Earlier this Fall, Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo announced the presentation of a unique Zenith El Primero Ref. 386 in platinum. The first of three models created in collaboration with Zenith, this pièce unique will be sold this weekend by Phillips during The Geneva Watch Auction X on November 9, with proceeds from the sale donated to the ZOE4LIFE foundation. Known as the “One-Off”, the watch will be the only Ref. A386 that Zenith will ever make in PT 950 platinum, and is the first of its kind to feature a breathtaking Lapis Lazuli dial.
Following the presentation of the “One-Off”, Zenith and Phillips decided to pursue their collaboration by sitting down again to create two more El Primero Ref. A386 chronographs, limited to 69 pieces in total, in honor of the birth year of the El Primero caliber. It was an honor for Phillips to be put into the designer’s seat, and work with a watchmaker that has on more than one occasion revolutionized the way watches are made.
Since they felt it was impossible to create watches that would fully encapsulate the El Primero’s rich and beautiful history, Aurel Bacs, Senior Consultant at Bacs & Russo and Alex Ghotbi, Head of Watches Continental Europe & Middle East for Phillips, decided instead to turn back the clock and imagine themselves in Le Locle, in 1969, in the shoes of the manufacturer’s designers.
The world’s first automatic column-wheel high-frequency chronograph has just been developed and is about to be unveiled to the world. What would the design be? The result is an extraordinary yellow gold El Primero Ref. A386 with a stunning black dial with gold sub-registers and gold printing – a contrast that is beloved in the watch collecting community, and unlike anything previously made by Zenith.
For the stainless steel version, Phillips’ team was inspired by color schemes characteristic of fashionable textiles and popular interior design during the 60s. The iconic overlapping registers of the first ever Zenith El Primero Ref. A386 remain, but brown terracotta tones replace the grey, dark grey and blue of the original dial.
The launch, in Geneva, of the two limited edition Zenith El Primero Ref. A386 for Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, marks the final stop of the El Primero 50th Anniversary World Tour celebrating the watchmaker’s revolutionary chronograph across five continents.
The watches will be offered individually to clients, the steel model will be offered on a leather strap and a ladder bracelet reminiscent of the bracelets made by Gay-Frères for Zenith back in the day. However, the winning bidder of the “One-Off” Zenith El Primero A386 in platinum will be given right of first refusal to the yellow gold and stainless steel limited editions, in order to have the opportunity to acquire all three models made for Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, and completing a unique trilogy in three different case metals.
Aurel Bacs, Senior Consultant Bacs & Russo and Alex Ghotbi, Head of Watches Continental Europe & Middle East, enthusiastically declared: “It was fascinating to sit on a time-machine, go back to 1969 and put ourselves in the shoes of Zenith designers and management, designing the dials of what would become one the most iconic movements ever created. We did not want to create an homage-piece but a watch whose design would have been in the Zenith archives since 1969. It was a true pleasure and honor to work with Zenith’s management and designers to create what for us is: a truly unique experience.”
Zenith CEO Julien Tornare said: “Watching how the teams at Zenith and Phillips clicked the way they did on the 50th Anniversary El Primero project was amazing. With all this creativity and passion bouncing back and forth between the two, we had to find a way to prolong the collaboration. The result is the Zenith x Phillips collection, developed and designed with and for Phillips. It consists of two editions, one in gold (20 watches) and the other in steel (49 watches). We couldn’t resist: adding up the production runs gives you the year the El Primero was born; and both in their own way draw on the El Primero’s rich heritage while creating modern classics in their own right.”