If you are not familiar with the Bamford Watch Department (BWD), they are the watch industry’s equivalent of Porsche tuning workshops, Singer and RWB, from the auto industry. BWD is known for customizing watches and transforming a traditional watch into a bold object with injection of unconventional design, colors, and innovative materials. BWD, based in London, started out as an aftermarket watch customization shop. As their profile grew in the watch industry, they started to officially partner with Swiss brands like Hublot, Tag Heuer, and Zenith (all owned by LVMH group). Official partnership was important to both BWD and the end customer, since it protected the warranty of the watch after the customization.
In 2018, BWD collaborated with Zenith, and on-line retailer Mr Porter, on customizing Zenith Heritage 146 El Primero watch. The 25-piece limited-edition watch known as “Solar Blue” was a successful project with all the watches being sold. In October 2019, a second collaboration was announced, and this time the canvas is Zenith’s El Primero A384, a retro chronograph with design elements from the 60s, 70, and the 80s. The model is called “Edge of Space” due to the deep blue dial with black sub-dials, domed sapphire crystal, and a titanium micro blasted case. The entire watch has a space-age feel to it, and could have easily belonged on the wrist of Dr. David Bowman as he dismantled HAL 9000 in the movie, 2001 Space Odyssey. HAL 9000: “Good morning Dave, you can stop that chronograph now; I am afraid the pod bay door will remain closed”.
The A384 borrows design cues from Zenith’s various historical models. The tachymeter is a replica of 1984/86 El Primero; the sub dials are inspired by the 146-HP movement from 1970; and the case shape and dial font is copied from the original A384 from 1969. BWD transforms the rather subdued A384 into a bold statement time piece. George Bamford, founder of BWD, states ““I am so excited to be working on another limited edition created by the amazing team at Zenith exclusively for Mr Porter. Using the historic case of the El Primero A384, this edition feels almost like a prototype straight out of Zenith’s skunk works, with a titanium case and a black-blue dial paired back to the essential elements of the original A384, creating a fresh interpretation of this watch model. The classic references meeting the modern design has been an amazing process from a designer and manufacturer perspective.”
The 37mm titanium tonneau case has a dark grey micro blasted finishing, like the Heuer/Orfina/Sinn Porsche Design flieger chronogrpahs of the 70s. It is a major upgrade from the brushed stainless steel case of the normal A384 anniversary edition. The deep blue lacquered dial with black sub-dials is stunning, and yet it maintains good legibility with contrasting white text and date. The hands are rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with Superluminova C1 (blue color lume). The domed sapphire crystal has AR coating on both sides. However, there is a love/hate relationship with domed crystal – it enhances retro appeal with the dome shape, but the legibility of the dial at the edges is reduced. The dial layout has small seconds counter at nine o’clock, 12-hour counter at six o’clock, 30-minute counter at three o’clock, a central chronograph hand, and date at 4:30.
The A384 Edge of Space is powered by the legendary El Primero 400 automatic movement. It is a column wheel chronograph beating at high frequency of 5 Hz (36,000 bph) with a power reserve of 50 hours. The watch is limited to 50 pieces with a retail price of $8,600. Even though it is available on November 18, 2019, you can pre-order it on Mr Porter website.