For 2020, Zenith has revamped its dressy Elite collection, and I got the chance to see the new three-hand “Classic” model, as well as the Moonphase variant at LVMH Dubai Watch Week. Other than the occasional chronograph, the Elite line has always flown under the radar for me since I’ve never been much of a dress watch person. I believe the outgoing Elite 6150 collection was released back in 2015 when it was introduced as an in-house movement replacement for the then-existing Sellita-driven collection. This new Elite collection gets all new cases (36 and 40.5mm) and sunray dials, while retaining the in-house Elite movements. Zenith makes a point to note that the Elite is a unisex collection, though it may be hard for some to not categorize the 36mm as a women’s watch and the 40.5mm as men’s (and on the larger side, at that).
It’s not news to anyone that dials are in right now, with watch consumers having an appetite for beautiful dials that aren’t the same-old. So, Zenith added a stamped radial sunray dial to every watch in the Elite collection. While this isn’t a new technique in watchmaking, Zenith delivers on the execution with pretty excellent finishing. Also, there are long legible dauphine hands as well as large applied hour indices. At 6 o’clock is a gently trapezoidal date window, which I’m sure some will wish wasn’t there. Zenith wisely applies a double-sided anti-reflective coating to make sure the dial isn’t reduced to a flash of glare.
As of now, the Elite Classic in 40.5mm comes in two varieties. These are steel case with a blue dial (as seen in this article) and rose-gold with a silver toned dial that is actually a little warmer than you’d expect. The Elite Classic 40.5mm case is very thin at 9.1mm-thick, which is down from the outgoing Elite’s 9.45mm-thick case. This is likely due to the refreshed model using the thinner Elite 670 movement (3.47mm) rather than the Elite 679 (3.85mm).
The Elite 670 movement has been used in several models, including the Defy Classic. Made of 144 components, the automatic Elite 670 operates at 28,800 vph and has a 50-hour power reserve. A new aesthetic touch is the star-shaped rotor with satin finishing, which is nice enough.
Note that cases for all Elite watches, Classic or Moonphase, are water resistant to 50M.
I have to say, I found myself charmed by the Elite Moonphase in steel. I say steel, because. when considering the rose-gold model, it’s hard for one’s mind not to veer towards the Rolex Cellini and that would lead to a different article altogether. That said, the gold Zenith Elite Moonphase is priced closer to a Rolex Datejust and about $13,000 less than a Cellini Moonphase, so make of that what you will.
But back to the steel model that you see in my photos here. Slate-gray is absolutely the right color for a contemporary dress watch like this one. The combination of the steel case, moonphase aperture, and the sunray pattern slate-gray dial makes for a very good-looking watch. I, for one, appreciate the small-seconds display at 9 o’clock. In addition to a central seconds hand occasionally getting in the way of the moonphase display, I find such absolute symmetry would make this dial look incomplete.
The Elite Moonphase isn’t much thicker than the time-only model, coming in at 9.35mm thick. The Elite 692 movement is made of 195 components and measures in at 3.97mm-thick. It also operates at 28,800 vph and has a 50-hour power reserve, along with the crown-operated moonphase complication.
I think the changes Zenith has made to the Elite collection are positive overall and steer an existing collection that was a both a bit too minimal and traditional. The changes come with a price bump, as I believe the new steel time-only model is almost $1,000 pricier than the outgoing 39mm Elite 6150 and now costs just about the same as the Omega Globemaster or Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date. Price for the Zenith Elite Classic 40.5mm in steel is $5,700 and $12,400 in rose gold. Price for the Zenith Elite Moonphase 40.5mm in steel is $6,700 and $13,400 in rose gold. You can learn more at zenith-watches.com.