Tales From The ‘Gram: Zenith El Primero A3817

Ryan Yip Tales from the 'Gram, Watches Leave a Comment

The horology community can sometimes be divided into two simple groups, those that love vintage watches and those that don’t. However, the term ‘avid vintage watch collector’ doesn’t seem to suit @livingstonsatnight, I’d simply say his desire for watches is insatiable. Having over 1,500 pieces in his collection, today we unfold the story behind one of his favourite, the Zenith EP A3817.

El Primero A3817
El Primero A3817 from @livingstonsatnight

Watch I.D.

Model: El Primero
Reference: A3817
Diameter: 37 mm
Calibre: caliber 3019 PHC
Winding: Automatic
Material: Stainless steel

Words from the collector…

What a pleasure to speak with @livingstonsatnight last week, trying to understand more about his Instagram feed. If you take a look at his profile, you can see A LOT of watches and almost no repeated appearance, what a sight, right? Almost all of them are vintage watches, from big brands like Omega, Universal Geneve, and Longines, to brands like Vulcain, Doxa and Movado.

While talking to him, I unintentionally asked one of the stupidest questions: what is your favourite timepiece from your collection, and what is that one watch that means the most to you? As a collector with over 1,500 watches, this is quite possibly the hardest question to answer, however, he didn’t mind at all and said: “I think it might have to be a Zenith or Universal Geneve.” I went with the Zenith EP.

I bought my first Zenith EP and it needed a service, no watchmaker that I knew had any experience with vintage, or even, new Zenith. They were very unusual in the USA.

@livingstonsatnight (Greg)

In 1969, the El Primero was once considered to be the most accurate automatic movement and for a very long time, it ‘owned’ that 3 sub-dial looks, they were THE chronograph and there were up to 23 versions (an Haute Horlogerie record). The reason why Zenith named it ‘El Primero’ (The First) is that during the race to create the world’s first automatic chronograph movement, Zenith, and its partner Movado beat everyone and announced it first with a working prototype in Geneva in January of 1969. El Primero sent shockwaves through the system, it was so jaw-dropping, that Rolex even modified it for their own use.

However, Greg’s first EP was not the A3817, it was his second EP that he bought from a collector in upstate New York. “(the collector) had owned it since new, never cleaned or did major service on it but it ran perfectly. I bought it and it’s like a time capsule. It runs perfectly and cemented my, still held, belief that Zenith is the (greatest) watch manufacturer in the world.” Couldn’t have agreed more. Over the years, Zenith has proven to us, on multiple occasions, that they are a top watchmaker. The 1969 version of El Primero was oscillating at the ground-breaking frequency of 36,000 vph; At Baselworld 2017, Zenith created a watch that can measure elapsed intervals to the nearest 1/100 of a second rather than the usual 1/10 of a second.

To design, built and develop the lubricants for a 36,000 vph auto-chronometer movement that can run, very accurately for 50 years is astounding!

@livingstonsatnight (Greg)

When asked, “when you are wearing the Zenith watch, what do you feel and see?” he replied, “When I wear the Zenith I think [of] how proud the guy who bought this would have been. Like a Leica camera, it’s personal satisfaction in having what you know is the best … Most people you meet will have no idea … but you know.” The mentality is everything, although I said that Greg’s “desire for watches” may be insatiable but he found satisfaction somewhere else, the feeling that only he would know, only the wearer of the watch would know. Afterall, this is the only thing that matters and it is collectors like @livingstonsatnight that make the watch community a better place.

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