More than all of the new and desirable vintage spec-ed watches that Zenith has been getting universal praise for, perhaps the one thing that the brand did for itself, that will prove to be an absolute gamechanger, is the unearthing of the many treasures that one Charles Vermot stowed away in the attic of the manufacture’s historic building, during its darkest days.
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In 1975, an American brand that owned the Zenith watch company mandated that the watchmaker should focus on making quartz watches only. To the people at the Manufacture who had given their heart and soul to their labor, this was horrible news. Among them was Charles Vermot, a specialist in chronograph movement construction who had followed the development of El Primero ever since the first sketches and spent his entire career within the Manufacture. He was convinced that mechanical watchmaking would return before long and asked the management at the time to not do away with all of the production equipment. His request was, however, met with a firm no. He then took it upon himself to stow away the more essential equipment including, the presses (150 of them, weighing more than a ton), the technical plans, the cams and the cutting tools. Not only that, he even listed each component and each tool carefully in a ring-binder file that he kept in a forgotten attic of the Manufacture. Fast forward to 1978, Zenith was now under new management again, who decided that Zenith should reclaim its craft. Thanks to Charles Vermot’s quick thinking back in 1975, Zenith was able to pick up on its mechanical watchmaking prowess without having skipped a beat.
It is the single reason why today we are able to say definitively that the world’s first automatic winding chronograph movement, the 1969 El Primero was, in fact, loaded into an A384 ahead of the A386.
The A384, which as of its revival last year, has seen some of the most moving vintage spec-ed re-editions in recent memory. Not to toot our own horns, but the lore of the A384 is what led us to develop the Zenith x Revolution Chronomaster Revival Ref. A3818 “Cover Girl” earlier in February of 2020.
But it seems as though the famed attic at Zenith is yet yielding more treasures. Treasures such as the prototype watch that served as the inspiration behind the watch Zenith is announcing today: the Chronomaster Revival “Shadow”.
CEO Julien Tornare shared the story of the watch with us saying that they had found the prototype in an obscure box in one of the rooms in the attic which is just full of objects from Zenith’s past.
When found, this protype appeared to be in poor condition. The condition further suggested that the watch had been there for a very long time. It was Zenith’s head of product, and the keeper of the history of Zenith, Romain Marietta who shed light on the prototype explaining that they had uncovered something important and that a new watch should be made taking inspiration from what they had uncovered.
The prototype uncovered isn’t exactly an A384, but it’s also not a completely round case. According Julien, the treatment on the watch would’ve been “PVD in those years”. The Zenith team has since uncovered that there are about four instances of the prototype out there. They found the one in the manufacture, one is unaccounted for and the last two instances were supposedly sold off many years back.
Of the last two, the team is aware that at least one of them has been seen in the auction scene quite regularly. Most recently it was seen listed on Hodinkee’s shop, where it was sold to a client of Zenith’s.
Today, the Chronomaster Revival “Shadow” carries on the memory of this prototype in the form of a modern, dark, almost brutal A384 with a microblasted titanium case. The case might remind you of the earlier El Primero Revival A384 Edge of Space Limited Edition. But in the instance of the Shadow, the color on the case is a fair bit darker.
Pair that with a sheer matte-black dial, contrasting grey sub dials and stark white markings, and altogether you have yet another hit on hand for Zenith and the A384.
This Zenith Chronomaster might be called the Shadow, but it walks in none.
El Primero 4061 Automatic, 5 Hz, with minimum of 50 hours of power reserve.
Original 1969 case in microblasted titanium, 37mm.
Black with grey counters and tachymeter scale, hands and markers rhodium-plated with SuperLuminivo
Black “Cordura effect” strap and white stitching. Microblasted titanium pin buckle.
The Zenith Chronomaster Revival ‘Shadow’ has a retail price of 8400 CHF.