Zenith - The Geneva Watch Auction: XI Geneva Sunday, June 28, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Zenith
    Year: Circa 1971
    Reference No: SP 1301
    Case No: 906D.094
    Model Name: El Primero
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 3019, 31 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel pin buckle
    Dimensions: 37mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by Zenith presentation box and undated guarantee stamped by the retailer

  • Catalogue Essay

    1969 was a very important year for the watchmaking industry. While it is still a never ending discussion on whose automatic chronograph caliber came first, it is accepted by everyone that the El Primero is the first to be designed as a whole rather than being an automatic movement with an added chronograph module. With an extraordinary high frequency of 36’000 VPH, the mechanical movement ensured outstanding timekeeping performance. So highly regarded were these El Primero movements that they would later be selected by Rolex as the base on which to develop the movement of the first automatic Daytona chronograph (reference 16520).

    The name El Primero refers to both the watch model and the movement. The present El Primero reference 1301 is part of the early production. At the time of the El Primero launch, two case designs were available, the one on the present watch is the most sculptural of the two. With strong angles and wide sunburst satin finish sections, the watch exalts its beauty only when the case is perfectly crisp and has never been polished as in this example. To confirm the unworn condition of this watch, the caseback still retains its original blue paint.

    The dial is no less impressive: the once-black outer track and subsidiary dials have evenly aged to an astoundingly charming hazelnut hue. Such a strong tropicalization not only highly enhances the aesthetic virtues of the piece, it is furthermore an extremely rare occurrence and enormously enhances the appeal and collectability of this remarkable wristwatch.

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1865

    Since Zenith's beginnings, founder George Favre-Jacot sought to manufacture precision timepieces, realizing quality control was best maintained when production was housed under one roof. Zenith remains one of the few Swiss manufacturers to produce their own in-house movements to this day.

    Today, the brand is best known for the "El Primero," the firm's most successful automatic chronograph movement. In an interesting twist of fate, the company that owned Zenith during the 1970s decided to move on to quartz movements and therefore sought to destroy the parts and tools necessary to make mechanical movements. One watchmaker realized this folly and hid the tools and parts before they were destroyed. In 1984, he returned them to Zenith so they could once again make the El Primero movement.

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Ref. SP 1301
An extremely attractive and very rare stainless steel automatic chronograph wristwatch with date and brown tropical registers

Circa 1971
37mm Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed

CHF5,000 - 10,000 

Sold for CHF43,750

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East

41 79 637 1724

The Geneva Watch Auction: XI

Geneva Auction 27 - 28 June 2020