Zenith El Primero Surf

Calm El Primero

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Zenith El Primero 'Surf'
Ref. 01.0210.415

A true blue-collar chronograph without the Italian flair or typical 70's vibrant colors, just a design reminiscent of the straightforward elegance of the 1960s.

Quick facts

Zenith's website

Brand: Zenith
Model: El Primero "Surf"
Reference: 01.0210.415
Year: 1970's
Case: Stainless steel, 36mm
Caliber: 3019 PHC, automatic

What about it

No vibrant hues here — just two models in silver and gold plated. Yet, there's a whisper about someone having a black version too!

This chronograph was released just after the transitional year of 1972, when Zenith introduced a new square logo and system of reference numbers. With that came a new aesthetic. This 37mm steel case houses a perfectly matched grey dial, leading to a quite austere and unified appearance. Inside beats the auto 3019 PHC, with quick set date. Interestingly, you'll see this calibre signed as both 17 or 31 jewels, and both are legitimate. The 17 jewel movement was built through Movado for the US market to be easier to import.

But that's not the most charming point of this watch. That is, somewhat ironically, its thickness. Zenith went through all the immense trouble of engineering a quite thin automatic chronograph movement, right at the front of the pack. However, by the mid 70s, trends had swung firmly toward more vertically bulky and substantial watch cases. With no sense of irony, Zenith fitted their thin, beautiful 3019 into a case which lent it far more breathing room than required and called it a day. This is the most common criticism lobbied at the 'Surf' El Primero series. Whatever the case, this quirky 70s high beat is an outsized value today, one with immense charm and history.

This was 4000 units ever produced, gold plated 1000.


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El Primero cal 3019 PCH movement

El Primero movement

The El Primero movement stands as an iconic achievement, boasting over 50 years of continuous production. Its inception in 1969 marked the culmination of seven dedicated years by Zenith's craftsmen, driven to craft the inaugural fully integrated automatic chronograph movement. While the easier path would have involved appending a module to a base movement, Zenith pursued a more ambitious vision, laden with additional requisites, thereby intensifying the project's complexity. Foremost among these demands was the pursuit of an elevated beat frequency within the calibre, enabling the chronograph function to impeccably measure time down to 1/10th of a second.

Article on Monochrome watches

Zenith El Primero Surf

Clean and smooth

Zenith and El Primeros never fail in crafting stunning timepieces, and this dial is a quintessential example of a classic chronograph. It boasts clear contrasts, onyx applied hour markers, and impeccable typography. The gold-plated version adds an extra touch of finesse to an already exceptional design.

Sporting one of these timepieces feels good, although I usually lean towards lengthier cases; or perhaps it's the thickness of the watch. There's something about it very 1970's. The legibility is impressive, and observing the smooth gliding movement of that chronograph seconds hand is truly delightful!

Zenith El Primero Surf dial
Zenith El Primero Surf Zenith El Primero Surf Zenith El Primero Surf Zenith El Primero Surf



Availability: rare
Few watches on sale

Pricing: 2,000 - 4,000 €
(Dec 2023)



Not much available for this reference.