Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow: Return of a King


If you’re good in a previous life, you come back as something better. The Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow tribute chronograph is a 45mm stainless steel testament to that cosmic truth. As the factory’s love-letter to fans of the 1997-2001 original El Primero pilot’s chronograph, the Stratos Flyback Rainbow embodies the best elements of Zenith’s past and present.

Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow

The Zenith El Primero Rainbow flyback chronograph stands as one of the few Zenith watches to penetrate into the mainstream of watch collecting. The mode’s combination of spectacular appearance, genuine military pedigree (French Air Force, 1990s-2000s), and superb hi-beat El Primero movement endear the original Rainbow to all fans of mechanical watches – not just the Zenith fanboys. Moreover, the improbably story of a mechanical watch winning a military contract in the era of microprocessors has propelled the original Rainbow to vintage-levels over collector esteem despite is relatively recent production run.

But those original Zenith Rainbows are rare, fairly small, and often lack the water resistance that modern sports watch users consider a bare essential. Enter the 2014-present Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow. At 45mm in stainless steel, this burly bruiser packs the style and substance of the original with 100-meter water resistance and refinement unknown to Zenith as recently as the 1990s.

The sprawling dial of the Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow captures the character and charisma of the Technicolor original right down to the matte black backdrop of the dial. Yellow, red, green, and blue keep the chronograph registers visible and discernible at a glance.

The red sweep of the bezel calibration from 0-20 minutes is present and correct. Unidirectional action and a luminescent “pearl” ensure that in addition to flight duty, this incarnation of the Rainbow is suitable for light diving; amphibious operations are a “go.”

Beneath the legendary dial graphics sits a power plant to match: the Zenith El Primero caliber 405B. This automatic-winding flyback chronograph packs specifications worthy of collector awe: 331 parts; 31 jewels, 36,000 VpH beat rate (10 per second); 52-hour power reserve; fully integrated architecture; column wheel function selection; unique Zenith cosmetic finish. With a 45-year track record that spans tours of duty in Rolex Daytonas, TAG Heuers, …and actual combat environments with the French military air arms. The El Primero has “been there” and “done that.”

And this El Primero’s service record continues on wrists of contemporary collectors. See this Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Rainbow in high-resolution images at WatchBox.