Earlier this year Zenith launched two new El Primero 36’000 VPH chronographs with classic ‘panda’ (black-on-white) and ‘reverse panda’ (white-on-black) dials in black ceramicised aluminium cases. Both of these have finally arrived in Australia, and we had the opportunity to spend some time with them.
The ‘panda dial’ is a combination that seems to hold a particular hold over many watch lovers; I guess that the fact that it has a nickname at all provides some proof of this. In this instance, the ‘panda’ is not a stark black and white, but black and a silvery tinted dial with a sunburst finish. In the case of the ‘reverse panda’, the black dial is slightly glossy, which gives it a bit of visual lift.
If you look carefully, you will note that both dial variants have a whisper of colour atop them in the form red tips for the running seconds, and the hands for the minutes and hours sub dials. Those familiar with Zenith will not find the sub dial overlap of any particular consequence, but for those who are new to the brand, this may be of (broader) note. However, because the sub dials are the same colour, and not the more familiar Zenith tricolour, this may be less distracting to the more particular amongst us.
Inside is the tried-and-true chronometer-certified in-house automatic Calibre 400B automatic column-wheel chronograph movement, visible through the open case back. As the name states, the movement beats at 36’000VPH (5Hz), and has 50 hours of power reserve.
At 42mm (12.75mm thick), the cases are in a sizing ‘sweet spot’ for many. They are also very light, due to the use of ‘ceramicised aluminium (ceramic-coated aluminium) for their construction, which makes for a very sporty matte black case. To wear, on the perforated black rubber strap with a PVD-coated titanium clasp, they are pretty comfortable. I had one on each wrist for a little while, and their lightweight nature made this quite an easy ‘combined wear’.
Although the three colour sub dials are a ‘Zenith signature’, they aren’t necessarily to everyone’s tastes, so these new high contrast panda dials with single-colour sub dials provide attractive new options. For me personally, after much back and forth, I decided that my pick of the two is the ‘reverse panda’.
If you are looking for a modern Zenith El Primero watch that combines their movement heritage with a modern material and aesthetic, these are definitely worth a look. The Australian RRP for the El Primero 36’000 VPH ‘Panda’ and ‘Reverse Panda’ is $12,300.