The Fast And The Fratelli: Zenith Chronomaster Revival El Primero A385 Versus Omega Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday “Ultraman”
Contrary to what you may think, I did not pick the watches I’m going to talk about. That was the Kraken’s doing. That said, I could not be happier with this pair of great chronographs. The Zenith Chronomaster El Primero A385 is easily my favorite watch from the Revival lineup. The quirky case shape, the light brown dial, and the El Primero movement are simply my favorite features. And I like the watch equally on a bracelet or a strap. The red chronograph hand, with its dash of color, spiced up the watch for me and matched the other contender perfectly. Speaking of contenders, we have a Speedy to race our Zenith. Not just any Speedy, though. It’s the one that has the most iconic red chronograph hand in the game, ever. Yes, it’s the Omega Speedmaster “Speedy Tuesday 2” Ultraman, a watch that is near and dear to my heart. However, I promise I’ll be neutral. After all, it is you who’ll decide the fate of these two marvelous timepieces.
The goal is simple, and so is the race. You will vote during The Fast And The Fratelli Grand Prix to decide the best racing chronograph of the past ten years. To make the grid, all watches need to track elapsed time for at least one minute. They also require a tachymeter scale as a pit pass. They must have been released in the last ten years, and they must be mechanical. Last but not least, they must be thoroughly awesome. With the rules out of the way and the contestants revving at the starting line, let the race begin!
What’s cooler than a new Zenith Chronomaster chronograph? Well, its vintage counterpart, of course. Sadly, the days when you could pick these classic beauties up for a price not in the “astronomical” category are long gone. Suppose you are, like me, one of the unlucky fans and missed this opportunity, but you still want to own a piece of wrist candy from Zenith. Well, cry no more. The brand’s Revival line offers the classic Chronomaster look for modern watch lovers. Icons such as the A386, the A3817, or “my watch,” the A385, are all among the many Chronomaster Revivals. The company tried to stay as close to the originals as possible when it comes to the overall design of the pieces, and I feel that’s why they resonate with so many fans. At least this is the case for me. I love the vintage size and the fact that I have the chance to wear a classic like the A385, even if it’s a re-edition.
Chronomaster El Primero A385
We all heard the story of the race to develop the first automatic chronograph caliber back in the late 1960s. Some say that Zenith managed to reach this goal first. Others beg to differ. One thing is for sure, though: the 1969 El Primero caliber was a groundbreaking movement. It went on to become legendary and even somewhat defined Zenith’s fate. Still, let’s go back to 1969. With the launch of the El Primero movement, Zenith released three models: A384, A385, and A386.
As you can see, the original A385 was already part of this trifecta and, by definition, etched its name (or rather reference number) into the history books of watchmaking. While the base dial color for the other two models was white, the A385 came in a khaki or light brown tone. As such, it was and still is instantly recognizable by watch enthusiasts.
We have clear rules, though, and one says that the watch must be younger than ten years old. So as much as I love the vintage A385, it’s time to move over to the Zenith Chronomaster Revival El Primero A385. What we have here is a brilliantly stunning but straightforward watch. It’s a chronograph with three sub-dials in a so-called smiling dial layout (3-6-9) and a date aperture between the 4 and 5 o’clock positions.
While the brand calls this case shape “tonneau,” I’d say it’s a mix between that and a cushion shape. Regardless of semantics, it’s a highlight of this model, just like its dial color. All vintage chronograph fans love a set of pump pushers. Fortunately, the A385 has those too. Finally, according to our contest guidelines, the tachymeter scale around the dial makes this piece a racing chronograph. The A385 is a reasonably priced watch at $7,700 USD on leather and $8,300 USD on a bracelet. Personally, I’d go for the leather strap, though it’s probably a bit less sporty.
It’s cheap reasoning, and I’m sure many of my fellow Fratelli will use the same argument when discussing their respective model variants. That, however, does not make it less valid — the Speedmaster was born to be a driver’s watch. Nomen est omen, as the Latin saying goes — “the name is a sign.” In our case, that sign is the master of speed. Anyway, let’s not get into clausal syntax, and let’s simply think of the time when the Speedy was born. What else could this watch have been designed for back in 1957, when Omega released its three legendary models?
The Seamaster was the watch for divers, and the Railmaster was for professionals working in magnetic fields. The Speedmaster (as RJ already explained in his The Fast And The Fratelli article) was born to be a racing driver’s watch. As such, it is the perfect fit for our contest. Yet, I’m not going to “race” just any Speedy against the Zenith A385. It has to be a special one. Enter the Ultraman.
Luckily, Omega has created so many Speedmasters since the mid-1950s that there’s enough for everyone. Nevertheless, I’m happy that I got the Ultraman for this match-up. There are many reasons why. First and foremost, it’s a Speedy Tuesday edition, and that by itself means it’s near and dear to my heart. Many call it the ST2. Others refer to it simply as the Ultraman. In any case, it’s one of “ours” here at Fratello Watches. Secondly, the execution is just perfect for so many reasons. The watch has enough minor tweaks and details that it does not look like any regular Speedy. Yet, to the untrained eye, it does not look utterly different at first glance like the ST1 would, for instance. Lastly, let me say that, while I genuinely love my ST1, the Ultraman is the modern Speedmaster I wear the most. Luckily, I have a few Speedies I can choose from, but I always tend to come back to the Ultraman for one reason or the other. Oh, and then there’s that red chronograph hand.
Sporty red (orange)
If you look at modern Speedmaster Pro special editions, aside from the Japanese racing models, this is the one watch that looks the sportiest — in my humble opinion, anyway. Is it a coincidence that both watches have themes coming from the land of the Rising Sun? Whether it’s the red (I know, I know, officially it’s orange, but come on) center chronograph seconds hand, the tiny colorful lume squares, or maybe the red “Tachymétre” on the bezel, I don’t know. Possibly the combination of all that makes the Speedmaster Ultraman a genuine racing watch. The watch is limited to only 2012 pieces and sold out within an hour or so after being released. Since then, its price has gone up quite a bit. You won’t be able to pick one up under $12,500 USD (around €11,000). Nonetheless, the task is now is to decide if the Ultraman or the A385 is the better racing chronograph.
The Fast And The Fratelli — Which watch will take the checkered flag?
Now it’s time for you to vote on who will spray the champagne at the end of this heat. Will it be the Zenith Chronomaster El Primero A385 Revival or the Omega Speedmaster ‘Speedy Tuesday’ Ultraman?