Available in two finishes and sporting a fairly impressive size of whole 45 millimeters in diameter, the new Zenith El Primero Stratos Spindrift Racing Special Edition automatic chronograph wristwatch tries to mix into a single package such iconic elements of their design as signature rotating bezel, cloverleaf-style dial cutout that shows the timekeeper’s inner workings, as well as an El Primero movement. What’s really surprising is that the final product doesn’t look too eclectic: while standing a bit dangerously to the ‘love it or hate it’ category, it is in fact quite an organic-looking watch that will certainly find a niche of its own.
While the former has supplied the gorgeous El Primero 4061 in-house automatic caliber, as well as the signature (and also quite complex) cutout between eight and 12 hours, the latter gave the timekeeper its basic shape including the trademark massive rotating bezel with the usual diving scale painted on a glossy ceramic insert.
Comprising 282 nicely finished components and beating at a fast frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour, the mechanism allows you to measure time-based events with accuracy up to 1/10th of a second. As usual, the engine’s skeletonized oscillating weight features the Zenith Star, as well as Spindrift Racing logo. Being an official timekeeper of the famous French-based sailing team certainly has its own perk: besides getting a healthy dose of free media exposure, you always have a good excuse at making a “special edition” model or two to boost sales a bit.
As other members of the Stratos family, the new timekeeper is offered in a deliberately oversized body, which is also quite thick at more than 14 millimeters from top to bottom that somehow cuts off a huge number of people with smaller wrists, but at the same time looks extremely cool. Measuring whole 45 millimeters in diameter, the body is available both in black DLC-coated stainless steel, and in flashy (perhaps, too flashy) 18-carat rose gold that features contrasting titanium pushers, crown, end links and case-back fashioned from black DLC-treated titanium.
Frankly, besides the gadget’s heroic proportions, I can’t really find a serious flaw in this watch. I don’t like so called “open-heart” timepieces because, compared even to most basic tourbillon models, they are extremely boring, but that is purely a matter of personal taste.
The mechanism could have featured a bit more elaborated finish, but that seems to be in line with Stratos Spindrift‘s overall “technical” appearance that somehow rules out all sorts of hand-engraving and engine-turning.
To me, the model (at least, the one with black nickel-plated and silvered elements) looks like one of the most appealing time measuring devices introduced by Zenith during the last couple of years. If you are ready to pay the (undoubtedly ’cause members of the Stratos collection in DLC steel usually retail between eight to ten thousand US dollars) extremely high sticker price and are not afraid to deal with an in-house movement after warranty expires (just bear in mind that waiting for spare parts for a mechanism that was not made by ETA or some other major brand may become a major source of annoyance), you should absolutely take this one for a spin.
See also: Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Open-Heart Automatic Chronograph (Ref. 27.03.0138.940)
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Zenith El Primero Stratos Spindrift Racing Special Edition watch specification
Price: $9,100 (MSRP, DLC stainless steel) / $22,600 (MSRP, 18-carat rose gold)
Movement: Automatic, El Primero 4061, in-house, 282 components, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 31
Movement frequency: 36,000 vph
Power reserve: 50 hours
Movement decoration: Skeletonized rotor, perlage, polished screws
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph
Case material: 18-carat rose gold case with titanium DLC pushers, crown, end links and case-back / Stainless steel with DLC coating
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 45.00 mm
Case height: 14.10 mm
Lug width: No data
Dial: Black (ref. 86.2060.4061/21.R573) / Black carbon fiber (ref. 75.2060.4061/21.R573)
Hour markers: Rose gold or Black nickel-plated, luminous
Hands: Rose gold or Black nickel-plated, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Black fabric-clad black rubber strap and triple-blade folding clasp in black PVD-coated steel
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective on both sides, cambered
Case back: Sapphire