When I first tried on the Zenith El Primero Original 1969, with its 38 mm case (based on the original 1969 dimensions), I wasn’t immediately blown away. While it was great to see a conservatively-sized case, at first glance, the dial, with less real estate than its 42 mm contemporary brethren, seemed congested with its large intersecting tri-color registers.
Interestly, there is more conceptual depth to those boldly colored registers, long a trademark of the El Primero. The 60-second register at 9 o’clock is colored light silver to denote the ethereal, fleeting nature of time. At 6 o’clock, the 12-hour register is colored dark grey, a reminder of the long duration of time the column-wheel chronograph is capable of recording. Lastly, the color of the 30-minute blue register references a sort of middle ground; as an important unit of measurement for the chronograph, minutes aren’t as fleeting as seconds or imperceptible as hours.
Still, relative to the size of the case, the registers are quite large. This, along with the thick navy-blue border behind the minutes markings, a red chronograph seconds hand, and bold, faceted rectangular rhodium hour indexes, results in a dial much more sporty than subdued, staying true to the heritage of this line.