Time Lines September 17, 2002 admin
ZENITH PORT ROYAL V
A Review by Michael Disher
January 25, 2000
The Dial and Hands
This Zenith has one of the best looking dials I’ve ever seen. At recent TimeZone lunches, several people saw this watch and said “great numbers!”. But the beauty goes beyond the numbers. On closer inspection, the dial has three different textures. The outer ring has a very lightly matted finish. The center of the dial is highly polished. The chronograph and small seconds subdials are sunk, and they are textured with a series of very fine raised concentric circles. The dial also has several small red accents. Finally, there are polished steel daggers at 12, 3, 6 and 9. This is a great dial design.
The dial features a traditional chronograph layout, with a thirty minute totalizer at 3, a twelve hour totalizer at 6, and continuous seconds at 9. The chronograph reports seconds via the center sweep second hand. The dial’s workmanship is very good. All lettering and numbers are crisp, though under magnification minor flaws appear. The subdial stenciling is well done, even over the raised concentric circles. The tiny “El Primero” script is very nicely applied.
At first sight, I felt the hands might be on the small side. Having lived with the watch for several weeks, I’ve concluded that the hands are well proportioned. This watch was designed to draw the eye to the dial, and the hands allow that to happen. Legibility remains good both day and night. The hands glow brightly, and there are small luminescent dots at 12, 3, 6 and 9.
The Case and Crystal
The case, bezel and back are polished stainless steel. The crystal is domed sapphire with anti-reflective coating. I measure the watch at 40 mm in diameter, not including the crown or pushers, and 12 mm thick. The water resistance rating is 5 atm or approximately 50 meters.
The crown, engraved with the Zenith logo, does not screw down. This is a very stiff winding watch, so much so that I thought there might be a problem at first. I consulted two watchmakers, and each said the stiff winding is normal. Given the winding stiffness, I would prefer a slightly larger crown.
The pushers are shaped and are comfortable to operate. The pusher at 2 o’clock starts and stops the chronograph, and the pusher at 4 o’clock resets the chronograph to zero.
Generally speaking, the case is nicely executed. The bezel, side of the case and caseback are all highly polished. The lone weak spot on this watch in terms of craftsmanship is that the bottoms of the lugs show evidence of machine work, as shown in the two scans below. This is common on less expensive watches, but I was a bit disappointed to find this on a watch listing for over $2000.
The caseback is held in place with six stainless steel screws, and it has a anti-reflective sapphire display window. The caseback has a slight rise in the center to accommodate the rotor. This slight rise means the watch does not sit absolutely flat on the wrist, yet I still find it quite comfortable.
As noted above, Walt Odets has written about the Zenith Cal. 410 in his Horologium feature here on TimeZone. The 410 is identical to the Cal. 400 in this watch, except for the addition of the complete calender plate. Since writing the Cal. 410 article, Walt has examined a Zenith Cal. 400, and he found the construction and finish the same as the Cal. 410. Given this, I have included a link to Walt’s Cal. 410 article. It provides excellent insight into the Zenith movement.
Zenith Cal. 410 Article
The general specs for the Cal. 400 are as follows: in-house production automatic winding movement with ball-bearing mounted rotor and 50 hour power reserve. 30 mm or 13.3 ligne diameter; 6.5 mm thick. 31 jewels, glucydur balance tuned to 36,000 vph. Flat Nivarox 1 balance spring, Kif shock protection. 280 parts, of which 225 are unique. Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds at 9, quick change date, integrated chronograph with sweep center seconds hand and 1/10 second recording capability. 30 minute and 12 hour totalizers. The chronograph functions are controlled via a column wheel.
My own observations of the Cal. 400 in this watch and its performance are as follows. The functional finish on this movement is good, though the aesthetic finish is minimal, which is to say Geneva stripes and perlage are absent. Non-functional surfaces on steel parts are either polished or sandblasted. That’s fine, because this movement’s beauty lies in its design and complexity. There is hardly a surface large enough to warrant elaborate decoration.
As a timekeeper, this watch is extremely consistent, perhaps owing to the fast beat. After a 6 week run in period, I tested the watch over 5 days, comparing it with my Radio Shack atomic signal clock at 24 hour intervals. At the beginning of the test I wound the watch fully using the crown. I wore the watch between 6 and 10 hours per day. At night I stored it either dial up or vertical, crown right. The watch gained 5 seconds each day, regardless of the number of hours worn or the night time storage position.
The pushers work quite crisply, requiring slightly more effort to depress than another chronograph I have with an ETA 2892 and Dubois-Depraz chronograph module. The center seconds hand and the minute and hour totalizers returns precisely to zero.
The Strap and Buckle
This watch came with a great looking brown large grain Louisiana crocodile strap. The strap is thickly padded and nicely stitched. This watch requires a 21 mm strap, so off the shelf replacements may not be available at your local watch shop. The buckle is polished stainless steel with the Zenith logo, and it attaches to the strap via a spring bar.
This watch comes in a beautiful leather-lined wood box with a Zenith medallion on the top. This box looks so good, it’s hard to put away. The instruction booklet is very complete, with pictures of the factory, some company history and several pages of detailed operating instructions. Separate instruction booklets are provided in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
This watch offers great design, a respected in-house column wheel chronograph movement and wonderful packaging at a very reasonable suggested retail price of US$2395. Overall, I’m very pleased with this watch, and I think it offers excellent value.
Copyright © 2000 Michael J. Disher