Zenith - The Geneva Watch Auction: XIV Geneva Friday, November 5, 2021 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Manufacturer: Zenith
    Year: 1969
    Reference No: GH 381
    Case No: 485D928
    Model Name: El Primero
    Material: 18K yellow gold
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 3019, 21 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Gilt Zenith pin buckle
    Dimensions: 37.5mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and buckle signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by Zenith box and Zenith Extract from the Archives confirming produciton of the present watch in April 1969

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Zenith El Primero made horological history on January 10, 1969, the day the first prototypes were presented to the press. It was the world’s first automatic, high-frequency chronograph, with a balance wheel running at 36,000 beats per hour.

    The El Primero was launched with two models: the A386 in stainless steel and the G381 in 18k yellow gold. Both shared similar aesthetics, most notably with a 37.5 mm case that featured wide, faceted lugs, as well as pump pushers. But the inaugural El Primero models each had a distinct dial. Whilst the steel example was given overlapping tricolour registers, the yellow gold G381 had a more classical “panda”
    dial of black registers on a white face.

    Both models were in production for a mere three years – from 1969 to 1971 – and made in small numbers. According to the reference tome Zenith - Swiss Watch Manufacture Since 1865 by Manfred Rössler, only about 2,500 of the steel A386 were produced. And the precious-metal G381, unsurprisingly, is even rarer, with less than 700 made.

    When Zenith marked the 50th anniversary of the El Primero last year, one of the vintage models it reproduced was the G381, as a 50-piece limited edition, underlining its historical significance.

    The present example of this historical reference from 1969 is without a doubt in a most honest condition: no signs of restoration can be found on the dial, instead all the graphics are present and in extremely good condition, and the centesimal scale track has acquired a wonderful tropical brown hue.

  • 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.

    View More Works


Ref. GH 381
A charismatic and bold yellow gold automatic chronograph wristwatch with tropical dial and box

37.5mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and buckle signed

CHF8,000 - 12,000 

Sold for CHF32,760

Contact Specialist

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

The Geneva Watch Auction: XIV

Geneva Auction 5 & 7 November 2021