The challenge when designing a ladies’ version of a great classic is to make it feminine without obscuring the signature look, and to size it for a smaller wrist without resorting to a quartz movement. Zenith nails the formula with the new ladies’ version of its classic Chronomaster Original. Instead of identifying it as feminine by lavishing the dial or subdials with diamonds, it simply applies a sprinkling of gems to the lugs, and it emphasizes rather than disregards the signature dial feature, the tri-color registers, by using shades of mother-of-pearl in shades of blue and gray.
As for sizing, since the Chronomaster Original is a vintage model, it was already scaled down to 38 mm in the men’s version, released earlier this year—watches were smaller in the ’60s—and that doesn’t change with the ladies’ version. It can therefore accommodate the same stellar movement, the El Primero 3600, the most recent evolution of Zenith’s famous high-beat 36,000 vph caliber. Because of its high frequency, it can measure and display elapsed time to 1/10th of a second, so the chronograph seconds hand makes a head-spinning rotation around the dial in 10 seconds. The movement is automatic, with a 60-hour power reserve.
Zenith has introduced several tributes over the years to its Chronomaster A386 watch from the 1960s—the one with the original high-frequency El Primero movement—but none were as close to the Chronomaster Original, the first standard-production (non-limited), steel version of the original, with tri-colored registers. The ladies’ version has the same pump-style chronograph pushers, raised, domed crystal, faceted lugs and the mix of radial brushed and polished surfaces as the men’s version. It also has the same no-bezel case design, which explains why the diamonds are set into the lugs—if they were set into the bezel, the diamonds would have to be very small. In addition to the 56 diamonds on the lugs, there are diamond markers on the dial in all but the 3, 6 and 9 positions, for a total of 0.22 carat.
The most visually distinctive similarity to the standard Original is the treatment of the signature tri-color chronograph registers in shades of gray and blue. They are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The main dial is white mother-of-pearl, while two shades of blue are used for the chronograph counters and grey for the running seconds. A second version plays with three tones of taupe and brown for the signature tri-color layout, against a satin-white dial. Despite the diamond-set lugs, the taupe version seems more neutral. Both come with soft calfskin leather straps in either light blue or taupe with tone-on-tone stitching. They are priced at $12,800 for the taupe model and $13,000 for the blue.