|Dial Color:||Creme white|
|Dimensions:||37 mm, 47mm from lug to lug|
|Bracelet/Strap:||WRIST ICONS leather strap made by Jean Paul Menicucci|
|Box/Paper:||Full set box and papers|
WRIST ICONS is proud to present you an unicorn, a Zenith El Primero reference A3817 from the early 1970s as a full set!! This is the second time we bring the A3817, one of our favorite references. This time a really special one. You will almost never see an A3817 with its original red box and matching written certificate with date of sale and a stamp of the authenticated dealer.
A similar piece sold at the Geneva watch Auction in June 2020 without box and papers for 40.000CH!
The first El Primero from the 1969 until the early 1970s are considered really icons which are much appreciated among collectors. It is a design classic with its tri-colour dial, and its ground breaking movement. This watch combines great looks while being the smartest kid in town. Zenith is brand with a really big heritage they won the most prices for their chronometers. Since the introduction of the El Primero in 1969 they became famous for their distinctive high-beat chronograph timepieces – technically advanced wristwatches are very much in Zenith’s DNA. And - carrying the Calibre 3019 PHC - this piece belongs to the prestigious line of the first-ever automatic chronographs.
The Zenith A3817 is like an A386 on steroids. Many collectors chose the A386 since that reference is the first Primero ever made. The A3817 is a very hard to get reference which is rarer and according to some collectors has an even nicer case design; while the more popular A 386 is housed in a more traditional circular case, this A 3817 has a muscular tonneau shaped case. The three-color dial is almost similar to the legendary Zenith Reference A386. The same but different. There is a difference between the dials of these two references in the sub-dial of the current second at 9 o'clock. The reference A386 has a blue pointer and blue indices. In the A386, however, all sub-dials are provided with white indices and white pointers. The A3817 has a grey outer track which displays both a tachymeter and a pulsation scale, while the A3816 only has a tachy scale. The triangular minute scale and red chronograph paddle hand and big star crown all combine to create a look that is undeniably Zenith.
The Zenith El Primero represents one of the most iconic watches in the history of watch making. It was the first automatic chronograph introduced to the market and one of the first automatic chronographs produced in series. During the 1960s there were three parties competing to build the first automatic chronograph. The main players were a consortium of companies with mutual interests: Heuer, Buren-Hamilton, Breitling and Dubois-Depraz. In the Far East, Seiko was working on its own version. And then there was the dark horse from Le Locle: Zenith. Whether or not the so-called Chrono-matic group — Hamilton-Buren, Breitling, Heuer, and Dubois-Dupraz — or Seiko actually beat the El Primero to market is not important. What’s important is this: the Zenith movement that resulted seven years after the journey began in 1962 is arguably still one of the best automatic chronograph in its price range 50 years later. Zenith proudly claims the “El Primero” to be the first-ever automatic chronograph, emphasizing its full integration and completeness - with a column-wheel and central rotor on ball bearings - as opposed to a being a modular addition. The name “El Primero” by no coincidence translates to “the first”.
If you want to read more about the race for the introduction of the first automatic chronograph, I refer to Jeff Steins Jeff Stein, founder of On The Dash, and author of Project 99 his article The Race to Develop the World's First Automatic Chronograph and his recent publication of this article on Hodinkee.
Besides from the fact that the Primero was the first automatic chronograph introduced to the market there is little question that Zenith’s El-Primero 3019PHC movement could be considered the most technically advanced of the three. This movement certainly had a huge impact on horological development. It was a completely integrated movement, as compared to the Caliber 11, which consisted of a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module mated with a base movement from Buren. It also featured a seconds, hour, and minute counter and the date function, as compared to the Seiko 6139, which had neither an hour nor continuous seconds counter (though it did possess the day function – and let's not forget that the 6139 was also the first automatic chronograph with vertical clutch).
The El Primero was a watchmaking marvel of its time — and not just for one reason. For one, the watch featured a column wheel chronograph with a tri-compax layout. Most chronographs at the time (and many today) utilized a cam-actuated chronograph. There are benefits and drawbacks of using both types of chronographs, but column wheel production is more complex and labor-intensive. That Zenith chose to utilize a column wheel chronograph shows the level of end-to-end watchmaking that went into the El Primero development.
The smooth sweep of the seconds hand is much beloved by watch wearers. Today, the balance wheel in most mechanical watches beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour (vph); if you look closely, that smooth seconds hand sweep is actually eight ticks per second. The El Primero, on the other hand, is what’s known as a high-beat movement, making 10 ticks per second, or 36,000 vph. Not only does this create a smoother sweep, the 5hz beat rate allows measurement up to 1/10th of a second, in comparison to up to just one-fifth of a second (at a rate of 2.5hz) of its contemporaries. High-beat movements were rare in 1969, and they’re rare today. Even Rolex slowed the El Primero down to 28,800vph for the Daytona.
With more beats per hour comes increased wear and tear on the escapement. To counter this, Zenith developed special lubricants that would keep the El Primero on the wrist more often than in a watchmaker’s hands. The other critical deficiency of a “quick tick”, though, is the tendency to lose power faster than normal. Zenith made the solution look simple: they used a mainspring capable of a 50-hour power reserve. These are the sorts of decisions that have proven Zenith is unwilling to cut corners, and they’ve paid off in spades (and by spades, we mean millions of dollars and a cult following).
In 1985, Zenith resurrected the “El Primero” line, reissuing the calibre 3019PHC (as the calibre 40.0), and it is still in production today under the designation “calibre 400”. This movement was so well build that even Rolex used it for its Daytona series. One of the most widely respected Rolex Daytona references, the 16520, used the base calibre 400 in its re-designed flagship sports watch from 1988 until early 2000. It was also used in watches of Ebel and Movado.
The movement has been serviced by a Zenith specialized watchmaker. The pictures of the movement on the site are taken before the service. Pictures of the movement after service will be added to this post.
This stunning example of the Zenith El Primero Ref. A3817 is from 1971 (With serial number 232 XXXX). According to the work of leading Zenith authority, Manfred Rössler, who stated in his book on page 240 only 1,000 tri-colour A3817s were made in 1971, compared to 2,500 of its slightly more common cousin, the ever-popular A386. According to the book Zenith, by Joël Duval the model, ref. A386, was produced between 1969 and 1972, a total production of 4500 examples in stainless steel. Uniquely, the A3817 has blue sub-seconds hand on the 9 o'clock sub-dial, which is also painted with blue indices. In comparison, the A386 has all its sub-dials painted with white indices and uniformly white hands.
Overall, the exceptional finishing of the Zenith El Primero A3817 is noteworthy, both for its design and execution. This steel Zenith El Primero (ref. A3817) is remarkably well preserved.
As with all of our pre-owned watches this watch comes with a full 12 month warranty with ourselves that will be invoked from the day of purchase.
Viewings can be arranged at our office by appointment.