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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
In followup to the recent post on smooth vs. starred casebacks (https://www.watchuseek.com/f27/forged-zenith-386-caseback-debate-summary-759217.html) 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.

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

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

3[SUP]rd[/SUP] 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

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

5[SUP]th[/SUP] 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


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


936D460
Modern service dial


That funny looking caseback again with the odd central area, and now with usually deep numbers


Inside, a Type B pattern, whereas the 4[SUP]th[/SUP] and 5[SUP]th[/SUP] series bracketing this caseback number have Type C casebacks


941D460
Modern service dial


Caseback with polished out star again


980D460
Modern service dial


This time the caseback looks good (perfectly flat)…


..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


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)




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…
 

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While I am not apt to argue the polished out star, the question remains, why? It serves little purpose to polish it out.

Cheers!

Dan
 

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Discussion Starter #3
While I am not apt to argue the polished out star, the question remains, why? It serves little purpose to polish it out.

Cheers!

Dan
It's a good question I agree. The best I can come up with is that the polisher thought that the correct caseback was supposed to be smooth and all he had were casebacks from other Zeniths with the four-point star. At any rate, the suspicious nature of these watches does not hang on the caseback, which seems to have been the assumption up to now, based on the assertion on the other forum that all A 386s with smooth casebacks are forgeries. That's just not so, and in my opinion the whole caseback aspect is a bit peripheral. I find the service dials and the unusual numbering to be the linchpins of the argument for these not being authentic.
 

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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…
Excellent post, thank you for that.

Your findings clearly suggest that the 6 "questionable" A386s were all 'treated' by the same source.

Yet you found them scattered all over the globe?

Or is there a possibility to narrow down the geographical area ?

Apart from that, I'm impressed that you now have 35 A386's in the database, more than double the amount since January. There's a lot of work behind that, I guess. And I hope your work will scare the possible forgers all around the world.
|>
 

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These 6 questionable A386s with the service dial and the 'forged' casebacks - do they have the original star crown or the later incorrect 'service' crown?

If all the A386s with service dials have this questionable caseback and none of the other A386s with original dials have this, then it must suggest that the caseback was 'forged' at the same time that the service dial was installed?
But why? In an attempt to convince people that, despite the service dial, the watch must be from a fairly early vintage (before the NATO caseback) and with a 9xxDxxx serial number?!?
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
BC, I don't think these are retooled A 386s - as you observe, that wouldn't make a lot of sense. And it's not a matter merely of a forged caseback. These are watches that were never assembled in Le Locle. My theory is that their creation started with the availability of modern service dials. Movements are easy to source. The cases, hard to forge, may have come from a service supply. The casebacks came from various and assorted Zenith models and were polished smooth to approximate the smooth caseback that the forger believed was correct for this reference.

The proof would be if Zenith's records had more than just date of production associated with case numbers- if they were able to tell us what reference these case numbers left the factory as. Dollars to donuts it wouldn't be an A 386.

SV, will address your geographical question this evening. It may not help us much, as the collector community is pretty globally connected thanks to the internet.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Your findings clearly suggest that the 6 "questionable" A386s were all 'treated' by the same source.

Yet you found them scattered all over the globe?

Or is there a possibility to narrow down the geographical area ?
My database contains snapshots of the watches when found, by which time they have probably changed hands many times. A review of the questionables - the "460s" - is not particularly revealing: 2 Italy, 1 UK, 1 France, 1 Germany and 1 Antiquorum sold in Hong Kong.

Apart from that, I'm impressed that you now have 35 A386's in the database, more than double the amount since January. There's a lot of work behind that, I guess. And I hope your work will scare the possible forgers all around the world.
|>
...or teach them to forge to a higher standard:-(...always the risk making such information public. Still, better for enthusiasts to post the data.
 

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Hello LouS, hello everyone,

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 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.





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.




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






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






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



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 who 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 !





 

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Thanks for the info! It's the same for me: Ref. A386, with original dial and crown, good condition, reasonable price...... some day, maybe (*SIGH*).

Hartmut Richter
 

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Thank you for sharing, impressive bit of research.

Congratulations with yours, looking good, and it is a nice and certainly unique combination with the blue date disk.



A few questions:

How do you know they have NOS bracelets? Perfect condition, full length, not repolished?

Maybe you could elaborate a bit more and make it clear how to see the difference in case finish between the original and these 'refinished' A386's?
 

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@sempervivens :

Thanks for your words on my watch !
You are right the date disk is dark blue. I hesitate to replace it with an original one.

About the bracelets, I can tell that mine is really as new. Full length and no stretch at all. I was amazed that a piece from 1968 could be in that condition more than 40 years later.
It was also the case on the last watch of my post (described as new by the seller), and on all the pictures that I collected on these watches, all the bracelets seems in the same NOS condition.
I noticed that they seems to be early in dates. Mine is stamped from 4/68. The 941D460 is 4/68 or 4/69 difficult to read. And the 987D460 is 4/69.
I'm 90% sure that these bracelets were not mounted during all these years.

About the cases, they never have the brushed steel from original cases, but they have very small circular lines on the lugs that you can see on this picture of the 930D460 (down right lug) :


and on the back that's more clear, here on the 936D460 :



My watch (937D460) shows the same lines both on front and back.

I see two possibilities for these cases :
- they are service cases which didn't receive the "finish" by Zenith.
- they are forgeries.
 

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I see what you mean, a circular brushed finish instead of a straight brushed finish. Simply a refinished case IMO. It could have been done by Zenith or by anybody else during service.
 

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I see what you mean, a circular brushed finish instead of a straight brushed finish. Simply a refinished case IMO. It could have been done by Zenith or by anybody else during service.
I don't think so, these lines are perfectly circular, done by a machine, not by the hands.
 

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I don't think so, these lines are perfectly circular, done by a machine, not by the hands.
A misunderstanding here ?

I meant it could have been done by Zenith or by anybodyelse who has the required equipment
 
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