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Of A 386 Casebacks And Forgeries

  1. LouS

    LouS Mrs Nataf's Other Son Staff Member Feb 4, 2013

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    Gents,

    what follows is an amalgamation of two posts I made concerning this topic elsewhere:

    The first is a duplication of a post I made elsewhere regarding casebacks of El Primero ref A 386 based on the database of case numbers which I keep for the early El Primeros. An experienced member on one of the italian vintage fora alledged that all A 386 with smooth casebacks (as opposed to casebacks with the four-pointed "NATO" star) are fakes, known to him to be assembled in Italy in recent years. This was challenged, and caused me to review the database.

    First, this applies only to A 386 casebacks. It's very important not to consider casebacks from other El Primero references. It confuses matters.

    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, I find clearly three production groups
    Again, from my database (14 examples total):

    Type A
    Early production series
    3 examples
    - case numbers 538Dxxx - 539Dxxx
    - plain caseback
    - internal inscription as follows
    a) Zenith
    b) Swiss made;
    c) Acier inoxidable;
    d) no Spillman number
    The writing is centered

    [​IMG] Click this bar to view the original image of 1023x685px.
    [​IMG]

    Type B
    Middle production series
    4 examples
    - plain caseback
    - case numbers 707Dxxx - 708Dxxx
    - internal inscription as follows:
    a) Zenith;
    b) Swiss made;
    c) Acier inoxidable;
    d) SP 1205 (Spillman number)
    The writing is centered

    [​IMG]

    Type C
    Late production series
    6 examples
    - Caseback with four point star (NATO star)
    - case numbers
    861Dxxx-862Dxxx
    922Dxxx-923Dxxx
    231Exxx-233Exxx
    - internal inscription as follows:
    a) Zenith;
    b) Swiss made;
    c) Acier inoxidable;
    d) SP 1205
    The writing is arranged circumferentially

    [​IMG]

    The incorrect watches, which I believe to be forged as longinespassion has stated, have correct casebacks, but they are incorrect for the case numberIn addition, case numbers lie outside of known production series, typically in the mid 900Dxxx range (922 & 923D are authentic). Dials tend to be modern-style service dials as discussed elsewhere on this forum.

    for example, serial 936D460 - Type B caseback
    [​IMG] Click this bar to view the original image of 1024x768px.
    [​IMG]

    Friend Nicola1960 has summarized the above in a nifty table:
    [​IMG]

    I hope this will be of some use to members....
     
    Chrobar likes this.
  2. LouS

    LouS Mrs Nataf's Other Son Staff Member Feb 4, 2013

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    The second post: In followup to the recent post on smooth vs. starred casebacks , I thought I’d post the current caseback number data of the A 386 from the database, as close inspection has made it obvious to me that some of these are so irregular that they stand a good chance of being forgeries as has been alleged on the Italian forum. The good news is that they are not hard to spot as you will see. The “tells” extend well beyond the caseback, and the forger has even been so cavalier to give us a clear numerical indication.

    So, the data:
    The database contains 35 watches, and the caseback number is known in 34(with a few uncertainties regarding single digits among them). 1 is blank.
    Of the 34 in which the caseback number is known, they cluster in five production series PLUS 6 watches that are scattered between two series, as follows.

    1st Series: 5 exemplars, Caseback numbers 538Dxxx-539Dxxx, smooth Type A caseback as defined in the thread cited above.

    2nd series: 11 exemplars, Caseback numbers 706Dxxx-708Dxxx, smooth Type B caseback as defined in the thread above.

    3rd series: 4 exemplars, Caseback numbers 861Dxxx-862Dxxx, NATO-star Type C caseback as defined in the thread above. Of note, the first in this series, 861D695, has been dated by Zenith to March 11, 1970, the only hard date we have in the series

    4th series: 6 exemplars, Caseback numbers 922Dxxx-923Dxxx, NATO-star Type C caseback as defined in the thread above.

    5th series: 3 exemplars, caseback numbers 231Exxx-233Exxx, NATO-star Type C caseback as defined in the thread above.

    There are six other watches which fit in between 4th and 5th series. They are numbered as follows (‘x’ means digit unknown): 930D4x0, 936D460, 941D460, 947Dxxx, 980D460, 984D460. Notice anything beyond the fact that they are much more scattered than the other 28 watches? Yup, they all end in ‘460.’ Some coincidence, huh?

    Now, some of these are not well photodocumented, but let’s look at what we have.

    930D4x0:
    Modern service dial
    [​IMG] Click this bar to view the original image of 1024x680px.
    [​IMG]

    Note that the caseback is not completely flat; there is a central area that is different from the rest, as if the four-point star has been polished out
    [​IMG] Click this bar to view the original image of 1024x680px.
    [​IMG]

    936D460
    Modern service dial
    [​IMG] Click this bar to view the original image of 1024x768px.
    [​IMG]

    That funny looking caseback again with the odd central area, and now with usually deep numbers
    [​IMG] Click this bar to view the original image of 1024x768px.
    [​IMG]

    Inside, a Type B pattern, whereas the 4th and 5th series bracketing this caseback number have Type C casebacks
    [​IMG] Click this bar to view the original image of 1024x768px.
    [​IMG]

    941D460
    Modern service dial
    [​IMG]

    Caseback with polished out star again
    [​IMG]

    980D460
    Modern service dial
    [​IMG]

    This time the caseback looks good (perfectly flat)…
    [​IMG]

    ..but at least the rotor is not correct, and I'd be curious if that movement is a 400 or a 3019, but the seller obscured that bit of info
    [​IMG]

    947Dxxx and 984D460 also both have modern service dials, but I do not have photodocumentation of other features.

    Of note, 984D460 currently holds the record for highest price for an A 386 at auction, at Antiquorum October 9, 2010 (HKD 38,750)
    [​IMG]



    So in summary, 28 watches in well-defined production sequences and 6 more loosely numbered that don't fit in. And these six all (probably) end in 460. And they all have modern service dials. NONE of the other 28 do. Mix in the wonky casebacks and other detail irregularities and draw your own conclusions…
     
  3. alexg

    alexg Mar 16, 2013

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    Hello LouS, hello everyone,

    This answer is copy pasted from elsewhere.

    first sorry for my english mistakes, as english is not my native language.

    I would like to complete this very well documented post with some new "D460" models informations that I found.


    1. from a watch that I bought :
    937D460

    I have to say that I knew this LouS' post before buying it, and that the seller was perfectly explicit on the service dial and crown. We agreed on a price which seemed fair for me, much lower than what he first expected, due to these non original parts.
    For me it was an opportunity to find an A386 very close from how it was 40 years ago out of the manufacture : perfect condition and NOS Gay Freres bracelet.
    I'm really happy with this watch which is my second Zenith one.

    There is on the picture of the inside caseback an interesting written indication : 21/28.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    2. from a watch sold a few days ago on Chrono24 from a seller in the Netherland.
    The end of the serial number was hidden, but we can be sure that it's ending with 460 :
    987DXXX
    It was proposed for a price higher than usual price for original dials models in average condition.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    photos credits by Cars & Watches.

    3. here we have a watch which is in LouS database but without pictures.
    Here they are, found on the web :
    947D460

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    4. two other watches, but I didn't find the serial numbers.

    first from Drouot, a french auction company :
    Ventes aux enchères ZENITH (Chronographe El Primero / première Génération réf. A 386), vers 1969
    http://img130.imageshack.us/img130/5159/zenithpn012.jpg

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    second one from a french second hand (sold since a long time), who bought it at http://www.cavenezze.it/who seemed to have several ones when the guy bought it.

    Chronomania - Zenith A386 : pourquoi n'ai-je pas craqu plus tt ?
    Coin des Affaires - Zenith El Primero A386

    [​IMG]

    My thoughts and remarks about these 10 watches with service dials (2 without known SN) :

    8 of the 10 have a NOS Gay Freres bracelet.
    I really think that these service dials were mounted by Zenith or somebody who had an easy access to Zenith service parts :

    - original Gay Freres bracelets
    - the dials of course (the ones from the New Vintage 1969)
    - the hands
    - original or service crowns (as both are present on the watches)
    - the cases : they all present the same finish which is quite different from the original factory ones, polished steel. So who knows if they come from Zenith ?

    About the movements, we have some of the watches which don't have original parts, mine with its disc day dial, or the 980D460 with a later period rotor.
    For the case backs, it's very strange to have those traces of nato star outisde but the inside corresponding to the flat cases implementation of the spiller indications (no nato star).

    The dials & the tachymetre rings are often mis-aligned in the same direction (look at the 60vs100 at the top of the dial).

    My watch has an hand written 21/28 indication : could it be an indication on the number of watches included in this "460" serial ?

    The watches seemed to appear on the market in 2009-2010.
    About the prices, its interesting to see that these watches are sold for the same kind of prices than original factory models in average condition.
    Perhaps the buyers, like me, love the NOS condition, and are not afraid by the origin of the watch.
    I know that some collectors will disagree with that !
    Of course I would have prefer to find a NOS original dial model with GF bracelet, but it's an impossible graal for the same price !
     
  4. John Chris

    John Chris Il Duca de Luca Mar 16, 2013

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    Thanks for this information, Alex. You know my view: all that really matters is that you know what it is that you are buying. If you have the correct information and are happy with the purchase, then there is nothing at all wrong with that. The problem is when people are misled into thinking they are getting something they're not. Otherwise, your preferences are as good as anybody else's!
     
  5. alexg

    alexg Mar 16, 2013

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    You are right Chris, I read a lot about the A386 before buying it (thanks LouS for all the information posted on the web!) and I was lucky to have a perfectly honest seller. Knowing what you buy is, as you say, what really matters, and internet information and forums like this one are real good help for beginners.
    But all this information on the first el primeros is quite young, it was much more difficult few months or years ago.
     
  6. LouS

    LouS Mrs Nataf's Other Son Staff Member Mar 18, 2013

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    Great further info, Alex. I have heard that there were quite a number of these fakes produced - good to see that documented. I suspect there are still more out there.

    It's not impossible, but it does require great patience. Ut's OK to have a "wearer" in your collection at the meantime. As for prices, it's up to you as Chris says, but you should be honest with yourself. The only reason there has been no price divergence between these and the real ones is ignorance on the part of the buyers. As collector's eyes become more sophisticated, the divergence will surely happen.
     
  7. alexg

    alexg Mar 18, 2013

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    I understand and you are right LouS (even if I disagree the word "fake").
    In fact, there is a price divergence between this serial and the vintage ones when the sellers are honest.
    The 930D460 was sold for 2900€. The last watch of my post for 3000€.
    A NOS vintage one with the original GF bracelet would sell for much more than that.
     
  8. sohail

    sohail Mar 18, 2013

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    Hi This is the case back markings of my 386 . back is the NATO star and serial no. 923Dxxx.
     
    image.jpg
  9. sohail

    sohail Mar 18, 2013

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    It will not be a bad idea if some members can post pictures of the fake one....
     
  10. alexg

    alexg Mar 18, 2013

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    Mine is up in my post.
    Again, these watches are not fakes, built with Zenith dials, Zenith El Primero movments, Zenith hands. The question is still open for the cases and casebacks.
     
  11. LouS

    LouS Mrs Nataf's Other Son Staff Member Mar 18, 2013

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    Sohail,

    Read the thread from the beginning. There are plenty of pictures of forgeries/fakes.

    What term do you propose for a watch that was not assembled by Zenith, and which has a forged case number?
     
  12. sohail

    sohail Mar 18, 2013

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    O k got it now ..... The question is that if some one has taken so much pain to get these cases made , found the 3019 phc correct marked movement i e a, b, c , got the dial hands etc, then he sould have enough knowledge to get the markings right on the case ....?
     
  13. LouS

    LouS Mrs Nataf's Other Son Staff Member Mar 18, 2013

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    So you would think! Here's what I think happened. In a later numbering system, the number on the back of the case was the reference number rather than a case number. The last three digits referred to the movement, and this were the same for any watch with a given movement. Mr. Watch Forger assumed that in the earlier system, the last three digits worked the same way, hence all examples end in '460,' referring to Primero. Fortunately for us, these stand out from the authentic case numbers like sore thumbs.
     
  14. alexg

    alexg Mar 18, 2013

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    In French I would say "non d'origine".
    Fake sounds like replica when we talk about watch, that's why I contest the word in our case.

    Good question. The answer from LouS can be an explanation.
    After that, there is also the question of the value profit as we are not talking about very expensive collector watches.
    A 3019 movment is not cheap, a service dial is not cheap, neither the hands and the bracelet...
     
  15. LouS

    LouS Mrs Nataf's Other Son Staff Member Mar 18, 2013

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    ...and "non d'origine" sounds like it is trying to carve out a space between "authentic" and "fake" (or "forged") which is not there. I might be persuaded accept the term "non d'origine" for something like the Watchco Seamaster 300, where the manufacturer/seller is clear about what has been done, but the A 386 were made and are almost always sold with intent to deceive, so they will remain forgeries for me.
     
  16. sohail

    sohail Mar 19, 2013

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    I agree with Lois wearability for me also is an important factor, meaning that the watch has to be in perfect condition. I bought my 386 after reading this article and conclusion was that the the ' mr fake manufacturer' Could not produce a case back with perfect NATO star. So I waited , till I found one with a NATO star at the back . Technicalities aside 386 is a lovely watch to wear , the size is classic, it has looks and it fits on the wrist perfectly .
     
  17. sohail

    sohail Mar 19, 2013

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    It's an iPad pic , sorry but this is the one I got, a safe bet........
     
    image.jpg
  18. sohail

    sohail Apr 10, 2013

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    Hi Lou must have seen this selling on eBay ....
     
    image.jpg
  19. sohail

    sohail Apr 10, 2013

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  20. papaebetu

    papaebetu Apr 10, 2013

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    Dial is not original but service dial....
    As always the curl in the E and last o of El Primero ;)

    Engrave of serial look too much visible for a caseback too much polished... reprint for me

    GIGI