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El Primero 3019, the chronograph that has become a Swiss watchmaking legend, celebrates its 43rd anniversary.
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El Primero: its name comes from Esperanto, and means “the first”. More than just a word, El Primero is the name of an entire collection, placing this legendary caliber in the spotlight. With its El Primero 3019 movement, Zenith was the first to produce a high-frequency automatic integrated column-wheel chronograph. The El Primero chronograph sets itself apart by a unique technical feat: it is the only series-produced caliber capable of actually measuring the tenths of a second thanks to a direct connection with its regulating organ. The secret of this extreme precision is the speed of its balance: 10 vibrations per second, compared to the usual rate of others beating at 8 vibrations per second. This disparity makes all the difference, as it places the El Primero caliber in the realm of high-frequency watchmaking. To fully grasp what this high balance speed means, one need simply listen to the incredibly fast ticking of an El Primero movement – or simply calculate that 10 vibrations per second represents 36,000 vibrations per hour! Ever since it was first launched in 1969, this chronograph has always been considered the best on the market. It met all the targets set out by Zenith in the initial specifications: high frequency, an integrated automatic chronograph function and a power reserve of 50 hours, all contained within a reasonably sized movement.
If this legendary chronograph remains at the pinnacle of watchmaking forty-three years after its creation, it is due to its excellent performances of course, but also to the technical developments that have continued to enhance this exceptional caliber year after year. The Striking 10th and Flyback functions are the latest additions to this legendary chronograph – still the world’s most accurate series-produced mechanical caliber. El Primero movements are exclusively reserved by Zenith for its own timepieces. The El Primero Striking 10th is entirely produced from start to finish at the Manufacture in Le Locle: its production requires 9 months of accumulated work and keeps 296 expert hands busy during the 2500 operations of its production process (which includes 381 checking phases). A total of almost 400 parts are assembled during this production cycle. All in all, a very high-precision process for very high-precision watches.