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A special package from Switzerland, Le Locle, Mr. Dufour

51915 Views 142 Replies 132 Participants Last post by  telepgm
Dear readers,

Before I can explain to you what kind of package I received I have to give you a summary about what happened before.

A summary on my El Primero refurbishment
A little while ago I bought an old Zenith El Primero watch from a watchmaker who is an acquaintance of my father.
The watch was in terrible condition and was in need of a lot of love and attention. The watch is from 1973, more than twice as old as I am.
I started watchmaking about a year ago as a hobby. I was given a whole workbench, tools, parts etc. by an uncle of my father who used to be a watchmaker when he was younger. In a pretty short period of time I learned a lot about watchmaking and this old Zenith watch felt like a new challenge.

I spent a lot of time on the watch and replaced the parts of the movement that were broken. I will show a few pictures from before, during and after the refurbishment:

This is what the movement, case and dial looked like :rodekaart:

I started disassembling cthe movement and it didn't get better on the inside:

Also the case was very filthy:

To clean the movement I started by cleaning almost every part by hand using a small fiberglass scratch brush. After that I put them in the cleaning machine. When all the parts were clean I started reassembling the watch while taking care of the oil. When The movement was done and I wound the watch it finally started running again. Here are some pics:

After also spending a lot of time and effort on the case and hands this is what the watch looked like. I was really proud about the result:

The problem and the letter
I was really satisfied with my watch. The only thing I found a bit of a shame was the dial that was damaged and lost it's color. Also the hands and date ring weren't the way I wanted them to be, so I decided to write the following letter to the CEO of Zenith, Mr. Jean-Frédéric Dufour (I also included pictures of the process and the result):

My adres, private
The Netherlands

January 3, 2011

Mr Jean-Frédéric Dufour
Zenith International SA
Rue des Billodes 34
CH-2400 Le Locle

Dear Mr Dufour,

A little while ago I was at a watchmaker who is an acquaintance of my father. While I was there I saw an El Primero movement in one of his drawers. The movement was rusty and it was obviously that it had water damage in the past and that it had been neglected for a long time. I asked the watchmaker about the watch, but he didn't knew anything about the El Primero movement. Frankly enough he didn't even knew the brand Zenith. I told him about the movement and how special it is. The first automatic chronograph in production, the high beat rate of 36.000 oscillations per hour and even today it still has a leap on many other movements. He was amazed by what I told to him and he took a better look at it. It was the first time he took a better look at the movement and he was impressed by the technical beauty of the movement. The case and dial that belonged to it were also in terrible state, but he could see the robust quality of the case.

Since he didn't want to do all the effort that was necessary to refurbish the watch himself, he asked me if I was interested in buying the old movement including case, dial, hands etc. Since I'm only eighteen years old (at that time seventeen years old) and a big fan of Zenith watches this sounded like a one of a kind opportunity to buy a legendary Zenith El Primero which until then seemed unachievable at my age. We agreed about the price and I bought the watch.

Watches and watchmaking are a huge passion of mine and about a year ago I started doing watchmaking myself as a hobby. Since then I have spent a lot of time and effort in developing my knowledge and skills. I was lucky that I got a lot of tools and a whole workbench from an uncle of my dad who used to be a watchmaker. Since I started watchmaking I have made a huge leap forward in both skills and knowledge and I was sure that I would be able to refurbish the watch.

The movement was, as I said already, in very bad shape and was in great need of a refurbishment. Also, the rest of the watch was in terrible shape; the glass was broken, there was rust inside the watchcase, the bracelet had damaged links, the once polished bezel was heavily scratched, the crown was missing and everything was very, very filthy.
After having a good look at the movement I decided to have a go at it. I started disassembling the movement and carefully checked every single part. Quite some parts had to be replaced: the balance wheel, the escape wheel, the winding stem, the reverser connecting wheel for the automatic, the hour wheel and the date ring. I managed to find a supplier for the parts I needed and ordered them. In the meanwhile I cleaned every single part by hand using primarily a fiberglass scratch brush before putting it in the cleaning machine.
When I received the parts I ordered I started reassembling the watch. I placed every single part back into the movement taking care of the oil where needed and little by little the movement transformed back into the beautiful movement it once was. I placed the balance wheel together with the balance cock onto the movement, wound the watch and for the first time since a very long time the watch became alive, finally. It was really satisfactory to hear the beautiful and fast ticking sound of the watch for the first time.

The case was still in terrible state and by then it was time to refurbish the case along with the bracelet that belongs to it. The first thing I did, was to remove the broken glass, the pushers and the polished bezel. I polished the bezel and cleaned it together with the case, pushers and bracelet. Since I am unable to make watch glasses myself I sent the case to a specialist for that. 
The bracelet had two links with uneven spaces between each other, so I had to take apart those links. That was quite a challenge, because the links were pressed in each other, so there wasn't an easy way to take them apart. In order to take the bracelet apart I broke the junctions of the links and then drilled holes in the lugs. On the lathe I made small sticks with bulged ends and at the jewelry shop where my father works I was given the opportunity to spot weld them in the holes using a device called PUK. I finished the sides of the bracelet, so that you can't see that I did anything to it. The bracelet was now straight again. Once I did the final finishing I reassembled al the parts of the case and it looked stunning.
Before I could reassemble the watch I had to do something about the hands, because the hands lost their original layer of paint/chrome and were brass colored. I painted the non-chromed hands white, as they were original, but I was unable to re-chrome the hour and minute hands.
By then I did everything I could to save and refurbish every separate part of the watch, so it was time to assemble everything together to make it a complete watch. Once I did that the result was an absolutely beautiful watch, ready to be preserved for many and many generations while reflecting the history, philosophy and quality of a genuine Zenith watch. Saved from a slow and lonely death.
I'm really proud of my self-refurbished vintage Zenith watch. A watch from a great brand with a great history which every real watch enthusiast knows about and I am very glad to see that the current collection is coming back to its roots and is inspired by the vintage Zenith watches which mine is one of. Although I think it is great to design and make new watches I think it is also important to respect, protect and preserve the heritage of Zenith which is exactly what Zenith is doing with its current collection.

Everything so far so good, but I ran onto a few problems considering the face of the watch. The dial that once was blue lost its color while the indices are still in place. Another problem I ran up to was the date ring, because the original was black with white numbers, while I was only able to get a white one with black numbers on it. Of course I could let a specialist refinish the original dial, but I consider that not done, because a refinished dial isn't original anymore and I really appreciate the authenticity of the watch. Therefore I would like to ask you if you are able to get me an original dial and possibly even the date ring and hands.

I hope you enjoyed reading my letter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Mick Mooren

Enclosures (7)

Ofcourse I hoped that he would send me a letter back and hopefully even the parts I asked for, but I didn't expected it to actually happen.

A surprise from Switzerland

Last monday when I came home after school, I found a small note on the table. It said that I should call my father when I was home. Not knowing what it was about I called him. He told me that he was on his way home, because he had something for me.
While I was doing my school-exam English the Fedex deliverer brought a package for me. My father handed me the package and I looked who was the sender... Switzerland... Le Locle.. Zenith! :O It was quite a heavy package and I didn't knew how fast I had to open it! On the package I found a handwritten letter on behalf of Mister Dufour. I read what was on it and I was gladly surprised (see picture) with the contents of the letter.
I quickly continued opening the package. And, you guessed it, inside the package I found a NOS dial, date ring and NOS hands! And like that wasn't enough they also sent me a nice book/ catalog with it! I was thrilled!

Rapidly I went to my workbench and started taking apart my Zenith to assemble the new parts onto it. Carefully I put the watch back together with the new parts and just to be sure I checked if everything was right. What a change, it looked absolutely stunning! It was just like I had a new watch. I just can't keep my eyes from it! :p

After 38 years the watch looks like new again and is ready to survive a new generation. I still find it very special and I feel honored by the package I got from Zenith.

It shows that even today there are still companies that actually care about their customers, their history, their heritage and their fans. +100 for Zenith! |>

Enought text, time for some pictures of the unpacking and the result!

So, that was my story.. it turned out to be quite a long one, but I hope you guys enjoyed reading it! Thank you for reading! :-!

Kind regards,

Mick Mooren
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Outstanding effort with a fantastic result |>!

Great restoration job, kudos to you! Nice story, and I like that they sent you a replacement dial, chapter ring and hands. I have three El Primeros already, think that number is going to grow :-d

The finished result looks great, and I hope you get many years of enjoyment from the watch!
That's a very cool story. The watch looks fantastic. Nice work!
Fantastic! Kudos to you. A wonderful story of a wonderful watch and awesome result!

You deserve to be very proud... Enjoy the watch and treasure the experience you've had.

Thanks for sharing your story,
What a great story. One of the best posts I have read on this forum. Congratulations!
Wow...congratulations...what a great story...and watch.
AWESOMENESS! this story is amazing!
This is a wonderful thread! Awesome work on the old Zenith, it's impressive that you started your watchmaking journey restoring an old El Primero caliber. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
That's a very cool story. The watch looks fantastic. Nice work!
I second that! Your patience has proven to be a huge blessing. It is nice to see a manufacturer acknowledge and appreciate their customers. Looks like you have a brand new piece there. Enjoy it.
What an amazing transformation~Thanks for sharing!
Wow! Great job! Great story! That's the kind of provenance and story every collector wants behind their watch.

Thanks for sharing.
outstanding - what a credit to your skill and dedication - that is a very special watch, thanks to your contribution - you have put something of yourself into it.
"The Devil's in the details", impressed with Zenith.
outstanding - what a credit to your skill and dedication - that is a very special watch, thanks to your contribution - you have put something of yourself into it.
+1. Excellent post and a fantastic job.
Unreal. One of the best stories I've read on WUS! Your passions and enthusiasm (not to mention your considerable watchmaking skill), and the generosity of Zenith....well it is truly awe-inspiring. What a joy it was to read your adventure. Congratulations on such a beautiful restoration! :-!:-!:-!
The watch is very impressive, but the story behind it is just awesome.

Zenith must be proud to stand behind likes of yourself!

That is one more reason to get a Zenith.

Wear it in good health!
Well done, that is outstanding. I'll remember this story.


I saw your recent post on the dutch forum. terrific story. Glad M. Dufour took the opportunity to do the generous thing...he will find it reflects very well on Zenith.
I'm speechless.

I really am.

You do very good work and you can tell a story very well, also.

And I can only imagine the feeling you got when your father handed you that package.

Once again, very well done: the watch and the post.

Thank you for sharing.
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