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Discussion Starter #21 (Edited)
I'm a big fan of the Zenith El Primero and would love to own that watch at some point, but the used market on these watches doesn't seem to be favorable. The original design is still the best one and is the one to get, but used ones are so expensive, and then servicing has to be factored into the equation because that watch is considered to be very difficult and expensive to service -- and that's if you can actually find someone to work on it. I think owners of used El Primeros have gotten a lot of traction out of Zenith's grossly inaccurate claim that this watch was the first automatic chronograph; third is more like it. Making an announcement that you have the world's first automatic chronograph without actually making that watch available for sale doesn't mean that you have the first automatic chronograph; it means you were the first to make an announcement that you're going to be selling an automatic chronograph. Heuer and Seiko actually have much stronger claims to being first.

In any case, and given that history, I don't see the value in spending more money on a used El Primero when a new one with the original design can be purchased on the grey market for under $6k.
The watch on sale has already been serviced. But yes it will need service again in future. However, an automatic chronograph is always complicated to service, whether it is a Seiko or a Zenith. The Zenith is a little more difficult, but there isn't so much difference in actual work. I think in both cases the money is well-spent, but the Zenith may be more worthwhile.

The Zenith El Primero was the first automatic chronograph to be presented to the public on 10th January 1969 (Zenith already had working prototypes in 1968). The actual serial production by Zenith was slower than the production by Seiko and Heuer. Seiko was the first to achieve actual serial production of their (simplified) caliber 6139.

However IMHO it is not so much because the El Primero was "the first" automatic chronograph, but rather because it is the best, that it is so much appreciated.

Yes, you can now buy a new Zenith El Primero with similar design (not the same) for less money. But you will then have a new watch, which the moment it leaves the shop and stops being new, will loose economic value. The original one on the contrary, although it is already used, may continue to gain value, because of its historical value and because it is a supreme collectible watch.

However I don't think one should get it for the economic value, and not even for its historical, horological value, but rather because you love it. And if you don't, don't. ;-)
 

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The first automatic chronographs from Zenith, Heuer and Seiko are my vintage watch collecting 'theme', and I have samples of all three.
I'm not interested in who's first - that's an old and tired discussion, but I do agree with with sempervivens that the c.3019 is the best movement of the three.
You can read some of my inane ramblings on my vintage watches in my blog.

To each his own of course, but if I had 6K to spend, I'd most definitely go for a vintage A386 than any of the new El Primeros.

ben
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The watch on sale has already been serviced. But yes it will need service again in future. However, an automatic chronograph is always complicated to service, whether it is a Seiko or a Zenith. The Zenith is a little more difficult, but there isn't so much difference in actual work. I think in both cases the money is well-spent, but the Zenith may be more worthwhile.

The Zenith El Primero was the first automatic chronograph to be presented to the public on 10th January 1969 (Zenith already had working prototypes in 1968). The actual serial production by Zenith was slower than the production by Seiko and Heuer. Seiko was the first to achieve actual serial production of their (simplified) caliber 6139. However IMHO it is not so much because the El Primero was "the first" automatic chronograph, but rather because it is the best, that it is so much appreciated.

Yes, you can now buy a new Zenith El Primero with similar design (not the same) for less money. But you will then have a new watch, which the moment it leaves the shop and stops being new, will loose economic value. The original one on the contrary, although it is already used, may continue to gain value, because of its historical value and because it is a supreme collectible watch.

However I don't think one should get it for the economic value, and not even for its historical, horological value, but rather because you love it. And if you don't, don't. ;-)
You do raise a good point about the vintage potentially going up in value but the new one depreciating. I think that's true. For me, it's not as much of an issue because I tend to hold my watches and very, very rarely sell. The Zenith I would definitely hold because it's such a gorgeous watch, is historically important, has a timeless design and a superb movement -- one of truly great watches.
 

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The trifecta! Wish I could afford a Monaco instead of a Carrera but it'll do for now. Who was first has been beaten to death. Who made the best there is no question. When you watch the smooth sweep of the high-beat chrono seconds hand it is hypnotizing. If I didn't have an A386, I'd sell everything else I own in a heartbeat to reacquire one. The new ones, while nice, don't quite do it for me. Actually, the New Vintage 1969 I do like but you don't really find them on the used market and I don't see value in buying new Zenith's.



 

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Could be a 862D530 or 862D590. Really faint.

Like Ben said, there is another for sale: Zenith El Primero Ref A386 Year 1969 | eBay

It looks all original, including crown and pushers, except the service dial. The case has been polished but not too bad (although this is subjective). Original tachymeter shows some fading. Serial number is barely visible, according to Haga it is 862D690 (according to the seller: 86xD5xx), which puts it in the third production run, from 1970.

Let's see what it does.

View attachment 1310248 View attachment 1310249
 

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I still have yet to come across a convincing argument why the third in the shops can't be the first in existence. Which is, after all, the way it was.

If anyone is more impressed by what's in the shop window than the achievement of creating the thing in the first place, they are welcome to that opinion. Not my way of thinking, though, and I can't see why my way should be objectively wrong. :)

Hartmut Richter
 

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After zenith previewed the el primero in January 1969, and then lets say they drove back to Switzerland and put the el primero's in the basement and stopped production and never sold one watch, the reality is they would be and are the manufacturer of the FIRST automatic chronograph in the WORLD . There seems to be some jealous people out there when it comes to the fabulous zenith el primero and zenith.
 

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Semper.... 4 hours to service the El Primero? Really? Where did you get that information from? I'm not shocked that everyone is so OMG over the cost to service the Zenith. There is a saying that if you cant afford to service the watch, then don't buy it. Like high end cars. Same principle. You pay for professional skilled craftsman to do the work. How much should they be paid? $10 bucks an hour? Not gonna happen. Ever see the labor rate in a Ferrari, Lambo, or Porsche dealer? The cost of doing business is not limited to just finding the skilled, trained mechanic/watchmaker to work on your machines. No debate, just matter of fact. 31
 

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Discussion Starter #29 (Edited)
Semper.... 4 hours to service the El Primero? Really? Where did you get that information from?
From the invoice of course: "4 units of labour" usually means 4 hours.

How much should they be paid?
For someone who hasn't necessarily learned to read or write, 400 euro/hour seems a little over the top ;-)

Didn't you also charge "only" 400 $ for servicing an El Primero?

Originally Posted by haga888
Could be a 862D530 or 862D590. Really faint.
In that case it must be 862D5x0, since the seller says it is 86xD5xx. It doesn't matter much: could be 1970, or even 1971.
 

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Who said they put it in the basement?!

The fact of the matter is, as I have said before (at least in other places, if not here on this forum), that the others had the advantage over Zenith in putting the movement into mass production. The Cal. 11 was based on an existing movement which had been in production since 1962 so mass production required only the mass production of the module and a slight amendment in the existing movement. On top of that, there were four companies involved of which three ended up selling watches with that movement, so there were certain synergies - the combined resources of the three were rather greater than those Zenith had. After all, Zenith could not quickly increase staff for mass production, nor could they afford to divert a substantial part of their existing staff to mass producing the El Primero at the expense of their remaining watch production. As for Seiko, they were a much bigger company than Zenith (more on the scale of the modern ETA) and had consequently fewer problems mass producing their movement.

So, Zenith had two choices: mass produce and sell immediately and let out their watches in homeopathic doses of about ten a time, leading to huge waiting lists in all countries or store the production of the first half a year or more until sufficient watches had been produced to supply all dealers worldwide with at least a (few) dozen or so. After achieving the near impossible (beating the other two - or five! - competitors to the title of world's first automatic chronograph despite being the much smaller company), I think they can be forgiven for not being overly hasty in the rush to production. The route they chose probably ended up disappointing everyone slightly rather than most people massively!

Hartmut Richter
 

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Let us forget about the [ driving back to Switzerland and the basement talk ] that is meant to be humour, everyone knows they did not put the watches in the basement they put them in the loft ha ha only messing. What I am saying to the non zenith camp is if zenith decided after the el primero preview never ever to sell one watch to the public good grief what a thought, the reality and the fact would still be that the el primero was in 1969 and still is the first manufactured automatic chronograph in the world . You see all the other camp have to grab on to is that they sold their watches first [ maybe they did or did not] which is a poor argument, history says zenith made and zenith showed their el primero watches first in January 1969 and the heure and Seiko camp showed nothing because they had no movement finished until much later.
 

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Hartmut, Brian's post was a hypothetical, denoted by "Let's say...".

And, indeed, had the EP never gone into production at all, it would still be the first.

I'd like an early EP, but at current prices its not gonna happen. I bought a new one this year for probably less than what this one will sell for, but one's first Zenith should come with that piece of mind.

My first vintage EP may end up being an Ebel, which would bridge my collection nicely. But they ain't cheap either.

Rick "who'd like a Monaco, too" Denney
 

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Discussion Starter #34 (Edited)
Unless you can get Zenith to confirm, I would not make any assumptions. Four hours barely covers a thorough cleaning and lubricating of a pocket watch, and they have less parts and bigger screws!

Just saying.

Dan
Dan, when it mentions "4 units of labour" on an invoice, that is not an assumption, it is a proof.

Moreover I discussed this with my watchmaker today, and he confirmed it can be done in less than four hours.
 

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OK, OK, so I wasn't really taking a stab at you - more at the original Doubting Thomas, whilst pointing out the difficulties associated with mass producing something new, partiucularly when a lot of manual labour is involved. Sorry it came across the way it did.

Hartmut Richter
 

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Dan, when it mentions "4 units of labour" on an invoice, that is not an assumption, it is a proof.

Moreover I discussed this with my watchmaker today, and he confirmed it can be done in less than four hours.
Having done my own watches,,, No I will stop there before I make someone mad.

As for the "4 units of labour", I was doubting your assumption that a unit = an hour.

Dan
 

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Dan, when it mentions "4 units of labour" on an invoice, that is not an assumption, it is a proof.

Moreover I discussed this with my watchmaker today, and he confirmed it can be done in less than four hours.
Semper. Finally! Proof without assumption, or speculation. Good for you. Glad my El Primero's are not going to your watch guy. I checked my spelling and I can read thank you. Dans post #34 speaks the truth completely, and you should read it again. 31
 

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Unless you can get Zenith to confirm, I would not make any assumptions. Four hours barely covers a thorough cleaning and lubricating of a pocket watch, and they have less parts and bigger screws!

Just saying.

Dan
Dan, I can confirm. You are so right. 100%. I can also confirm that you do not want Sempers 4 hour watchmaker. 31
 

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Ok. Whew! We've gone away from the original part of the thread, which was a wonderful looking A386 which has some issues. Let's try to bring it back to that. If folks want to argue about whether or not Zenith charges too much for a watch service, there is a nifty button for a new post.

Cheers!

Dan
 

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Discussion Starter #40 (Edited)
As for the "4 units of labour", I was doubting your assumption that a unit = an hour.

Dan
Invoices are legally required to be specific about what work has been done. The German "Arbeitssschritte" lit. meaning "work steps" is invoice jargon for hours worked.

Four hours barely covers a thorough cleaning and lubricating of a pocket watch, and they have less parts and bigger screws!
Having done my own watches,,, No I will stop there before I make someone mad.
You simply can't compare the time it takes for an amateur like yourself, with the time required for a professional watchmaker.

You are an amateur Dan - at least when it comes to servicing watches. And 31 is a glorified amateur.

Truth will out.

A professional watchmaker, like those working for Zenith, takes less than 4 hours to service an El Primero.

Heck, they can service an ordinary handwound watch in 15 minutes.

Ok. Whew! We've gone away from the original part of the thread, which was a wonderful looking A386 which has some issues. Let's try to bring it back to that.
Well, I'm certainly not going to enter into a discussion with 31 again :)

We've strayed a little from the original topic: however from the start of this thread somebody raised the worries that the difficulty of service for an El Primero may be forbidding and a reason not to get this wonderful watch.

So I'm sure it has been interesting for many, that we've gone into it a little.

One shouldn't be scared of getting an El Primero because of the regular service which is required for any watch.

The El Primero, just like any other watch, can be serviced by any qualified watchmaker. This should be clear.

It is therefore not necessary to send it to the company. However if you decide to send it to the company, Zenith has every right to charge 1000 euro or 1800 euro or whatever they like.

After all your watch might be worth more when it has been serviced by the company.

Rolex I heard charges 1500 euro to service a vintage handwound chronograph, and that requires less work than an automatic chronograph.

Finally, one should also take into consideration that the service charge included 19 % taxes (in Germany).
 
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