You may have never heard of Charles Vermot, but if you own a Zenith El Primero watch, or any other watch equipped with Zenith’s famous high-frequency mechanical chronograph movement, the replica Zenith El Primero, you owe him a debt of gratitude.
After all, it was Vermot, a Zenith employee in the chronograph department, who defied a corporate directive in 1975, the height of the so-called quartz crisis, by stashing a treasure trove of mechanical El Primero calibers and their blueprints in his attic rather than destroying them, as he’d been instructed to do. As a result, when the quartz craze died down and the resurgence of the mechanical wristwatch began in the 1980s, Zenith had the raw materials to get back in the game — not just the manufacture of mechanical watches, but the resurrection of one of the most famous and influential mechanical chronograph movements, launched in the landmark (for automatic chronographs) year of 1969.
Now you can wear a tribute on your own wrist to Vermot (who was, of course, ultimately rewarded by replica Zenith for his 1970s insubordination with an El Primero watch of his own, presented at his retirement), this special edition that is limited to only 1,975 pieces — a number signifying the year that Vermot rescued the El Primero movement from the horological dustbin.
The Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Power Reserve Tribute to Charles Vermot has a 42-mm stainless steel case and a dark blue dial with a sunray pattern and an aperture in the upper left quadrant to display the speedy balance of the automatic El Primero movement (Caliber 4021), which has 248 components, including 39 jewels, and oscillates at a frequency of 36,600 vph.
The watch’s functions include a chronograph with a central seconds hand and a 30-minute counter, placed on the dial at 3 o’clock (which can be used in conjunction with the tachymeter scale on the dial’s flange), a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock, and a hand-type power reserve indicator at 6 o’clock. The hands and hour markers are faceted, rhodium-plated, and treated with Super-LumiNova.
The box-shaped sapphire crystal over the dial has nonreflective treatment on both sides; the caseback also has a transparent sapphire crystal through which you can see the El Primero movement, including its rotor, which is decorated with côtes de Genève. The Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Power Reserve Tribute to Charles Vermot comes on a blue alligator strap with a protective rubber lining and a steel triple-folding clasp.