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Discussion Starter #1
I am wondering whether there are any historians among the readers, who might have details of the introduction of the El Primero in 1969? What was actually shown at the January 1969 press conference? When were the first El Primeros actually available in retails channels? Which were the very first models? Etc., Etc.

Alternatively, maybe someone can recommend an authoritative source for some bits of Zenith history?

Thanks,

Jeff Stein
Atlanta, GA

(e-mail = [email protected])
 

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The date of first presentation of the El Primero is usually given as the 10th of January 1969 - at least in the German watch literature. No specifications, no venue quoted. The rival Cal. 11 was presented at Basel on the 3rd of March, where the El Primero was also presented again. The Seiko Cal. 6139 came in May. Taking all this, I can only assume - and have no evidence for it! - that the first presentation of the El Primero was more of a semi-private function, specifically organized by Zenith when they knew that they had to act fast in view of the competition hard on their heels. Still, they would not have presented the El Primero if it hadn't functioned and either the Cal. 11 wasn't quite ready (in which case, the El Primero justly holds that title) or the competition had theirs ready before 10.1.1969 and was waiting for the official Basel fair (in which case they were at the very least sloppy!). In history, noone remembers the authors or the inventors, they always remember the guy who publishes or makes it to the patent office first!!!

As far as production is concerned, the El Primero was not the first, it was actually the third! Seiko started marketing watches with that calibre almost immediately after presentation whereas Zenith had to wait until about November 1969 until they could supply automatic chronographs to the shops. The Cal. 11 could be had somewhere in between. It's still a fair way from the prototype to the actual product...!

Hartmut Richter
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks, Guys!!
So who is the "Zen" that wrote these articles about Zenith's history and how might I be able to contact him? I have seen his articles online, but I have not been able to locate Mr. "Zen".
Jeff
 

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The only additions I have to make to that:

1. Movado very likely had nothing to do with the development of the El Primero. Movado and Zenith only fused in 1969, AFTER the El Primero had been presented. Unless the fusion was planned well in advance, Movado would not have had any input into a movement which they might not end up with access to (if the fusion plans had been unsuccessful). Movado simply got to use the movement after the fusion (as Zenith got to use Movado movements, e.g. Cals. 405/408).

2. The "dry lubrication" making a 36000A/h movement possible is based on Molybdenum bisulphide.

3. The man who hid all those El Primeros against the wish of the new owner was Charlie Vermot.

Hartmut Richter
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Here's a Question and a Photo

OK, as a "Thank You" for all this good information, I will follow-up with a photo and a question.

The photo shows what I believe to be one of the first 100 Caliber 11 Chronomatic chronographs, made as a pre-production prototype . . . This also makes it one of the first 10 or 15 Monacos. I could write pages about this one, but this is a Zenith forum, so I won;t bore you with the details. The midnight blue paint has vanished, and we call it the "Paintless Wonder".

The question is simple: How certain are we that the Zeniths were only available in normal commercial channels / retail channels by November 1969? Are there documents, catalogs, articles or other materials to support this point? [I am writing a detailed article about the history of the Heuer / Breitling / Hamilton Chronomatics, so I must be certain what Zenith was doing!!]

Many thanks,

Jeff

 
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