Zenith Chronomaster Revival A3818 “The Airweight Cover Girl”February 16, 2022
As human beings, we have a deep reverence for the feeling of nostalgia. When we find a relic of our past, like the airing of a favorite childhood movie or finding an old family photograph tucked between the pages of a book, we are transported to a time that feels like a glimpse of another life. It’s no surprise that retro-inspired pieces are so successful. The designers at Zenith, in a new collaboration with Revolution, have looked to their own past with the design elements of their new Zenith Airweight Cover Girl timepiece.
The history of the watch isn’t just a heritage factoid, it also the foundation of the new design’s inspiration. According to Romain Marietta, Products Development & Heritage Director of Zenith, the designers turned to the source. “We analyzed the original we have at the museum in order to recreate the revival as close as possible and asked our supplier to create this dial in the spirit of 1971.”
It was not only the recreation of the case and dial, but it was also bringing back the legendary Gay Frères designed ladder style bracelet. The Zenith Airweght Cover Girl is the evolution of last year’s Chronomaster Revival A3818 “Cover Girl” collaboration between Zenith and Revolution, and the focus was on updated materials and true-to-the-original styling.
The designers wanted to embrace the elements of shape and color that are so iconic in the original A3818. They kept the tonneau-esque shape which was designed for its comfort as it wrapped along and around the wrist. Another must-have was the beautiful blue color of the dial, a feature that prompted Manfred Rössler to select the timepiece for his popular book Zenith: Swiss Watch Manufacture since 1865 and earned the “Cover Girl” nickname for the model.
Also present is the highly recognizable “shark tooth” stepped racking track, demarcated by uneven radial lines that highlight the El Primero movement’s accuracy and precision to 1/10th of a second.
Marietta and Revolution’s Wei Koh wanted to stay true to the DNA of the first A3818. “It is a watch that was a bit ahead of its time and features a fantastic galvanic blue dial with satin brushed finishings, while also combining two scales in the flange (tachymeter and pulsometer) and the “shark tooth” scale for the minuterie, which was an exceptional combination in the 1970s.”
The aesthetic wasn’t the only focus for Zenith and Revolution, the design team had materials engineering ideas to explore. According to Marietta, “We chose titanium for this watch during a conversation with Wei Koh. Combining the two ideas of fully polished and lightweight was a crazy idea when you know how hard it is to master the polishing of this material. We chose strategic zones to polish and found a great supplier to accept the challenge.”
The choice of titanium and the ladder style bracelet led to a total weight savings of 32.4 grams over the previous year’s version for a watch that weighs in at a mere 78.2 grams. This means the timepiece retains the substantial look and feel of the original A3818, but feels like a very different watch on the wrist.
The movement is iconic for a variety of reasons. First, it won the race to become the first fully integrated, high-frequency, automatic chronograph movement. The name reflects the status, as El Primero is Spanish for “the first.” This, alone, earns the movement’s place in the history books. However, it’s the story of its near erasure that gives the El Primero an underdog hero fame.
Zenith management decided in 1976 that the future of timepieces rested only in quartz and ordered the sale or destruction of all mechanical manufacturing tools and presses. The watchmaker in charge of the Workshop 4, where the El Primero chronograph movement was assembled, was a man named Charles Vermot and he strenuously objected to the order. Rather than complying, he hid all of the presses, cams, operating plans, cutting tools and manufacturing plans.
His rebellious act was instrumental in Zenith’s successful recovery in the 1980s when mechanical watches experienced a resurgence in popularity and Vermot’s hidden stash was able to be returned to the production floor. Today, the El Primero still enjoys status as one of the most reliable and respected chronograph movements in the industry.
Marietta credits this continuity for the success of the model, “Since the introduction of the Revival watches in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the El Primero we gained a lot of attention for the brand and the momentum has been growing steadily ever since. Clients are rediscovering our heritage. People appreciate that we can recreate our models from 1969 so faithfully. This is possible only because we are the only brand still working with a movement invented 53 years ago. We can still work the exact proportions of our historical models.”
The collaboration between Zenith and Revolution have tapped into our love of history and times gone by, but bring the evolutions of engineering and materials to the forefront. The Zenith Airweight Cover Girl is attractive, durable and delivers the performance expected of its El Primero movement. In the words of Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith, “Our partnership with Revolution is a union of values and a constant search to reach for excellence in our respective mediums. This second model, the Airweight Cover Girl, highlights this shared vision by further challenging ourselves to use an unusual material not often used in ladder bracelets