead of it and doubtless heralds new developments as Zenith is gearing up to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2015.


Technical Data El Primero Lightweight

Reference 10.2260.4052W/98.R573


El Primero 4052 W, automatic

Calibre: 13 ¼ ‘’’ (diameter : 30 mm)

Thickness: 6.60 mm

Components: 334

Jewels: 31

Frequency: 36.000 A/h – (= 5 Hz)

Power reserve: min. 50 hours

Finishes: Oscillating weight with “Côtes de Genève” pattern

Titanium components: main plate, barrel bridge, balance bridge, chronograph bridge, pallet bridge and pallet-wheel bridge


Zenith caliber El Primero 4052 W
Zenith caliber El Primero 4052 W



Hours and minutes in the center

Small seconds at 9 o’clock

Date window at 6 o’clock

Chronograph with 1/10th second display:

–           60-minute counter at 6 o’clock

–           60-second counter at 3 o’clock

–           I/10th second indication by the chronograph hand


Case, Dial and hands

Material: Carbon

Diameter: 45 mm

Opening diameter: 38.50 mm

Crystal: Cambered sapphire crystal glare proofed on both sides

Case back: Transparent sapphire crystal

Water resistance: 10 ATM

Dial: Open worked with three colored counters

Hour-markers: Rhodiumed, facetted and enhanced with Superluminova SLN C1

Hands: Rhodiumed, facetted and enhanced with Superluminova SLN C1

Nomex-coated black rubber strap and black triple folding clasp



15.400 Euro including 19 % VAT in Germany.


Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition
Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition
Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition
Zenith EL Primero Lightweight Limited Edition






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  • Truly cool.

    I had the opportunity to try this on last week – it is difficult to describe in words how unbelievably light this beautiful watch actually is; it’s bordering on weightless! In fact the deployment buckle is probably as heavy as the entire watch…

    However this would not mean much if it felt fragile – much more solid than the hollow lugs and feathery carbon weave would suggest, F1 tech has made it’s way into the design. Intoxicating, somehow the powerful El Primero10th engine vibrations are actually dissipated into the case frame, rather than jarring the user. Engaged, the chrono itself leaps around the dial with impressive speed, but in a useable and readable fashion (unlike the microtimers etc), and is simply mesmerizing.

    Turn the watch over however and this is where the magic starts – for those used to and fond of the ElPrimero movement, this new version in a mix of materials including titanium is hypnotic, with it’s grey black and blue hues showing off the chrono’s layers perhaps better than the standard steel unit, and the pared down cogs and bridges moving with a clearly lighter touch – a truly spectacular rendition.

    How does it wear? Although sporty, the dark colours are well balanced and the watch looks supremely elegant, even in a suit. Interesting, this is an impressive piece that draws attention, but not too much. 

    If I had a gripe, I would question the face, which feels slightly cluttered, but that’s a minor issue…amazing combination of superb manufacture, well done Zenith!!

  • Cool AND not cool:
    Cool: The highly engineered material mix. Although one could argue what should be the advantage of having 1800 HV on a inner case ring.
    Cool: The overall design.
    Not cool: The 30 mm movement in a 45 mm watch looks a little bit lost.

  • +1 for Cool!

    The blend of ultra modern lightweight materials while paying tribute to their brands style roots is superbly done in my option. And you just gotta love that tenth of second sweep hand!

  • I have been fiddling with 2 Zenith Watches (My father’s) since 1954 when I was just 4 years old, hence I have always loved Zenith Watches! So, I shall always be biased towards all Zenith Watches!

  • I’ll vote cool.

    I have always admired Zenith movements, but not their watches (anyone remember the awful “Defy Xtreme” series?). But they are turning things around as of late.

    Going back to their history has been a good move for Zenith. The watches are finally showing cohesive design elements– which are what the older models lacked. It is also a reason why I like the Zenith 410 that Alex presented a couple days ago but didn’t comment on (oops!).

    This watch features the now classic Zenith design cues with the colored subdials, yet is also very avant-garde looking because of the materials used. Nice integration of old and new. Cool watch.

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