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My Zenith El Primero A386 Story - Experts, Please Critique!

  1. luzer Jul 13, 2015

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    thanks to all the community members that have helped me along the way, including @papaebetu, @nicolas07, @BGBG, and @LouS

    after searching for the previous 12 months for a wearable, original A386 in my price point, i recently pulled the trigger for a Matthew Bain piece, on ebayPurchases made through these links may earn this site a commission from the eBay Partner Network. was able to get it for $7,500- not a great price, but not bad- considering where prices have been going. lets see how i did.
    also looking for someone to service it

    1) Dial & Tachy - look original to me, early version. worn, of course. (crystal should be replaced). appears to be the 'First Series', per the 'HA Aligned' - (see this thread: https://omegaforums.net/threads/zenith-a386.5114/ )

    2) Hands & Crown -
    hour and minute seem original, relumed. Second sweeper is a replacement, too long. subdial hands - i thought were replacements, were actually probably earlier versions (vs the fatter later subdial hands)
    (see this thread: https://omegaforums.net/threads/very-tired-a386-on-the-bay.7497/ )

    3) Case -
    seems like a Mark 1 to me
    The first mark I case numbers 538dxxx to 539dxxx have a plain case back and no groove on lugs [see pic of the case with the blue highlighted around the lugs] more about this case later.
    (see this thread: https://omegaforums.net/threads/overview-of-the-zenith-a386-case.5689/ )


    4) Caseback & Serial - now is when things get interesting, probably from an A384 or A385, Batch 4 / IV (Later): Serial is faint, 903DXXX NOT a 923DXXX; and caseback stampings match an A385 i found (SP1301 NOT SP1205. and is not engraved, no swirls). also maybe the movement is touching the caseback in the middle? NOTE: Seller says caseback is original, of course.

    Batch 4: 903 D 5xx to 905 D 9xx (8/2092) - A 384 (3), A 385 (2), A 3817 (1), A 3818 (2). No GF dates
    see http://img813.imageshack.us/img813/9643/65418627.jpg and http://img121.imageshack.us/img121/1872/92965196.jpg
    see https://omegaforums.net/threads/of-a-386-casebacks-and-forgeries.3651/
    Second, SP 1205 is the only correct Spillman number for the A 386. Spillman is the case manufacturer for the A 386 and other El Primeros.Third, by using caseback numbers,
    see http://forums.watchuseek.com/f27/early-el-primero-case-number-project-results-628869.html
    see http://www.newoldtime.it/default.aspx?g=posts&m=267
    see http://forums.watchuseek.com/f27/ov...tainless-steel-models-1969-1975-a-586997.html


    5) Movement - seems original, engraved 3019
    see http://forums.watchuseek.com/f27/pr...early-el-primeros-general-remarks-431440.html
    see http://forums.watchuseek.com/f27/ov...tainless-steel-models-1969-1975-a-586997.html

    thanks for the feedback
    CJ

    FullSizeRender.jpg FullSizeRender_1.jpg FullSizeRender_2.jpg FullSizeRender_3.jpg
     
    Edited Jul 13, 2015
  2. papaebetu Jul 13, 2015

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    Welcome in the A386 Club :)

    GIGI
     
  3. Stewart H Honorary NJ Resident Jul 13, 2015

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    The mark on the case back is probably caused because the case and the back are not meant to be together. You might be able to resolve this by fitting a thicker "O" ring. If this doesn't solve it, I fail to see how it is a "wearable" example.

    It is best to discuss this with your chosen watchmaker but if you do decide to keep it, perhaps ask him to re-fill the hands with something of a colour more sympathetic to the rest of the watch.

    You could, of course, hold out for the correct parts but that might take you many years. I recently bought an unused tritium service, sweep second hand for €200. It was only the second one I have seen for sale in the past three years and these have a tendency for the pipe to split when they have been removed and re-fitted a number of times at service. On another early El Primero, I had one that had been glued on in the past but fortunately the watchmaker whose talent I employ has a special relationship with Zenith and they made a new hand for me on that occasion - not cheap and not quick - but it is still a modern replacement part.
     
  4. LouS Mrs Nataf's Other Son Staff Member Jul 13, 2015

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    now that you have confirmed the caseback number and the Spillman number, it's pretty clear that the caseback is from a Primero, but not an A386. There is no A386 in the 903-905Dxxx serial number range.
     
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  5. luzer Jul 13, 2015

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    thanks @LouS and @Stewart_H
    do you have watchmaker recommendation to help assess the options? NYC if possible
    otherwise i would have to return it :-(
     
  6. Stewart H Honorary NJ Resident Jul 13, 2015

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    I'm the wrong side of the Pond, I'm afraid.
     
  7. LouS Mrs Nataf's Other Son Staff Member Jul 13, 2015

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    What options? I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the correct caseback on one's watch when one pays full price to a dealer. Otherwise, you'll be the one who takes the hit on resale.
     
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  8. MMMD unaffiliated curmudgeonly absurdist & polyologist Jul 13, 2015

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    +1 on returning it.
     
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  9. LarryG not KennyG, not OG, just LarryG Jul 13, 2015

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    +2
     
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  10. pitpro Likes the game. Jul 13, 2015

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    +3 who needs the headache on a 7 large watch
    :: you're working hard, you'll find one::
     
  11. E-diddy Jul 13, 2015

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    disappointing they told you the case back was original. +4 return it.
    I couldn't live with that mistake.
     
  12. Bienne2998 Jul 14, 2015

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    +4 in returning it. I do not believe there is a chance to find the correct caseback. Everytime you would wear the watch there comes the feeling that something is incorrect or missing. I know what I am talking about - I had watches like that.
     
  13. cristos71 Jul 14, 2015

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    +5 and I would be over clear about my disatisfaction in having being told it was correct. Looking at the heavy rub on the inside case back how on earth could the seller believe that? :confused:
     
    luzer likes this.
  14. Darlinboy Pratts! Will I B******S!!! Jul 14, 2015

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    I would also return it. For a watch of this stature, I would not want a long-term project.

    That said, these are extremely hard to find and top examples rarely hit the open market. I have no personal experience buying from Bain, but IMO their best watches (condition and rarity) are not traded on eBay, and IMO those listed there seem to be generally of a lesser caliber.
     
    luzer likes this.
  15. luzer Jul 14, 2015

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    thank you all for the support and advice.
    i reached out to the seller- will let you know what happens.

    who do people send these to? besides @Abel

    note- the salesman at Bain seemed not knowledgable, but, in retrospect it might be part of the game...
     
  16. E-diddy Jul 14, 2015

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    Wish I had a dollar every time a dealer told me "yes, i believe the watch is all original". if they are going to charge more for the watch, they should add value for customers IMHO. sadly, you really need to become an expert for each vintage reference you seek (not an easy task). thank goodness for the OF community.
     
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  17. MMMD unaffiliated curmudgeonly absurdist & polyologist Jul 14, 2015

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    Well that's the upside to this kind of experience... the learning. I'll bet Luzer will need much less help vetting the next A386 that comes along.
     
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  18. jordn Wants to be called Frank for some odd reason Jul 14, 2015

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    Wish I had a dollar for every time a dealer insists a watch is original, I tell them they're wrong and why they're wrong, and they say "well, I primarily deal in Rolex" ::facepalm2::
     
  19. dsio Ash @ ΩF Staff Member Jul 14, 2015

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    The hunt and research is the best part, imagine how boring Indiana Jones would have been if he'd just ordered the artefacts he found from an online dealer.
     
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  20. cristos71 Jul 14, 2015

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    What a dealer says should not be trusted, period.

    As with any purchase, watch or non watch, be it cheap or expensive, it is 100% up to the buyer to make their own informed decisions.

    And as @MMMD points out if the learning and knowledge came for free then it wouldn´t be so highly regarded.
     
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