Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385 Review

The right way to do a reissue

Some watch movements carry so much recognition that they become part of the brand itself. This can evolve to maintain that recognition across an entire line of watches. Rolex has amalgamated a watch case and movement with the Oyster Perpetual. Omega leaned on the history of the 1861 so heavily that it was in production for over 25 years. In the case of Zenith and the El Primero movement, it is the heart and soul of the Chronomaster line of chronographs and their most recognized movement.

The El Primero carries this provenance in its catalog for a good reason. It is reliable, highly accurate, and contains many “firsts” in mechanical chronograph movements. The El Primero we have our eyes on today is placed inside the Chronomaster Revival A385. Designed to be a callback to the first El Primero-powered chronographs, this watch is smaller in size, but that’s where the modesty ends. Let’s jump in and take a closer look.


On the Wrist

The Revival A385 is 37mm of tonneau-shaped goodness. It is designed to embody the original A385 introduced in 1969 and was one of the first watches from Zenith to feature the El Primero movement. Rather than taking the ill-advised path of upsizing this reissue as many brands do, Zenith did the right thing and kept the size true to the original. The 47mm lug-to-lug gives the case more wrist presence on the wrist, but it never feels like it is taking over your wrist. The small dial helps keep that wrist presence in check. It isn’t tiny, and it isn’t huge.


The comfort continues as you make your way around the rest of the watch. One of the benefits of the El Primero movement is its slim 6.5mm height, and this allows Zenith to slap this bad boy inside a case that is only 12.5mm thick and a touch over 11mm wrist-to-crystal. Compared to another famous automatic chronograph like the Valjoux 7750, which comes in at 7.9mm tall, it is easy to see where Zenith can keep this watch slim and comfortable on the wrist. No chunky chronographs are allowed in the Zenith parking lot. 


You may think, “just because it is a relatively small automatic chronograph, doesn’t mean it is comfortable.” That is a valid concern, especially because some case shapes make small watches sit flat on the wrist and appear way larger than they are. The A385 perfectly uses the tonneau-shaped case, which has sharp, sloping lugs that hug the wrist and let the strap sit low in the case. This allows the watch to sit low and wear true to its dimensions. When you put the A385 on your wrist, it will likely ruin other automatic chronographs for you. 


Zenith Chronomaster El Primero A385 Specs

Case Width




Case Thickness


Lug Width






Water Resistance



Leather Strap






Zenith El Primero 400



Dial Details

The A385 is a masterclass in reissuing a watch the right way. Several years ago, the term fauxtina was used on any watch that had aged lume. Today, the term is less prevalent, especially as aged lume has become a design choice rather than trying to force age onto a watch. The A385 uses aged lume in this way, as it perfectly complements the dial color. The warm brown that is used darkens as it reaches the edges of the dial. Taking the aged lume out of the equation, this feels like what the original A385s would have looked like when they were new. 


The dial layout is classic chronograph style with three subdials. Running seconds, 30-minute, and 12-hour totalizers are present and use the small dial area well. Zenith crammed too much text at the 12 o’clock position, and while it still works, it feels a bit overcrowded. I can’t help but think how excellent it would have looked with just Zenith and the stylized El Primero text. 


The hour and minute hand look skeletonized, but black paint and lume are in between the hand’s polished sections. This makes the handset come alive when the light shines off the polished sections. They look as if they are floating around the dial, and this effect makes me wish more watches had hands with this style. The central chronograph hand is painted sporty red and contrasts nicely with the brown hues of the dial. 


4:30 date windows are always a sticking point, and while I am not here to defend them (I’m not the biggest fan of them), the original A385 and many other Chronomasters have them. It is part of the El Primero movement, and with a small dial like this, there isn’t anywhere else to put it that would look good. That said, it adds a complication many people look for on their watches, and it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb to my eye, so I have no complaints. 


Case & Movement

The only unfortunate thing about review samples from huge brands like Zenith is that we’re not likely to be the first to get our hands on the watch. With that comes some wear and tear on the watch. That is reflected in our photos, but I chose to look at this as what the watch would look like if I had owned it for a few years. With this said, the superb finishing Zenith applies on their watches still shines through. 


The radial brushing on the top of the case is drop-dead gorgeous. It parallels the dial finishing and creates the look of a rising sun. The dial glows and radiates outward toward the case, which casts its rays on the rest of the watch. The brushing quickly turns to a high polish on the lugs and the chamfer on the sides of the case. The sides of the case have linear brushing to keep the A385 feeling sporty. 


The crown and pushers are standard chronograph outfitting, and while they aren’t anything special, they function perfectly. There is nothing worse than spongey pushers or a sloppy crown on a watch like this, and thankfully, none of that is here. 


We don’t typically discuss movements in our reviews because most of what can be said about your run-of-the-mill Seiko and Miyota movements has already been said in countless other reviews. However, we have a Zenith El Primero movement in the A385, and it warrants some discussion because it is genuinely a remarkable movement. 


Multiple brands were working on automatic chronograph movements in the late 1960s, but Zenith launched the first automatic chronograph movement in 1969. The El Primero was the first of its kind and was so well-engineered that it is still being used in watches today, like the one we’re reviewing. What is even more exciting than it being the first to launch was that it contained technology still untouchable by most movement manufacturers today. The most notable is its beat rate, 36,600 vph or 5Hz. That’s right, the movement launched in 1969, and the one inside the A385 has that silky-smooth beat rate. It is so smooth that you almost can’t see any “ticking” in the running seconds or central chronograph hands. Take a look at the video below.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard not to become smitten with an $8,500 automatic chronograph from one of the watch industry’s most storied brands. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t want this watch in my collection. Sadly, the review sample I had is the closest I will come for some time, but that doesn’t make me love this watch any less. 


The A385 has a remarkable history, especially in the world of chronographs. Powered by a movement so forward-thinking at the time that Zenith is still using it today makes it even more impressive. If the aged lume and warm hues of the dial aren’t your jam, Zenith has packed plenty of options into the Revival line. 

When you sit down and think about this watch and where it stands in the world of Swiss automatic chronographs, its price tag isn’t that insane. It surely isn’t affordable, but it is relatively affordable compared to some of the other watches it stands up against. The Rolex Daytona is over $5,000 more, and you can’t get one anyway. The JLC Polaris Chronograph is almost $14,000, and while I’m sure it wears well, I don’t think it will fit as well as the A385. It shows you that if you’ve got something good and it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The El Primero and the watches it is in, like the A385, are the best examples of this adage. 

Check out more chronograph reviews at The Watch Clicker here

Check out the Zenith website here

More Images of the Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385

Comments 2
  1. I have a small 6.25in / 15.9cm and so automatic chronographs tend to be large and thick, so I usually don’t have any interest in them. This Zenith is small, thin and beautiful. I also love the brown color, it’s so warm and done well. I unfortunately will not have 8k to spend. We can dream!

  2. Hi,
    I wish to know apart from 37mm case width, what is the dial size or diameter or the sapphire glass diameter ?
    Can you pls put a side by side pic with the GS SBGM221 or an Orient Bambino ?

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