Zenith - Racing Pulse New York Saturday, December 12, 2020 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Zenith
    Year: Circa 1970
    Reference No: SP 1301
    Case No: 232E619
    Model Name: El Primero
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 3019, 31 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Dimensions: 37mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by Zenith presentation box and “El Primero” instructions brochure

  • Catalogue Essay

    Vintage stainless steel chronographs have grown in popularity over the last decade as watch enthusiasts have come to appreciate both the form and function of these classic mid-20th century wristwatches. They are rugged, dependable, and move easily from casual settings to formal. Early chronographs were manual-wind timepieces, however in the late 1960s both Zenith and Heuer introduced automatic chronograph movements. In 1969, Zenith released their first such movement with the “El Primero”, which is still celebrated for its innovation with an extraordinary high frequency of 36,000 beats per hour, ensuring outstanding timekeeping performance. The movement became so well-known for its quality, that Rolex used it as the base for their first automatic chronograph, the Daytona reference 16520 released in 1988.

    The reference SP 1301 is an early production El Primero featuring a case with a sculptural tonneau form with strong angles and lug bevels. This example is fresh to the market coming directly from the family of the original owner, who started the prosperous Melody TV in the Bay Area, which sold only Zenith televisions. The owner was awarded this fine timepiece for selling the most Zenith televisions in the Bay Area, and he wore it daily for many years before it was then relegated to a safety deposit box. The watch has remained unpolished over the last 50 years, and the registers and tachymeter have turned a lovely warm and light brownish hue. The color tone is evenly aged, and the dial remains well-preserved with intact luminous hour markers. The rarity of this impressive timepiece is further enhanced by the addition of the original Zenith presentation box, along with the Zenith “El Primero” instruction booklet. Today’s collectors seek rare and unusual watches, and this Zenith “El Primero” is an excellent example of a remarkable period in horology with both a technically advanced movement, and classic case design. The collectability of the watch is enhanced by its absolutely original condition, and lovely aged dial. It is a tribute to both the owner who cared for it, and the brand which created an icon.

    Consigned by the Family of the Original Owner

  • 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
A very attractive and fine stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with “tropical” registers and tachymeter scale, accompanied by original presentation box and literature

Circa 1970
37mm Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed

$4,000 - 6,000 

Sold for $37,800

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Paul Boutros
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Racing Pulse

New York Auction 12 December 2020