While there are many so called “two tone” watches that feature combinations of greyish still or titanium (or some other metal including, but not limited to, platinum and zirconium) and different alloys of gold, there are only a few models that really nail that perfect mix of colors and textures. Of course, this is purely a matter of personal tastes and preferences, but this new Zenith El Primero Volcano Special Edition (Ref. 51.2040.400/91.C496) seems to belong precisely to that category. The color and finish of its dial, the shade of gold plated on its hands and hour markers, the way the sub-dials are grouped: everything in this model whispers quietly, but very clear of good taste and superb design job.
As usual for the series, the El Primero Volcano comes powered by a variation of their legendary fast-beating chronograph movement that not only allows for more precise measurements of short time intervals, but also gives the timepiece that signature high-frequency buzz: something that can’t be mistaken with relatively slow rattle of any other movement.
Called El Primero 400B, the mechanism comprises of 326 parts and features 50 hours of power reserve: while not particularly impressive, it is still adequate if you plan to wear it only on office days and replace it on weekends with something more appropriate for active lifestyle.
Although two-tone timepieces (the ones that feature a combination of steel and different shades of gold) rarely look attractive, this one offers, please excuse me for (again) using the cliche, a winning combination of grey steel, anthracite dial and leaving rose gold only for those elements of the tableau that need to be contrast to be easily read: hands and hour markers.
Even the rose gold crown and chronograph push-pieces do not look trite here. In fact, the parts make the expensive gadget truly shine serving as a sort of bridge between gold-plated elements of the dial and the brutal, yet subtle body with its alternating set of machine-brushed and polished surfaces.
Like many recently issued chronographs, this new Zenith El Primero Volcano Special Edition (Ref. 51.2040.400/91.C496) is delivered in a relatively compact body. Measuring just 42 millimeters in diameter and less than 13 millimeters thick, it will look great on any wrist and you will never hear muffled giggles behind your back like those guys that buy larger than life 48 mm chronographs like they want to compensate for something.
Frankly, I am not particularly sure about the reasoning behind Zenith’s decision to limit this stunning timekeeper to only select European countries (in their press release they say that the watch is available “exclusively” in Central and Easter Europe, as well as in Austria), but I am pretty sure that they will have absolutely no trouble selling this timekeeper.
Of course, the war in Eastern Ukraine, as well as constant build-up of military force by both sides in the Baltic region may detract local people from conspicuous consumption, but the rest of CEE population seems to be quite confident in their future (whether they are right or wrong, only time will tell) and will with great pleasure spend some cash for this elegant beauty.
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: 4.5/5
Zenith El Primero Volcano Special Edition (Ref. 51.2040.400/91.C496) watch specification
Price: $9600 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, caliber El Primero 400B, 30 mm x 6.60 mm, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 31
Movement frequency: 36,000 vph
Power reserve: 50 hours
Movement decoration: Oscillating weight adorned with “Cotes de Geneve” pattern
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Case material: Stainless steel
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown and push-pieces material: Rose gold
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 42.00 mm
Case height: 12.75 mm
Lug width: No data
Dial: Anthracite, sunray
Hour markers: Rose gold-plated
Hands: Rose gold-plated
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Black alligator leather strap with protective rubber lining and stainless steel buckle with triple folding clasp
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective on both sides, box-shaped
Case back: Sapphire