Cool or not cool? The new Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow

Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow

We all remember the legendary Zenith El Primero Rainbow chronograph that was launched in 1999 reflecting the colors of a rainbow. Have a look at the new 2013 version and tell me if you like it.

In 1997 Zenith launched the black, grey & white Rainbow Flyback chronograph. Two years later Zenith launched a version with a colored sub dial, a red second hand and a partial red colored bezel reflecting the colors of a rainbow. With its 40 mm case, water-resistant up to 100 meters, this steel chronograph with the El Primero caliber 405 was a cool wristwatch. I would even tend to write a very cool one, since there were not so many comparable chronographs with an in-house movement on the market at that time.

In my eyes Zenith should have never given up the production of this chronograph, but this is, as we all know, another story…


For more information please see the pictures and read the remarks from page 267 taken from the official Zenith book by Manfred Rössler.

As always you can enlarge my pictures by clicking on them once and then once again…

Page 267 Rainbow Modell taken from the official Zenith book by Manfred Rössler
Page 267 “Rainbow” Modell taken from the official Zenith book by Manfred Rössler


Now I just received pictures of the 2013 edition of the legendary Zenith Rainbow chronograph.

This is what Zenith wrote me:

…“Today, the brand with the guiding star draws inspiration from this landmark model in creating a 250-piece limited edition available exclusively in Zenith boutiques. This El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow is driven by the El Primero Caliber 405 B automatic movement built around a column wheel. While this chronograph naturally beats at the frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour enabling 1/10th second precision, it is also equipped with a date display, a telemetric scale, and above all with the famous flyback function. Closely bound up with the world of aviation, the latter enables pilots to stop, start and restart the chronograph at a single press on the push-piece, compared with three presses required for a standard chronograph. Made of black Alchron – a light and resistant titanium and aluminium alloy – the case with its 45.5 mm diameter is topped by a rotating bezel bearing a scratch-resistant aluminum ring. The rounded sapphire crystal is shaped like an astrodome – the dome located on the fuselage’s dorsal ridge to enable astronavigation. The equally transparent engraved sapphire case-back reveals the fascinating mechanism of the world’s most accurate series-produced calibre. On the dial side, the minutes counter at 3 o’clock appears in colours enabling night-time readings in infrared-lit cockpits, exactly like the first model developed in cooperation with a fighter pilot, while the hours are displayed at 6 o’clock and the small seconds at 9 o’clock. The white superluminova hour-markers create a striking contrast with the black of the dial and case, while the chronograph sweep seconds hand stands out in red. The inner bezel ring bearing a telemetric scale creates an overall depth effect. The eminently virile and stylish El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow comes on a particularly sporty rubber strap fitted with a black PVD-coated folding clasp.” …


Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow
Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow
Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow
Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow
Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow
Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow


So, my question now is:

Do you like the new one? Which one is cooler? Do you prefer the 1999 Zenith El Primero Rainbow Flyback or the 2013 Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow?



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17 replies on “Cool or not cool? The new Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow”
  1. says: Bill Bailey

    Alexander, et al,

    I own a 1999 original Quatre-Couleurs Rainbow Flyback, model 480 with the original black sharkskin strap with red stitching,(01/02 0480 405).

    I’m tickled to death that Zenith, under LVMH, has decided to bring back the Quatre-Couleurs Rainbow Flyback with the Caliber 405 movement. They previously had tried selling “Rainbow” watches with the smaller Elite movements, which just didn’t do the name justice.

    I think that this new Caliber 405 Flyback is a great updating of its El Primero Rainbow line. It certainly didn’t hurt my feelings that they finally moved the date window from 4:30 to 6:00.

    The only downside is that the first of these new Rainbow models is in a limited edition, and certainly got me to go visit one of the new Zenith boutiques, and was in stock, but way too expensive for the average collector. Their display showcases were peppered with the odd and curious, including their “Open Art” 402 and 4021 collections which don’t even raise an eyebrow for me.

    I personally hope that this “Open Art” fad is just that, and will go the way of the Pulsar watch.

    As for the case being PVD coated with AlO2, I have a hunch that their “Titanium-Aluminum Alloy Case”, is probably just Aluminum Oxide PVD on a titanium case.
    I manufactured cutting tools in the ’80s, and when I got tungsten carbide tools PVD coated with AlO2, it was thick enough to never wear off, and was nearly as hard as a diamond.

    Concord (now a unit of Movado Group) made a line of Mariner watches in the 70’s and early 80’s (pre-MG) with just a smattering of AlO2 PVD, and it wore off in the first year’s wearing. I would bet that Zenith has done a much better job on their PVD coatings.

    This Stratos El Primero Rainbow Flyback model also has a ceramic bezel with laser-cut numerals. I wish I could retro-fit my 480 with a ceramic bezel. This is my second 480, and the red color especially is photoreactive, and fades when exposed to sunlight over just a few years.

    1. says: Børge-Are Halvorsen

      Love the original! Would choose it every time!
      In my opinion, the new Stratos comes in many brilliant versions, but the one resembling the Rainbow model just isn’t one of them, looking kind of cheap on the wrist. Don’t fancy the numerals, the anodized aluminum look of the red numbers on the bezel etc etc. I’ve opted for the basic black dialled steel version after owning the black Alchron and the Blashford models briefly. It’s super versatile, sporty on rubber or steel, and quite elegant despite its dinner plate size when dressed with the alligator strap. However, I’m sure the new Rainbow has quite a few followers! 😉

  2. says: Hans-Georg

    I fully agree with Edwin Tschopp. Additionally the date is much to low.

    All in all a rather uninspired, unbalanced, cheap looking design.

  3. says: Tom

    One more thing, a word of criticism if I may, the bezel looks way to much like Rolex’s bezel. I really am tired of seeing “Rolex’s bezels” on other watches.

  4. says: Tom

    I do not follow Zenith very closely so I am not an expert in their model line.I think watch looks nice(the rainbow version), the vintage one as well as the brand new model. To me it seams to fit the company profile as they compete a lot with JLC. Zenith is not a Patek so in my humble opinion they are “allowed” to manufacture watches like this one. The “black and white” models look very plain and they would not distinguish themselves from other companies’ chronographs models. The new version seams to have more vivid colors therefore the watch has a more rich, expensive look – or maybe this is just pictures? My take on it would be on a cool side, but what about the price? Any word about it?

  5. says: Charles Marshall

    When it comes to Zenith, I prefer a dress watch — not a sport watch with different colors. There are lots of affordable brands that produce colorful sport watches. If I’m going to pay Zenith prices, I want a watch that looks and feels elegant. But that’s just me…

  6. says: David

    I like the watch even better than the first version, basically because there is no disturbing overlap of the counters. Zenith catched my attention successfully, and this model even enforces this.

  7. says: Stephen

    I think it is a nice watch but only have two criticisms. A the dial colour makes it look cheap B the availability in boutiques only I own two Zeniths and both are the retro designs. I think they should stick to retro rather than compete in the modern market. This is my humble opinion

  8. says: Amir

    This may be one of the rare occasions where I like both– the old model and the new one… However one criticism I have for the Startos chronographs: there are some models where the subdials overlap and you have to “guess” the time. On this one they seem to have corrected that issue– albeit slightly.

  9. says: bruno

    “a 250-piece limited edition available exclusively in Zenith boutiques”

    That’s where it stops and ruins it for me. I love the brand but I hate these boutique only editions. This is part of the reason why I stopped buying Panerai. I hope Zenith will not make the same mistake.

    “the client is king” and I decide where I buy my watches. If I can’t get it from my AD who I happen to know since more than 10 years, I don’t want it.

    It doesn’t bother me that boutiques are first served or that they get more pieces in case of a special edition but when only available at a boutique it’s a NO GO for me.

    That aside, it is a very nice watch 🙂

    1. Bruno, I fully understand your remarks, but some brands seem to see it differently. Such a watch is made to increase the traffic in the own boutiques or to bring new clients to them. This edition is more a marketing tool then a limited edition, so I would not wonder if in a while you can also buy the same or a very similar not limited edition at your local Zenith retailer…

      1. says: Marcus Hanke

        If we are lucky, we might see a non-limited version in a sturdy steel case, without the flimsy black PVD coat, that will be sold via their authorized dealer network – at a lower list price than this version has. A win-win situation for the customers …

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