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  • Manufacturer: Zenith
    Year: Circa 1969
    Reference No: A384
    Case No: 516D891
    Model Name: El Primero
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 3019 PHC, 31 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Zenith Gay Frères ladder bracelet, max length 205mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Zenith Gay Frères deployant clasp stamped “4,69”
    Dimensions: 37mm diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement, bracelet and clasp signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    Chronograph wristwatches have always been a collector’s favorite, especially if it hails from the mid-20th century. However, none have marked such an important milestone in the history of chronograph wristwatches such as the Zenith El Primero. Launched by the firm in 1969, the El Primero was one of the very first self-winding chronograph movements manufactured at the time. Revolutionary, the caliber was not like any other from the respective period, as it was designed as a wholly integrated chronograph movement rather than a self-winding caliber with an added chronograph complication.

    With an impressive performance and highly precise, the caliber operates at 36,000 VPH, a very high frequency for a mechanical watch at the time. However, the story of the EL Primero goes far beyond its technical capabilities. Stored in a warehouse up the road of the manufacturer in LeLocle, Switzerland, the movements were set to be destroyed amidst the quartz crisis of the 1970s. However, Charles Vermot a staff at the manufacturer at the time had hid the equipment as well as the blueprint for the El Primero in the attic, hence saving it from being destroyed. However, the moment came soon when Rolex and Zenith struck an agreement to have the LeLocle based manufacturer to produce new calibers for the coveted Rolex Daytona. With that said, Charles Vermot’s heroic act became an important asset to one of the most beautiful and inspiring horological stories, which created arguably one of the most iconic wristwatches of the 20th century.

    Extremely rare, early examples of the Zenith El Primero were referenced A384. With only 2,600 examples ever produced, the A384 is one of the most highly sought after Zenith El Primero models. The present example in stainless steel is offered in attractive overall condition as is further enticed with a beautiful tropicalization of the outer track due to ageing turning the originally black section brown. Furthermore, the present example is fitted with a rare and original Gay Frères ladder bracelet which is stamped “PAT.PEND.” on the extension link. Superbly attractive boasting an unpolished case, the present example is a must-have for collectors of vintage chronographs.

  • 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. A384
An attractive and rare stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with date, brown “tropical” outer track and Gay Frères bracelet

Circa 1969
37mm diameter
Case, dial and movement, bracelet and clasp signed

HK$32,000 - 47,000 

Sold for HK$100,000

Contact Specialist

Delissa Handoko

Associate Specialist, Head of Online Sales, Hong Kong, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+852 2318 2013

[email protected]


Thomas Perazzi

Head of Watches, Asia

+852 2318 2031

[email protected]


Yoki Chan

Junior Specialist, Jewels, Hong Kong

+852 2318 2036

[email protected]

Intersect: Online Auction

Online Auction 2 - 14 September 2020