Starting life as a project commissioned by the French Air Force the Zenith Stratos Flyback Rainbow became one of the most iconic models in the company portfolio. Designed around an exacting brief, the watch unveiled in 1997 boasted excellent legibility, unerring accuracy, and the ability to perform without compromise under the immense physical pressures it would be subjected to on the wrist of fighter jet pilots.
The watch they received fulfilled all of the customer’s requirements, and then some, but its dramatic appearance and superb build quality also happened to find the Stratos Rainbow subject of a much wider market interest, becoming a cult favorite among discerning watch lovers.
Recently revisited, the new Stratos Flyback Rainbow is a faithful tribute to its much loved predecessor, and retains all of its signature features while giving it a slightly larger case at 45mm. Of course the words El Primero on the dial indicate that inside too, the legendary automatic chronograph movement still beats at its heart.
The imposing stainless steel case is finished in brushed and polished surfaces and is crowned by a wide uni-directional rotating bezel, with a black aluminium insert providing the background for clearly defined bezel markings, the first 20 minutes highlighted in red and a luminous dot centring reference at the 12. The pushers for the flyback chronograph are squat and compact smooth blocks of polished steel either side of the screw-in crown.
Beneath the slightly domed sapphire crystal a telemetric scale on the steep rehaut is discreet, and the black dial features large arabic numerals, which like the faceted steel hands are coated in Super LumiNova, guaranteeing superb readability in day or night.
The 30 minute chrono counter gave the original its “Rainbow” moniker, as its colours were easily defined and receptive to the infra-red light inside a blacked-out fighter jet cockpit. The other two subdials at the 6 and the 9 house the 12 hour counter and small constant seconds respectively.
On the reverse the sapphire caseback reveals the spinning weight of the famous El Primero 405-B automatic self-winding chronometer movement, whose high-beating 36,000vph gets chronograph timing down to 1/10 second via the big red central pointer with the Zenith star at its tail end.