I’ve been looking for a nice vintage Zenith housing an El Primero movement for about a year now. Initially I had my heart set on one of the early chronographs but I decided to widen my search after a while, and see if I could unearth a De Luca.
Whilst this watch was only ever made for the European market I was aware that there were quite a few knocking about in NOS condition, particularly in Italy; however, many were the later versions with round applied indices. Zenith went potty with different series of this watch, but the nicest (IMO) and probably the hardest to find was the series 1 (ref 01.0040.400) that housed the cal. 400 El Primero movement, and had rectangular tritium markers on the dial without the applied surrounds.
From what I can gather, this series was only made for a year or two, from 1988-89. It was the only model to have a plexi crystal (a nicely domed one, in fact), and also had a non-screw down crown. The sword hands were also unique to the series 1, so all in all it was a bit special.
There were a host of changes through the 90’s. The plexi became mineral glass and then sapphire, the hands became straight and then Mercedes, and the crown and pushers both became screw down. Some of these changes might in many senses be considered improvements, but to my mind the original is the nicest, and the one that I was waiting for.
Fast-forward a few months, then, and having seen my efforts pretty much come to nothing I decided to switch my attention to a nice Heuer Autavia instead. And then, of course, it happened; the very De Luca that I wanted appeared on TZ-UK and an immediate message to the seller, saw it on it’s way to me. This one had spent the first 22 years of it’s life, from 1988 onwards, lying in an Italian watchmakers shop, unsold and probably unloved. It’s still in almost NOS condition, and actually had some stickers in place when it reached me. It also had the boxes, hang tag and manual so it’s a nice set.
I’m really, really pleased with it.