We see plenty of watches all through the year. With so many different releases passing in front of our eyes all the time, we tend to forget some. But there are ones that have a huge impact from the moment you see them, and the Zenith Chronomaster Original Limited Edition For Hodinkee is one of those special watches. Zenith teamed up with our friends from Hodinkee to come up with the coolest version of the brand’s Chronomaster Original. The watch that is based on the iconic A386 combines an awesome opaline salmon dial with cool, gray details. The end result is stunning! So stunning that it sold out very quickly.

The El Primero A386 is Zenith’s biggest icon. It’s one of those industry-defining releases that people will recognize instantly. The combination of the case shape, the Gay Frères ladder bracelet, and the iconic dial with the three colorful sub-dials is unique in the world of watches. Fratello’s own Mike Stockton owns a vintage A386, and it is a joy to see. When Zenith released the Chronomaster Original in 2021, it became instantly clear that this icon hadn’t lost any of its visual impact. With the necessary modern updates, Zenith reintroduced its biggest icon, and it showed the great relevance that the watch has. With this new Limited Edition For Hodinkee, that relevance gets a new dimension. It’s pure beauty!

The Zenith El Primero A386

And there is more to the story than just the watch’s cool looks. As most enthusiasts know, it’s also the watch that tells Zenith’s story of the El Primero movement. The El Primero was one of the first automatic chronograph movements in the world. It was released in 1969 but, unfortunately, it wasn’t a great commercial success, with the quartz crisis taking the world by storm. As a result, only 4,500 pieces were released before it was discontinued in the early 1970s. At the time, the industry lost a watch that would set new standards in terms of its movement and looks. In hindsight, it made the Zenith El Primero A386 the full package. On top of that, it became a much-desired piece for collectors.

Other than a handful of limited and modern editions, a faithful reproduction of A386 was not part of the Zenith collection until 2021. Many of the A386-styled watches were often a lot bigger or used different dials and materials. But a modern take on the classic A386 that respected both its dimensions and original design took five decades to become available again to the watch-buying public. When it finally launched, it was nothing short of a triumph for Zenith fans. There are a couple of us on the Fratello team, and Mike, Brandon, and I all greatly appreciate seeing the legacy of the brand return in all of its glory. With the El Primero A384, A385, and A386 reinstated, the heart of the brand returned.

The Zenith Chronomaster Original

The reintroduction of the A386 did something more for me than merely proving that the watch is an icon. Zenith added some new colors to the line-up that showed great versatility. One, in particular, stood out for me, and that is the black-dial version on the bracelet. As you can see, it also looks great on a leather strap, but on a bracelet, it is one of the best-looking chronographs out there. And I like the regular bracelet instead of the ladder bracelet. It just adds some modernity and a lot of comfort. After seeing what Hodinkee and Zenith have come up with, though, this has to take a humble backseat to the new Limited Edition For Hodinkee.

The Zenith Chronomaster Original Limited Edition For Hodinkee

So what makes this so special? The canvas is the same as with the other models. The watch comes with a stainless steel case that is 38mm in diameter and has a thickness of 12.6mm. Zenith and Hodinkee opted for a matte salmon opaline dial, and it is a thing of beauty. Three different shades of gray and silver were used for the overlapping galvanic sub-dials. It’s a clever play on the original A386 dial that hints at the gray Hodinkee brand color. Additionally, the surrounding decimal-like scale is executed in the same galvanic gray of the 3-o’clock sub-dial, and a matching salmon base is used for the surrounding 1/10th-of-a-second scale.

The red central chronograph hand of the iconic A386 has been swapped for a white one in this edition. It perfectly suits the white hour and minute hands and hour indexes that are filled with white Super-LumiNova. Another great detail is the date window at four-thirty. The disc for the date indication is executed in the same salmon color as the dial, ensuring that it integrates perfectly. This position for the date is one of the standout features of the El Primero models, and I love how this execution blends in perfectly. The polished piston chronograph pushers match the polished sides of the case but also contrast nicely with the brushed finish of the lugs. Lastly, the raised sapphire crystal is a great reminder of those vintage acrylic crystals used for the original A386.

Modern looks and modern execution

The watch comes on a modern Oyster-style bracelet that is a definite step up from the iconic ladder bracelet. The bracelet features polished center links and brushed outer links with polished edges. The bracelet has a width of 19mm at the lugs and tapers gently to the stainless steel folding clasp. Overall, the design and execution of the Zenith Chronomaster Original Limited Edition For Hodinkee are firmly rooted in the tradition of the A386. The execution of all the elements, however, firmly places the watch in modern times. It makes this chronograph one of the best-looking watches out there.

Inside the case, you will find the modern Zenith El Primero automatic caliber 3600. The movement is visible through the sapphire case back and operates at 36,000vph, as is known for the El Primero movements. The column-wheel chronograph movement sees the chronograph seconds hand go around the dial once in exactly ten seconds. It’s an absolute joy to see the movement in action, and it’s the reason that interacting with the watch is so satisfying.

Initial impressions of the Zenith Chronomaster Original Limited Edition For Hodinkee

I have to compliment Zenith and Hodinkee for creating an absolutely stunning version of the Chronomaster Original. This is one of the best new releases of 2022 in my book. The combination of all the different elements shows that this is an incredibly well-thought-out release. The pairing of the opaline salmon dial with the gray elements perfectly captures the spirit of the 1969 original while simultaneously exuding modern-day relevance.

Zenith will produce a total of 300 pieces of this new Limited Edition For Hodinkee for €9,500. Now, for those of you keen on heading over to Hodinkee or Zenith and buying the watch, I have bad news. As you might expect, it sold out shortly after its release, so, unfortunately, this one is no longer available. During the writing of this article, all 300 pieces found new homes. The 150 pieces that were available in the Hodinkee Shop sold out in under three hours. The same goes for the remaining 150 pieces that were sold through Zenith’s own online boutique. It goes to show that the power of a good idea combined with the iconic power of Zenith’s modern version of the A386 is worth more than gold.

Visit the official Zenith website or the Hodinkee Shop for more information. What do you think of this new release? Should Zenith add more dial variations to its regular Chronomaster Original collection? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.