1974 Zenith Espada (El Primero) Mint condition - FULL SET - Ref. 01.0040.418
The world's first automatic chronograph with full calendar and moonphase with its original papers and box.
WHY IS THIS WATCH SPECIAL
There’s so much to say about this watch, so why not start by saying this: this particular model, the ‘El Primero’ Espada, was the world first automatic chronograph with full calendar and moonphase. Then, only 500 exemplaries of this reference (01.0040.418), known as the 'Second series', were manufactured between 1973 and 1974. The 'First series', the reference A7817, was manufactured in 1972 and only 300 pieces were manufactured. With its distinct and instantly recognizable design, among others the 'Lobster' steel bracelet, the Espada brought a new sense of style and substance to the world of chronographs, becoming a collectible icon.
When the El Primero automatic chronograph calibre was first announced in 1969, it took the world of watchmaking by storm. It was the first automatic chronograph movement and brought forth a set of distinctive features, which have allowed it to stand the test of time and remain an exceptional movement half a century on: a high frequency of 36’000 vph, a column-wheel chronograph mechanism, and an automatic winding system that delivers 50 hours of power reserve.
Furthermore, the El Primero made headlines back in 1970, when it took part in Zenith’s “Operation Sky”. This extreme test consisted of strapping the watch to an Air France Boeing 707’s landing gear on a flight from Paris to New York to test its resistance to external aggressions such as drastic temperature fluctuations, wind force and changing air pressure. Upon landing, the watch was still functioning perfectly. This daring feat was a testament to the confidence those who had tirelessly worked on the El Primero calibre held, as well as tangible proof that a mechanical movement was superior to the nascent quartz movements of the time, which couldn’t have stood the temperature differences endured by the watch during the flight.
This featured example is really a premium timepiece in an extremely well preserved original condition. It comes as a 'Full Set' (Original guarantee, box, manual and invoice), which is almost impossible to find and thus very collectible !
Though Zenith is most well known for its impressive in-house El Primero chronograph calibers, the brand’s positioning as a master of accuracy predated the mighty El by a fair margin. In 1948, the brand’s Calibre 135 became a new industry benchmark of sorts, achieving chronometer specification and winning a string of over 200 awards.
Most notably, the hand-wound 19-jewel caliber was awarded 5 consecutive Neuchâtel Observatory chronometry prizes from 1950 to 1954—a winning streak previously unheard of in such a contested competition. Evolving over three iterations, the caliber remained in Zenith’s production line consistently through until 1962.
The high-beat El Primero chronograph caliber is a bit of a legend in the industry, and the one that strongly contest the title of first automatic chronograph in existence. That part aside, the first El Primero faced a fascinating bit of torture testing in 1970, as Zenith strapped a watch fitted with this new caliber to the landing gear of a Boeing 707 for Air France flight AF015 before it crossed the Atlantic Ocean between Paris and New York.
Facing temperatures of -62 Celsius at an altitude of 10,000 feet, thewatch survived shockingly unscathed, and other than the time change that obviously couldn’t be accounted for, the chronograph maintained its accuracy within a second by the time it finished its journey.
Zenith lays claim to having opened the first watchmaking “manufacture”, all the way back in 1865. Georges Favre-Jacot decided that rather than sticking to the traditional method of watchmaking of the period—where movement makers would have their own atelier somewhere, dial makers, somewhere else, case makers somewhere else, and so on—he decided the most logical approach would be to house all of these specialized workers in a single facility.
Every watch brand loves to hang their hat on some sort of celebrity connection, however the fact that Mahatma Gandhi carried a Zenith pocket watch is all kinds of cool. Gandhi carried and used the pocket watch (fitted with an alarm complication) for years, and though it was stolen from him in the late ‘40s, it returned to him not much later when the thief was surprisingly overcome with guilt.
Before passing away, Gandhi gifted the pocket watch to his granddaughter, and in 2009 the watch was sold via a well known auction house for a paltry sum of 1.8M USD.
- Maker: Zenith
- Model: Espada
- Reference: 01.0040.418
- Case N°: 422XX
- Year: 1974
- Material: Stainless Steel
- Dimentions (WxHxT): 38x45x16mm
- Caliber: In House Zenith 3019 PHF
- Bracelet/Strap: Original Zenith steel 'Lobster'
- Lug width: 22mm
- Box/Papers: Original Zenith box, guarantee and owner's manual
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
This watch is in top condition. The case and steel bracelet are extremely well preserved with its angles still sharp. The dial and the réhaut are in mint condition with the lume present. It is important to notice the immaculate condition of the original dial and réhaut because 99% of the Espada's subdials and especially the réhaut got seriously dammaged by the time and these original parts are, 48 years later, absolutely impossible to find.
All parts are original, among others the 'Plastic' guarantee specific to this model.
This is a very collectible and sought after complicated timepiece and this model was manufactured only in 1973 and 1974, with a total production of only 500 pieces !
It has a sporty and virile presence on the wrist, perfect for everyday wear.