Fratello’s Top 5 Recent Zenith Limited Editions — Featuring The A3818 “Cover Girl,” Lupin The Third Trilogy, And More
Another Friday, another Top 5! In last week’s list, we looked at some of the most affordable Rolex sports watches currently out there. It sparked a lively and legitimate discussion about affordability but also showed that prices are lower than they have been in a long time. This week, we move on to a different brand. It’s one that is connected to Rolex, though. After all, Zenith provided Rolex with its El Primero movement for the first-generation automatic Daytona. This week, we want to focus on Zenith’s brilliant limited-edition releases. It’s a Top 5 that shows the brand’s unique ability to push the boundaries of design.
Within the Fratello team, there is a lot of love for Zenith. The Le Locle-based brand has released some great timepieces over the last couple of years, showing that it’s always looking to innovate and be creative in its design solutions. The best proof of that is in Zenith’s many brilliant limited editions. Specifically, the Chronomaster Revival and Original limited-edition models show the relevance of Zenith’s designs from the 1960s and ’70s. On top of that, the brand’s design team is not afraid to completely reinterpret its classics to come up with some surprising new results. It’s why picking just five watches for this list was tough. But in the end, we made some tough choices and came up with our five favorite recent Zenith limited editions.
Zenith Chronomaster Original Limited Edition for Hodinkee
The Zenith Chronomaster Original is the modern remake of the famous El Primero A386. When the Chronomaster Original came out in 2021, fans were excited to see the legacy of the A386 return in style. Since then, we have seen several limited editions that proved the versatility of the design. But the one that stands out immediately among all of them is the Chronomaster Original Limited Edition for Hodinkee. Essentially, the watch is a regular Chronomaster Original with a different dial. But what a difference this dial makes!
This watch features an opaline salmon dial with contrasting sub-dials in three shades of gray. The chronograph scale surrounding the hour markers is also light gray, creating a great combination of colors that I adore. The color-matched date wheel is a nice detail, allowing it to blend in perfectly. Furthermore, the watch features a 38mm stainless steel case that is 12.6mm thick.
It comes fitted with an Oyster-style bracelet instead of the iconic Gay Frères ladder bracelet. Inside the case is the automatic Zenith El Primero caliber 3600. Once you activate the column-wheel chronograph, the central chronograph hand will make a full lap around the dial in only 10 seconds. It’s a joy to see in action, and it makes this standout 300-piece limited edition even more special.
Zenith Chronomaster Revival A384 Lupin The Third Trilogy
The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A384 Lupin The Third trilogy is a brilliant display of Zenith’s creativity and willingness to think outside the box. Many of you will be familiar with the story, but I’ll gladly repeat it because it is remarkable. The first two Lupin The Third editions came out in 2021 in Japan only. The third was unveiled worldwide last year.
Brandon wrote a great article about the entire series that I recommend you read to learn more about the details. In short, Zenith’s three watches were inspired by the Japanese manga and anime series Lupin The Third. They all feature the Zenith A384’s iconic 37mm tonneau case that is 12.6mm thick and 47mm from lug to lug. Additionally, all watches are powered by the El Primero 400 movement, which has a 50-hour power reserve. It’s the modern version of the legendary El Primero movement that was unveiled in 1969.
It’s all about the creativity of design
The designs of the first and second editions were inspired by the watches seen on the wrist of Daisuke Jigen, sidekick and best friend to the titular character, Arsène Lupin III. The first features a black dial with gray chronograph registers, a gray tachymeter, and gold hands and indices. The second watch takes after the regular A384 and features a panda dial but with a white tachymeter scale instead of the black one. The black date disc and central chronograph hand are nice design details that complete this awesome daily wearer.
But things got really bonkers with the Final Edition. It features a diagonally split dial that combines the designs of the first two watches. It’s a ludicrous idea that works wonderfully well. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but it is the perfect example of why I love Zenith so much. Coming up with the idea is one thing, but being able to make it work is crazy on another level.
Zenith × Voutilainen × Phillips Calibre 135-O Unique Piece For Susan G. Komen
Another salmon dial? Yes, it is another Zenith watch with a salmon dial. But that is not the main story of the watch. The main story of the watch is the unique collaboration between Zenith, auction house Phillips, and Kari Voutilainen to bring back the legendary Calibre 135-O. Brandon wrote an excellent article on the black dial Zenith Calibre 135 Observatoire Limited Edition that came out in June of last year.
The platinum watch was created as an homage to the original Calibre 135-O that competed in the chronometry competitions in the 1950s. The original caliber was unveiled in 1949, and between 1950 and 1954, it won five consecutive top prizes at the Neuchâtel Observatory. Zenith decided to create 10 pieces of the watch that housed that special movement.
While the black-dial limited edition was a stunning piece, I picked the Zenith × Voutilainen × Phillips Calibre 135-O Unique Piece For Susan G. Komen that was auctioned off for a good cause in November of that same year and fetched a whopping €300,000. The watch houses the same observatory-tested and contest-winning movement, which was overhauled and finished by Kari Voutilainen and his team of watchmakers. Additionally, Voutilainen was responsible for the spectacular salmon dial that features a fish-scale guilloché pattern. Furthermore, the dial color matches the rose gold finish of the movement, creating a spectacular overall aesthetic.
A special niobium case
Whereas the original 10-piece limited edition featured a platinum case, for this unique version, Zenith chose to create a niobium case. As Vincent explained, using this ultra-oxidation-resistant alloy was a first for the brand. The case measures 38mm wide, 10.35mm thick, and 46.5mm long. The mix of polished and brushed finishes creates a nice dynamic and perfectly complements the beautiful hour and minute markers. Once again, combining gray/silver-colored elements and a pink salmon dial works miracles. But they are the perfect supporting actors in a story that is all about the historical movement that powers this unique piece.
Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Poker Chip”
Another example of Zenith’s courage to think outside the box is the brilliant Chronomaster Revival “Poker Chip” from 2021. The watch was a collaboration with Singapore-based watch magazine SJX Watches, and it pays tribute to the El Primero G383 “Poker Chip” from 1969. As Nacho explained, that watch earned the “Poker Chip” nickname thanks to its unique dial design. But simply recreating that watch would be too easy. That is why the Zenith design team reimagined the original design and ended up creating a brilliant modern version of it. Contrasting the watch’s dark gray and black presence is an abundance of lume that lights up like a Christmas tree.
It all starts with the familiar 38mm × 12.6mm Chronomaster Original case, this time executed in microblasted titanium. That not only makes the case lightweight but also gives it a texture and color that are the perfect stealthy canvas for the dial. The base colors of the dial are dark gray and black, matching the color of the case. Contrasting the dark dial colors are multiple light green elements that are all lumed. As Nacho explained, all the markings on the sub-dials, the numbers, and hash marks on the tachymeter and pulsometer feature green lume. The rhodium-plated hour and minute hands also have lume applied to them, and the small hands for the sub-dials and the central chronograph hand are also fully lume coated.
Would you prefer to go all-in?
As a result, the dial, which already stands out during the day, truly comes to life in the dark. It is a unique sight to see. Despite the rather busy layout, the different elements are reasonably easy to read. That stems from the special design that emphasizes the different functions. The watch came with two straps. The first was a black fabric strap for ultimate stealth. The second was a unique pale green Super-LumiNova-coated Cordura-style strap that finished the look perfectly. Dave, Nacho, and I are big fans of this “Poker Chip,” which was produced in a limited run of 200 pieces.
Zenith × Revolution “Cover Girl” El Primero A3818 Revival
We’ll close this list out with a game of “Can you spot the difference?” Zenith and Revolution collaborated on two different versions of the legendary A3818 “Cover Girl.” The first was released in stainless steel in 2020, and it brought back the brilliant aesthetic of the original A3818 from 1971.
As many of you will know, the “Cover Girl” nickname comes from the fact that the vintage A3818 graced the cover of Manfred Rössler’s Zenith retrospective. Zenith and Revolution did an amazing job of bringing back that watch in modern form. In my opinion, it should be part of the permanent collection, just like the brilliant A3817. It’s a popular aesthetic among Zenith fans, so it is no surprise that all 100 pieces sold out in no time.
Two years later, the Zenith × Revolution & The Rake Chronomaster Revival Airweight Cover Girl came out. It’s a mouthful for what is essentially a Grade 5 titanium version of the first limited edition. This time, Zenith decided to produce 250 pieces of the A3818 that featured a full-titanium case and bracelet.
While the brand had used titanium for other models before, the titanium Gay Frères ladder bracelet was a first. The material makes the watch significantly lighter, bringing it down to 78.2 grams from the 110.6 grams of the steel version. But what remains is the unique and wonderful design of the “Cover Girl.” It shows a relevance in this day and age that is rather striking when you consider that it was created over five decades ago.
Final thoughts on Zenith limited editions
There you have it! This has become a list with not five but nine watches. And this is still only the tip of the iceberg! Some honorable mentions are the pink-dial Chronomaster Revival A384, Chronomaster Original, and Chronomaster Sport, all of which support the fight against breast cancer. There’s also the stunning A386 Fine Watch Club that we saw during the Fratello event in The Hague last year. And we can’t forget about the Chronomaster Sport Boutique Edition, the Defy Extreme Desert Edition, and the Defy Revival A3642.
Yes, Zenith does indeed release many limited editions. This can be a very tiring strategy in the eyes of watch fans, including me. However, Zenith proves that its limited editions are great supplements to the regular lineup thanks to the brand’s ability to be original and think outside the box. In our book, this makes Zenith one of the most interesting brands today. But now I will turn the question over to you. What are some of your favorite recent Zenith limited editions? Let us know in the comments section, and we will see you next week for a new Top 5!