The last time Zenith men’s replica ventured into the contemporary, under the lead of then-CEO Thierry Nataf, it caused a bit of a stir. Though the Defy series had its fans, its detractors were far greater in number, and so when the beloved brand was turned over to golden boy Jean-Frédéric Dufour, a collective sigh of relief was breathed. The brand returned to producing classic replica watches with superb movements, and all was well. That is until 2014, when Dufour was poached by Rolex.
Aldo Magada was his replacement, and concern has arisen again in light of special editions with The Rolling Stones, Land Rover and Cohiba cigars. That makes this latest replica watch, the Zenith El Primero Tourbillon Skeleton replica Intense Black, something of a talking point.
Sister company TAG Heuer, also owned by parent LVMH, is no stranger to technical contemporary design, and this seems to have rubbed off onto the Intense Black. The mottled ceramic case—which is intensely black, of course—and skeletonised dial, plated in gunmetal grey ruthenium, are suitably industrial, with an open heart exposing the calibre 4035B’s 36,000 vph tourbillon.
The 4035 is a staple of the Zenith arsenal, with the ‘B’ presumably denoting the blackness of this new variant, with its off-kilter tourbillon nudging the case size to 45mm in diameter and 14.6mm thick. Lume is also intensely black, perhaps making legibility an issue on this generally shadowy design.
Proportions remain elegant and finishes look to be the same high standard as usual, so it’s likely that any concerns about the direction of the company are unfounded. If the Intense Black looks like your kind of replica watch, you’re sure to be treated to a fantastic piece of horology; if not, then Zenith still offers the same classic pieces it’s famous for.