The mention of Zenith often immediately leads to a conversation about the El Primero line. And why not? Besides being a steady player for the brand, it also occupies a special space in horological history that has changed the direction for Swiss watchmaking. But through both the fat and the lean years, there is another collection that has carried the Zenith name and business, often shadowed by the El Primero but not any less impressive—the Zenith Elites. While the El Primo wows immediately, the Elites are more quiet in appeal. The aforementioned collections are on the opposite sides of the spectrum, with the Elites considered the dressier of the two.
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Release date: 2010
Aesthetically speaking, the two lines could not be any more different. The Elites features’ are downplayed in favor of a design that disregards trends and sees beauty in restraint. Among the best examples for the collection is the Zenith Elite 681 Ultra Thin, which does not lie about its claim of a very svelte profile. The domain of thin dress watches is often led by other watchmakers with higher price points, but with the Elite Ultra Thin, Zenith proves that you can get a watch as beautiful and awe-inspiring but at a fraction of the usual cost.
- Movement: Automatic
- Caliber: Elite 681
- Power reserve: 50 hours
- Frequency: 28,800vph
- Case diameter: 40mm
- Case thickness: 8.3mm
- Glass: synthetic sapphire, anti-reflective
- Water resistance rating: 50m
- Functions: Time, small seconds
The Zenith Elite 681 Ultra Thin’s beauty relies heavily on the aesthetic balance on the dial. The simple and mostly empty dial is not as easy to achieve as it may seem, and yet Zenith shows its design prowess with just the right proportions. With a diameter of 40mm, the size is just right, but it manages to make its presence more prominent through the domed nature. The diameter adds to the lightness of the watch, despite it being already very thin at 8.3mm. Often, such a thin and more compact watch compromises its movement, but not in the Elite 681 Ultra Thin’s case. The Elite 681 caliber is automatic and boasts of a power reserve of 50 hours, which proves that you shouldn’t undermine it based solely on size. If you want to see it work right before your eyes, flipping the watch over reveals a clear caseback that allows you to have a good look at it. Another important consideration is the price asked for the Zenith Elite 681 Ultra Thin—it is cheaper than the El Primero as well as other thin dress watches that fare well with collectors.
We have no complaints about the Zenith Elite 681 Ultra Thin, for the most part. But if we’d have to quibble, the glass is made with synthetic sapphire. It is arguably as sturdy as its natural counterpart, although the natural is generally favored more.
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