A Chronograph with a View: Zenith Releases a New Chronomaster Open at Watches & Wonders 2022
When your job is to maintain the pace of innovation for something like the El Primero, introduced in 1969 as the first automatic high-frequency integrated chronograph movement, you must do it in some logical steps.
The expected references to heritage timepieces? Check. A modern revision of the movement that yields a new design zeitgeist yet remains faithful to the El Primero’s spirit? Of course. But there is also some room for something a little out-of-the-box.
While Zenith introduced the first open-work Chronomaster in 2003, the latest iteration, dubbed the Chronomaster Open, was unveiled at Watches & Wonders in Geneva last Wednesday. And not only does it offer visibility into the state-of-the-art modern El Primero 36,000 VpH movement (which boasts 1/10th of a second timing capability), but it takes transparency into some new, artfully appropriate territory.
To cut to the chase: the small seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock on the new Chronomaster Open is transparent but includes an overlay that mimics the gauging and functionality of a traditional counter. And from there, two additional circular apertures “bubble up” from 9 o’clock. These form an overlapping, organic window into the column-wheel chronograph movement’s heart: the regulator, silicon escape wheel, pallet lever, and bridges, to name a few of the components.
Moreover, some of the movement’s under-the-surface colors and finishings bring added pops to the dial, like the ruby-colored screws and the purple-ish wheel. Although they provide a little extra visual stimulation, they do so without feeling disconnected from the Chronomaster’s iconic tri-color design and the dial’s overall balance. You don’t even notice that the hour markers from 9 to 11 o’clock have been reduced to small squares or the Zenith logo nudged over a bit to make space for the bubbling new see-through real estate.
New Family Member
In every other respect, the three versions of the Chronomaster Open (two in steel, one in rose gold) present true-to-form executions of a modern 39.5mm Zenith sports chronograph.
All share the El Primero 3604 movement from the Chronomaster Sport that features 60 hours of power reserve; 1/10th of a second timing capability; a central chronograph hand; 60-second counter at 3 o’clock; 60-minute counter at 6 o’clock; and small seconds at 9 o’clock. A new star-shaped oscillating weight with satin-finishing is visible through the display caseback, which also affords additional views of the movement’s components.
In a sense, the new Chronomaster Open injects a dose of technicality and transparency from Zenith’s DEFY Extreme timepieces into the Chronomaster line. The design concept is unorthodox and unexpected, but the execution and intent do not break rank with the nature of a modern sports chronograph.
In a press release, the brand said that this reintroduction of the Chronomaster Open “marks the completion of Zenith’s seminal chronograph collection.” But if you start thinking about the spirit of creative cross-pollination this watch represents, I’m not sure if I’m ready to take their word for it.
Versions, Pricing, & Availability
There are two steel-on-steel-bracelet Chronomaster Opens from which to choose. One with a black dial and one with a white dial. Moreover, a technical rubber strap is also available for the steel executions. The price of both these versions is CHF 9,900.
There is also a handsome 18K rose gold version that has a white dial execution and comes on a rich blue calfskin leather strap, which ups the elegance ante on this new open-work chronograph family. There is also a planned boutique-only version of the Chronomaster Open with a blue dial on steel, but details were unavailable at publishing. The price of the rose gold model is CHF 19,900.