Re-releasing a watch inspired by an iconic model from your catalog is something brands are not afraid of doing nowadays. However, only a few brands are brave enough to delve deeper into the oddball and rare releases from their past. This is exactly what Zenith has done with the Chronomaster Revival “Poker Chip”. It hearkens back to 1969 when the brand released the El Primero G383, which was given the nickname “Poker Chip” due to its dial design. Very much of the era, the psychedelic patterns are undeniably eye-catching. Now, the modern revival, created by Zenith and SJX watches, brings back the watch with a stealthy appearance and plenty of lume!

We’ve often sung the praises of vintage and modern Zenith watches here at Fratello. It’s clear that we are all fans of the brand, its designs, its historical significance in the world of watchmaking, and the way it bravely continues to innovate. It’s no surprise then that there was a palpable wave of excitement when the press release for the new Zenith × SJX Watches Chronomaster Revival “Poker Chip” came in. Let me tell you all about this stunning lume monster of a watch!

Bringing back a classic

I think it’s pretty safe to say that the 1969 El Primero G383 is a stunning watch, unlike anything else. A product of its time, it is undeniably funky, looking more like something from the mid-’70s than from the 1960s. The gold-plated case and short, ornate lugs, however, betray the period in which it was designed. This watch became an extremely desirable piece for Zenith collectors, which is no surprise, as it’s extremely charismatic and unique. It’s very clear that there is potential for something great when bringing this one back. As much as I am a fan of a faithful revival, I think the way that SJX Watches and Zenith went with this one is excellent.

The project began back in May 2020. Su Jiaxian, founder of SJX Watches (a Singapore-based watch magazine) proposed bringing back the icon with a modern twist. Romain Marietta, Zenith’s Director of Product and Heritage worked closely with SJX to bring back the infamous “Poker Chip” dial of the El Primero in a modern sporty reinterpretation. Though it’s not as bright (at least in the daytime) as the original, gray and black tones come together to recreate the unmistakable, iconic dial layout of its historical predecessor. Then it’s Super-LumiNova galore, allowing the signature design to shine, both day and night.

The Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Poker Chip”

It’s not just the colorway of the Chronomaster Revival that brings this watch into the world of contemporary watchmaking. Far from it. The case used for this model is the same well-proportioned, 50m water-resistant 38mm case featured on the El Primero A386. However, to further add to the sleek stealthy aesthetic, it is made of micro-blasted titanium. This gives the metal a dark gray color and a subtly textured appearance which beautifully matches the muted dark tones of the dial. As I mentioned before, it’s the unbelievable lume application that really makes this watch quite literally shine.

Not just the hour and minute hands are lumed, but all the markings on the sub-dials, the numbers, and hash marks on the tachymeter and pulsometer are too. To top it all off, the small hands on all the sub-dials are fully lume-coated, as is the chronograph hand, making for quite the light show in the dark! Rhodium-plated hands and hour markers make it easy to read the time even on the relatively busy dial. Adding to the overall ensemble, the watch will be delivered with two straps. The first is a matte black fabric strap, for a dark, under-the-radar look. And the second is a pale green Super-LumiNova-coated Cordura-style strap, for the days when you want to go all-in!

Iconic design with a legendary movement

Under the sapphire case back, you will find the El Primero movement. A legendary caliber in the world of watchmaking, it remains true to that which would have been found in the 1969 “Poker Chip” model. However, the El Primero 400 automatic movement feels right at home in the new Chronomaster Revival “Poker Chip”. Beating away at 36,000vph, it has an impressive 50-hour power reserve. Hours and minutes are displayed in the center. A small running seconds sub-dial is located a 9 o’clock, with a 30-minute register at 3 o’clock, a 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, and a central chronograph seconds hand. You’ll also find a date indication at 4:30. Though I’m typically not a fan of this, the busy dial design on this particular model works wonders for integrating the date window.

Final thoughts 

This collaboration between Zenith and SJX watches is sure to be a hit. It brings back an eclectic design from the past and gives it a makeover that’s completely bonkers. For me, it’s the lume-coated strap that tips it over the edge and makes this one of my favorite releases from Zenith in recent times. Even in the daylight, the pleasing pale green of the lume looks stunning on the monochromatic grey and black canvas. All this can be yours for CHF 9,900! If you’ve fallen in love with this watch just as I have, you’ll have to move quickly. Only 200 units will be made available via SJX, as well as Zenith boutiques and the Zenith website here.

I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this one. Do you dig it? Or do you think it doesn’t do the original justice? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.