The Zenith Elite Chronograph Classic watch hands-on
This is the Zenith Elite Chronograph Classic and, yes: it is actually equipped with the El Primero caliber 4069. Do you find it a bit misleading? It probably is, because, across the years, these two collections have been always been kept separated and Zenith has always made sure to brand them in a quite different way; the former clearly focuses on the slim automatic in-house-built caliber Elite that was awarded the "best movement of the year" prize when it was first unveiled in 1994, while the latter is the glorious 5Hz automatic industrially-built chrono that is some sort of a “legend” in the watchmaking industry. Having said that, this watch is one of the new timepieces released by Zenith this year.
Zenith has strategically repositioned itself on the market, so, if you are one of its customers, be prepared to see a 20% to 30% increase (or even more in same cases) in the price of the brand's new timepieces over last year's retail prices. The Elite collection has been thoroughly redesigned and rebranded, the collection's base model has been given a new style that reminds us of the three hands mechanical watches from the early 50s and, most importantly, the new caliber Elite 6150 has been re-engineered to provide users with an even better accuracy and with up to 100 hours of Power Reserve. In a nutshell, Zenith is steadly enhancing what has made it a renowned and widely appreciated brand across the centuries and a leader in the industry of manufactured movements making.
The Zenith Elite Chronograph Classic is the chrono version of the Zenith Elite 6150 and at first sight and from a distance it looks like the Piaget Altiplano Chronograph (please take a look at our review on here). The Zenith is a two registers chrono with a beautiful slightly domed sapphire crystal and a pie-pan like dial, whereas the Piaget is a super-slim hand-wound three counters chrono where everything from the dial to the crystal and the case back is flat, last but not least the two timepieces have a complete different positioning on the market. The idea behind a watch like this one is to create a timeless and no frills design; a super-legible classy style spoting a vintage attire but, please don't call this watch a vintage re-edition! It has a flavour of a vintage feel but the case, the chrono pushers and the crown size confirm that it is a modern timepiece with just a touch of minimalism inherited from the past.
As I said at the beginning of this article, it features the king of the chronos: no other chrono movement boasts the same heritage as the El Primero caliber and no other manufacturer provides a 5Hz industrial automatic caliber unless you opt for a Grand Seiko Hi-Beat (that, however, is not offered as a chrono version). It is not only a matter of legacy but of chronometric performance, reliability, and technical features such as a column-wheel mechanism and a vertical clutch; two features that you will fully appreciate if you compare this chrono to cheaper ones. It is also good-looking since some years ago Zenith decided to adopt a new, redesigned winding rotor with the big Zenith Star sitting in the middle.
With the introduction of the Zenith Elite Chronograph Classic on the market, the brand from Le Locle has come up with a new and neatly looking timepiece that would suit perfectly well the classy and modern professionals. If you are into buying stylish items with a lot of technical stuff in them, this timepiece is the perfect choice and, in my opinion, the presence of the El Primero movement weighs at least 50% when it comes to purchasing such an item. Are you ready to find out what the price tag is? It is around 8,400USD for the stainless steel version, which means a huge mark-up over last year's or two year's ago retail prices, when you could still get your hands on an El Primero chrono for around 5,000€.
Do you think this watch is worth this price? When it comes to quality, it is sometimes hard to find such a good overall package, so was the 5,000€ price tag too low or is the new price tag too high? Personally I would have gone for something under the 6,000€ threshold and not because this timepiece actually lacks something and despite the fact that I really like it a lot, I can hardly understand what has really changed over the last couple of years to justify such a steep increase. The Rose Gold version sells at 21,500USD and is available in a limited run of 150 pieces only, exclusively crafted to celebrate Zenith's 150th anniversary that is happening this year.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Zenith Watches; Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter®