Since last year, Zenith has been handling the official timekeeping of five of the prestigious races organised by Peter Auto: the Vallelunga-Classic on the Autodromo Piero Taruffi in Italy (March 28-29), the Spa-Classic on the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps track (May 22-24), the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or on the Dijon-Prenois track (June 5-8), the Monza Historic in Italy (July 10-12), and the Dix Mille Tours du Castellet on the Paul Ricard track, also in France (October 2-4). While competitors can experience the races at their own pace, each of them is an authentic sporting trial in which around 300 competing cars representing the history of motor racing vie with each other at the best European venues such as Spa-Francorchamps, considered by many drivers to be the world’s finest track.
On January 10, 1969, Zenith introduced its worldwide launch of an integrated automatic chronograph. Born of a simple idea that required seven years to develop, the El Primero movement was a double world first. It was the first to feature a chronograph that was not of the add-on modular type; and it was also the world’s most precise movement with a high frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour ensuring tenth-of-a-second precision. The aptly named movement quickly became a legend in modern haute horlogerie, since alongside its exceptional intrinsic qualities, it displays exceptional resistance to extreme conditions.
An exceptional movement in every way, El Primero features two other technical characteristics that were particularly impressive at the time. Its design is based on a column wheel, the ultimate component of the extremely high-quality chronographs invented in the 19th century: it interprets the pressure exercised on the push-piece to handle the chronograph start, stop and reset functions.
Composed of a ratchet-wheel with several triangular-shaped teeth called columns, the column wheel is machined from a block of steel whose hardness makes it particularly resistant to repeated handling. The second major characteristic of the original movement is its lubrication. Given the high frequency of the balance-wheel oscillations, the escapement oils tend to be centrifuged to the point of disturbing the smooth running of the mechanism, which is why the movement is given a dry lubrication.
While it has always equipped Zenith timepieces, and not only those of the El Primero line, it has constantly evolved over the years to welcome complications and avant-garde mechanisms that have earned it a number of awards. To mark the brand’s 150 th anniversary, and as part of a constant quest for excellence, all the El Primero calibres intended for the Open or tourbillon models will notably be chronometer-certified by the COSC (Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute). The oscillating weight of these movements will be engraved with the inscription “Certified Chronometer”.
In 2003, Zenith launched an idea: why not make the beating heart of the watch – its regulating organ – clearly visible? This thought sparked the development of a new concept christened Open. The teams of watchmakers and movement developers had to entirely rethink the calibre’s construction. After several months of research, the balance-wheel and balance-spring were shifted to the periphery and revealed through what would become one of the signatures of the El Primero line: an 11 o’clock dial opening which, in the case of the Tour Auto Edition, is a nod to the impressive view of a racing car mechanism when its hood is up.
Model: El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Tour Auto Edition
Automatic Column-Wheel Chronograph - Tribute to Classic Cars in Partnership with Peter Auto
500-Piece Limited Edition
El Primero 4061, automatic
Calibre: 13 1/4 ‘’’ (diameter: 30 mm)
Thickness: 6.60 mm
Frequency: 36,000 vph (5 Hz)
Power reserve: min. 50 hours
Finishes: oscillating weight adorned with Côtes de Genève
Central hours and minutes
Small seconds at 9 o’clock
- Central sweep-seconds hand
- 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock
- 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock
Case, dial and hands
Material: brushed steel case
Diameter: 42 mm
Dial-opening diameter: 37.10 mm
Thickness: 14.05 mm
Glass: cambered sapphire crystal glare-proofed on both sides
Case-back: transparent sapphire crystal engraved with the Tour Auto logo
Water resistance: 10 ATM
Dial: brushed rhodium-plated
Hour-markers: rhodium-plated, facetted and filled with Superluminova SLN C1
Hands: rhodium-plated, facetted and filled with Superluminova SLN C1
Strap and buckle
Blue calfskin with protective black rubber lining and steel triple-blade folding clasp
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