Some people say open-heart dials are passé. Well, call me old-fashioned, but I think that’s poppycock! If done right, dials that reveal the beating heart of the watch can be some of the most intriguing dials out there. This is especially true when paired with a high-frequency movement. And when it comes to Zenith, high-frequency is the name of the game! For Watches & Wonders 2022, Zenith introduces the newest generation of the Chronomaster Open. This classily executed and wearable watch puts the balance and escapement of the 5Hz El Primero on display. Paired with Zenith’s signature tri-color motif, it just may have you wearing your heart on your… face?

Did you know that Zenith was the first brand ever to bring an open-heart-dial chronograph to market? It’s true! Back in 2003, Zenith introduced the very first generation of the Chronomaster Open. It was powered, of course, by the legendary El Primero. Now, if you think open-heart dials are “for newbs,” I think you may have just seen too many entry-level offerings. Along with a lower price, they also have a lower beat rate, and the slow oscillation loses its charm after a while. But if there were ever a reasonably accessible watch that reignited the intrigue, it’s the Chronomaster Open! The first time I ever saw one was a magical experience, and I considered the outgoing 42mm version for the longest time. These new versions, however, are not just smaller and perfectly sized. They also provide Zenith’s wonderful “Striking 10th” complication! Let’s dive in!

The newer, more wearable Zenith Chronomaster Open

The thing that excited me right off the bat was the size of the case on these new models. The new Chronomaster Open, in either steel or rose gold, measures 39.5mm in diameter and a very reasonable 13.6mm in thickness. In my mind, this is a perfectly sized offering. It’s smack-dab in the middle between the 38mm Chronomaster Original and the 41mm Chronomaster Sport. Zenith hasn’t given us any info on the lug-to-lug yet, but I’m guessing that it will be right on as well. Since the 41mm Chronomaster Sport is 47mm lug-to-lug, if my logic works out, this should be in the 45-46mm range. For a lot of people out there, that is the sweet spot, and personally, I can’t wait to try one on my wrist!

Zenith Chronomaster Open

A case for the Chronomaster Open

The case design is characteristic of the Chronomaster line, featuring vertically brushed tops on the chopped-off lugs. Glinting bevels lead the way to the polished case band, matching a highly polished bezel, crown, and chronograph pushers. These pump-style pushers now have a slightly domed surface, providing luxurious tactility when operating the chronograph. The pushers flank the nicely knurled signature crown, which is generously domed with a Zenith star in relief. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters and features sapphire crystals on the front and the back.

The stainless steel models offer either a white or black dial with rhodium-plated hands and applied hour markers. The rose gold model, however, provides a matte silver dial, which contrasts beautifully with the rose gold markers and hands. The style of the hands and markers is familiar indeed, carrying over from the previous Chronomaster Open and Chronomaster Sport. The steel models have red accents on the chronograph hands, while those on the rose gold model are black. A 1/10th-of-a-second scale encircles the dial, bringing the utmost functionality to the Chronomaster Open. And, of course, Zenith’s signature multi-colored registers give this Chronomaster Open a lovable, historical touch.

Two sunburst sub-dials in vivid blue and dark gray track elapsed minutes and seconds as timed by the chronograph. The third sub-dial at 9 o’clock is made of a clear polymer and allows a functional readout of the running small seconds. This is a new addition to the Chronomaster Open, as previous versions had no sub-dial there at all. And while the aperture on the dial retains a similar shape, the old frame around it is gone in favor of a subtle bevel. The aperture provides a glimpse into the caliber within, including the purple silicon escape wheel and the 5Hz oscillator.

An upgrade in the engine room — El Primero caliber 3604

As I mentioned in the intro, the 5Hz (36,000vph) frequency provides an open-hearted spectacle like few other movements. There’s something absolutely hypnotic about the oscillating balance and the speed at which the pallet fork and escapement wheel function. It makes the mechanism truly worth showing off, unlike those in many lower-priced and lower-frequency calibers. The movement inside this beauty is the all-new automatic chronograph El Primero caliber 3604. It’s a no-date, open-heart version of the 3600, which powers the Chronomaster Original and Chronomaster Sport. These next-generation El Primero calibers truly are the heirs to Zenith’s chronograph legacy. They take the integrated architecture, automatic winding, and high frequency that put the El Primero on the map 53 years ago, and give it all the modern updates to carry it into the future.

The improvements over the outgoing El Primero 400-series calibers give the new 3600-series movements the edge. They include a 10-hour increase in power reserve, bringing it up to 60 hours in total. That’s phenomenal for a single-barrel 5Hz movement. They also feature hacking seconds, a feature we take for granted now, but which was absent from the El Primero movements until recently. And the ace in the hole, and what makes these so Zenith, is the 1/10th-of-a-second timing capability. The chronograph is geared directly to the escapement, allowing the central chronograph hand to take advantage of every beat. Thus, it sweeps the dial once every ten seconds and aligns precisely with the markings on the 1/10th-of-a-second scale. Is it necessary to time things to 1/10th of a second? Well, in most situations, probably not. But is it cool as hell and extremely unique? You bet, it is!

Zenith Chronomaster Open — Options and Pricing

As previously stated, these new Chronomaster Open models are available in either stainless steel or rose gold. The stainless steel models feature a three-link bracelet design with highly polished center links, brushed outer links, and a sporty folding clasp with a flip-lock closure. The outer edges of the links also feature polished bevels, which mirror the design of the case and look mighty classy indeed. It’s a definite improvement over the more simple design of the bracelet on the previous Chronomaster Open model. Pricing for these bracelet-equipped steel models is set at CHF 9,900.

Alternatively, you can buy them on “cordura-effect” straps in black (for the black dial) or blue (for the white dial) for CHF 9,400. If you can, though, I’d highly recommend getting the bracelet. It’s a much more costly upgrade if you decide you want it later on. Regardless of whether you choose the strap or the bracelet, these models are exactly the same price as the stainless steel Chronomaster Sport.

Zenith Chronomaster Open

The rose gold model, however, is only available on a strap, made of navy-blue calfskin with a butterfly clasp. The clasp itself is also made of rose gold, and it features a twin-pushbutton release. As I’m sure you can imagine, the rose gold construction of the case and the clasp does indeed add a significant amount to the price. This model comes in at CHF 19,900.

What do you think?

There we have it, folks — the new Chronomaster Open. I’m really glad to see this model in such a wearable size and updated with the latest in-house Zenith tech! I’m also super excited to try one on in real life and get a feel for how the new upgrades change the dynamic. I really loved the Chronomaster Open before, but I’m pretty darn sure I’ll love it even more now.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this trio of models. Does Zenith have a hit on its hands, or does it fall flat with you? Let me know in the comments below!

For more information, please visit the official Zenith website.