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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
ZENITH ESPADA first and second series (1972-75): an overview

Here's a new thread, with the results of the research during the past few years concerning the Zenith Espada chronograph.

The Zenith Espada was the world's first automatic chronograph with full calendar and moonphase: an extraordinary watch.

Vintage Zenith collectors often have to rely on the Zenith "Bible" to find out more information: 'Zenith, Swiss watch manufacture since 1865' (Manfred Rössler). But unfortunately the information in Rössler is not always wholly exact and complete.

This also goes for the Zenith Espada: Rössler does mention the two existing references (ref. A7817 and 01.0040.418), but he doesn't mention any differences between them and he gives only one production number (and year): "300 items, produced in 1971".

More research was necessary. I was interested in the rare Espada chronograph, so I researched it a little further.

What could I do? I started with posting some questions on the forum regarding the production numbers and characteristics of the Espada chronograph.

Forum member Nicola1960 from Italy helped a lot to resolve these questions. Forum members John Chris and Gombrich also shared their knowledge and examples of ref. A7817 and 01.0040.418 chronographs.

A few key elements came from Zenith themselves, through their replies (years ago) to Italian forum members. The most important message was this one:


View attachment 968822

In English:
"There were exactly produced :
300 pieces with engraved 3 numbers, a letter and 3 numbers" (this is an old style Zenith serial number)
500 pieces with the reference 01.0040.418
They are all Espada's.
"

Further research led to the conclusion that there are more differences between the first and second series:

- different dials and crowns: the first series Espada (ref. A7817) originally had the Zenith 5-pointed star logo on the dial and the 4-pointed star on the crown, whereas the second series Espada (ref. 01.0040.418) originally had the new square Zenith 'inverted star' logo on the dial and on the crown. However, dials and crowns can easily be swapped, and are in fact often renewed during service. A first series Espada may thus have received a second series dial and/or crown during service, and a second series Espada may have received a first series dial and/or crown during service.

- therefore the different cases of the two series are the really distinctive feature. A watch case may get polished during service, but it is normally not swapped.

It has already been mentioned in the mail by Mrs. Piccirilli above: the ref. A7817 had an old style serial number engraved, and the ref. 01.0040.418 instead had its model number.

Later I found out what the serial number of the Espada ref. A7817 was : it began with the number 322 E xxx.

However, these old style serial numbers were small, the engraving was done superficially and is easily polished out during service.

Fortunately there is a more obvious difference, and not so easy to polish away: the first series Espada has a big 4-pointed Zenith star on the back, the second series Espada has a plain back.

There are still more differences: the second series has the new model number and 'sub sea stainless steel' in big writing on the outer edge of the caseback, it has the new Zenith logo on the inside etc.: but you can see all the details in the following overview.

Since the Movado Astronic is similar to the Zenith Espada, I have also included it in the overview. However production numbers for the Astronic are unknown. You can often read the claim on the internet that there were "only 100" made of the Astronic, but I don't believe that, there are plenty of examples around, IMHO the Astronic is less rare than the Espada.

So here are the pics:


First series Zenith Espada (ref. A 7817, 300 pieces were produced in 1972):
Outside :
View attachment 969898
Inside :
View attachment 969904


First series Movado Astronic (ref. 01.0010.436):
Outside:
View attachment 969905
Inside:
View attachment 969906

Conclusion : the first series Zenith Espada and Movado Astronic both have the Zenith star on the caseback and both have on the inside the text "MZ swiss made acier inoxydable modèle déposé NA 50038-11".

The first series Movado Astronic caseback additionally has on the outside (on the outer edge) the writings "super sub sea stainless steel 01.0010.436", and on the inside the Movado logo and name were added.

The first series Zenith Espada's additionally has a Zenith serial number on the outside : "322Exxx". A few (even rarer) transitional Zenith Espada's of the first series also have the new Zenith model number "01.0040.418" engraved.

Note that the Zenith serial number and transitional model number for the first series Espada were engraved in small writing on the center part of the caseback (not in big writing on the outer edge as the Astronic and the second series Espada have it).

Two transitional samples of first series Zenith Espada's (ref. A7817) where you can see both the Zenith serial number and the new model number.




Second series Zenith Espada (ref. 01.0040.418: 500 pieces were produced in 1973-75):
Outside :


Inside:
View attachment 968838

Second series Movado Astronic (ref. 01.0010.436):
Outside :

Inside :
N/A

Conclusion: the second series Zenith Espada and Movado Astronic both have plain casebacks (without the star).

Both have the text "sub sea stainless steel" and the model number in big writing: 01.0040.418 for the Espada and 01.0010.436 for the Movado. Note that the model number for the Movado is now engraved on the center part of the caseback, whereas the model number for the Zenith is on the outer edge.

On the inside of the second series Espada we see the new square Zenith logo in small (positioned slightly above the center) and just below the center the writing NR 50038-11. This number is the same as in the first series Espada, which however in front has the letters NA instead of NR.


Production date:

There is no direct information available concerning the exact production date of the Espada. However through information from Zenith archives in an e-mail from Mrs. Piccirilli, it has been established that the Zenith El Primero ref. 01.0140.415 was produced in 1972. This El Primero has a similar case as the first series Espada and a similar serial number, which is lower than the serial number of the Zenith Espada chronograph.

This leads to the conclusion that the first series Zenith Espada chronograph was most likely not produced before 1972 and probably not available in shops before 1973. The production date of the second series Zenith Espada (ref. 01.0040.418) can then be estimated : 1973-74.

Dials:

I have not shown any pictures of the dials (or crowns), since these cannot be relied upon to distinguish the first and second series Espada.

However, in this Zenith Espada overview I should include at least one pic of the front, so, on the occasion of its 41st birthday, here is a pic of a Zenith Espada ref. A7817.

View attachment 968830


The above research was mainly done by myself and Nicola1960, and I thank Nicola for that.

 

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I can only second that! You should write up all that stuff (this and previous material) and hand it in as a Ph.D. thesis - I am sure it would get accepted!

Hartmut Richter
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Bravissimo ! :-!
:)


Thanks go to you, Nicola, and also to the other O & P forum members who have contributed their pictures.

Thank you Stewart and Hartmut, you're very kind.

PS I had to edit the post as some pics had disappeared. I now used MMMD's fine pics for the first series Movado Astronic: thanks.
 

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Semper, how about crowns? Any conclusive (solid info) on which one is exact for the first series Espada?
Other than the (correct crown, which is important for value), it looks like we can put this baby to bed now.
The 100 produced Astronic claim is something that is still up in the air as far as facts go.
I wont rule out that its not a possibilty though, given the rarity of both watches. Good work. 31
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Thank you Dan, 31 and BlondeNV. Writing it all down was a bit of work, but definitely worth it.

One more observation...:

The bracelet of this Espada is dated 4473 (= week 44 1973 ) = 29 October 1973 - 4 November 1973.

It is the oldest original bracelet I've seen on an Espada so far.

Three other Espada bracelets belonging to forum members date to 1974-75: one Espada ref. A7817 with bracelet 1874, and two Espada's ref. 01.0040.418 with bracelets 5174 and 1275.

We also know that this first series Movado Astronic with original papers was sold in the U.S. on 21st September 1974:

View attachment 972328
(Astronic picture by MMMD)

All these dates confirm that the Zenith Espada was sold in the 1973-75 period.

It was however a period of crisis: the 1973 oil crisis added to the quartz crisis.

Zenith by that time was already in the hands of a foreign company.

In 1974, the ZRC (Zenith Radio Corporation) ordered Zenith to stop the production of mechanical watchmovements.

Fortunately the cal. 3019 PHF was revived ten years later (together with the 'El Primero' cal. 3019 PHC).

From 1985-86 onwards the movement was renamed "cal. 410".

From 1994-95 onwards, Zenith brought out a new collection, called the "Chronomaster", which became a success.

Now, 40 years after its birth, the Zenith Espada chronograph, the world's first automatic chronograph with full calendar and moonphase, remains a "Holy Grail", a rare collector's item.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you for the photo of your caseback!

Who knows how many "transitional" casebacks there were of the first series Espada. Maybe 100 ?

Congratulations with yours: looks great, very good condition.
 

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I finally believe now. I had a feeling that was the crown that matched the Zenith star on the dial, and it does.
Case back is confirmed to me too now.
I still have to wonder how many Astronics lost their mechanical lives to become an Espada?
Now that we have this Espada riddle solved, lets try to figure out the whole story on the Astronic, since that watch it just as relevant. 31
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
As a footnote to this thread, here is a small gallery of Espada's, which all have in common that there is something wrong with them.

Some would call these 'fakes' or 'frankens'. Yet some of these consist of all original parts.

But regardless how you want to call them, one thing they all have in common: these were not made (like that) by Zenith in 1972-74.

Not surprisingly, they also have in common that none of the sellers mentioned what was wrong with them.

Caveat emptor... If you're interested in the Espada, you could consider this as a small guide what not to buy.

Mind you : they may all be worth their money anyway, if you buy them for their parts (such as the movements, dials, cases, hands...), but then you should be aware what you're buying, and these should not qualify as the real collector's items.

So here we go...

Watch Analog watch Watch accessory Fashion accessory Jewellery
An Espada in a wrong case (it is a Zenith case, but belonging to a ref. 01.0210.415 El Primero). The chronograph seconds hand is also wrong.

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Wrong colour day and month disk. The original 3019 PHF day and month disks are dark blue with white letters, not white with black letters (these probably belong to a cal. 410). This could simply be a result of service, but it is still something to look out for.

Watch Analog watch Watch accessory Fashion accessory Jewellery

This has the wrong hands, belonging to an A783 El Primero (which has a similar dial as the Espada, but different hands). It may be the result of service, yet it is something one should be aware of. Unfortunately this sample made it into the sticky https://www.watchuseek.com/f27/over...tainless-steel-models-1969-1975-a-586997.html

Watch Analog watch Watch accessory Fashion accessory Jewellery
Two different examples of Espada's with mutilated cases. Some people clearly found the Espada case too heavy, and decided to cut their way through the steel, thus uncovering the normally hidden lugs.

Watch Analog watch Watch accessory Fashion accessory Jewellery
Another picture of the first watch in the previous picture.

Watch Analog watch Fashion accessory Watch accessory Jewellery
Another Espada with a mutilated case. Almost nice, looks a lot lighter like that :) Pity that it has the wrong seconds hand too.

Watch Analog watch Watch accessory Fashion accessory Jewellery
Never mind the little red circle (meant to highlight the small star of a first series Espada dial): this one has a wrong colour hand in the hour counter (red instead of blue). This could be the least of all evils.

Watch Analog watch Watch accessory Fashion accessory Metal
This on the contrary is evil, because it looks all original, a second series Espada in perfect condition. Yet it was sold by a big seller for a reasonable price and he didn't advertise it as NOS. Normally a big seller like that could have asked twice as much for such a rare watch in such a good condition. But he didn't. Because he knew it was not a new old stock watch, it didn't come from a watchmaker's shop who never sold it (otherwise he would have advertised it as new old stock). How is it then possible that it is in such perfect, unused condition? Because of a well-known evil in the watch collector's world: this watch was assembled using new old stock parts. What gives it away, is its condition, which is too good to be true, and the fact that it was not advertised as NOS, and its movement: a cal. 41.0, which was made in 1985-86. Seeing the unused condition of the watch, the movement was not swapped as a result of service. This Espada was simply not made by Zenith in 1972-74. It was assembled with unused parts after 1985.

Watch accessory Watch Fashion accessory Analog watch Material property
Here is another example, with the same characteristics as the previous. It looks like a second series Espada in perfect condition. This also was sold by a big seller. Although in perfect condition, he didn't sell it as a NOS at a double price, which such a rare watch in such good condition should command, but on the contrary, it was quickly sold for a very reasonable price (you could even say: at parts value). Again it is clearly in perfect, unused condition, because this watch was assembled using new old stock parts. What gives it away, is its condition (too good to be true), the fact that it was not a NOS (and the seller never claimed it was), and the wrong combination of dial and case: a first series dial in a second series case. Seeing the unused condition of the watch, it has never been serviced and so the dial was not swapped as a result of service. This therefore was not made by Zenith in 1972-74. It was assembled in the 1980's or later with the use of spare parts.

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This last example may be original, but the case appears to have been sandblasted.

Caveat emptor !
 

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Thanks for the write up. It should warn anyone on the hunt for these - they seem to be getting scarcer all the time (with another disappearing off the market only a day or so ago).....

Hartmut Richter
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Thanks for the write up.
Hartmut Richter
Thank you, Dan and Hartmut. This forum is very fortunate to have two excellent moderators. Thank you for making a difference.

Ingratitude, scorn and disbelief are my usual fee. But lo and behold, I have already received my reward: 'tis a fine and rare Zenith Espada, https://www.watchuseek.com/f27/mountain-joy-zenith-espada-chronograph-second-series-844949.html.

It should warn anyone on the hunt for these - they seem to be getting scarcer all the time (with another disappearing off the market only a day or so ago).....

Hartmut Richter
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Since in this overview we've mentioned the Movado Astronic before, here are a few pics of the Astronic first and second series.

First series:
The dial has the Movado logo.
Watch Clock Technology Fashion accessory Electronic device Watch Watch accessory Analog watch Fashion accessory Strap

Back is as described above (read the beginning of this thread):
Watch Metal Material property Fashion accessory Personal protective equipment Metal

Second series:
The dial has the new Zenith logo (square, inverted star):
Watch Analog watch Watch accessory Fashion accessory Jewellery Analog watch Watch Watch accessory Fashion accessory Jewellery

Back is as described above (read the beginning of this thread); note that the inside is the same as the Zenith Espada second series (the Movado name and logo were not added any more):
Fashion accessory Metal Silver Watch Automotive lighting Headlamp Auto part Automotive fog light Glass

As for the production number of the Movado Astronic, there are many people who would like to believe that there were "only 100 made". It is an example of a mistake which originated somewhere and then was copied by so many others. This guy for example even thinks he owns #36 out of 100: https://www.watchuseek.com/f29/rare...c-hs-360-super-sub-sea-mens-watch-732385.html

So I've made a little more serious estimate of the production number of the Movado Astronic, by comparing the Movado Astronic with another beautiful and respectable vintage chronograph: the vintage Heuer Monaco. The estimate for the vintage Heuer Monaco is that about 5000 were made, across all dials and movements, between 1969 and 1975 (see BOOK REVIEW: Richard Crosthwaite's "Heuer Monaco - Design Classic" — HODINKEE - Wristwatch News, Reviews, & Original Stories). I did a search among completed listings on ebay to see how many vintage Heuer Monaco's were sold (or were available for sale) during the past 3-4 months: I found five. Then I did a search among completed listings how many Movado Astronics were sold during the past 3-4 months: I found four.

This leads to an estimate of a total of 4000 Astronics made.

To make a more accurate estimate, one should follow it up over a longer period of time. But I'm not worried about the exact number. I'm not saying there were exactly 4000 Astronics made. It could very well have been for instance 3600. What matters is that I'm certain that the Astronics were made in their thousands. They are not rare.

Unlike the Zenith Espada: by making a total of only 800 Espada's (first and second series together), Zenith kept the Espada a very exclusive item.

To put it in other words: you can buy an Astronic (or a Monaco) every month, but you can buy only one Espada in a year.


 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I've made a little more serious estimate of the production number of the Movado Astronic, by comparing the Movado Astronic with another beautiful and respectable vintage chronograph: the vintage Heuer Monaco. The estimate for the vintage Heuer Monaco is that about 5000 were made, across all dials and movements, between 1969 and 1975 (see BOOK REVIEW: Richard Crosthwaite's "Heuer Monaco - Design Classic" — HODINKEE - Wristwatch News, Reviews, & Original Stories). I did a search among completed listings on ebay to see how many vintage Heuer Monaco's were sold (or were available for sale) during the past 3-4 months: I found five. Then I did a search among completed listings how many Movado Astronics were sold during the past 3-4 months: I found four.

This leads to an estimate of a total of 4000 Astronics made.
The first four months of the year aren't over yet, and a 5th Astronic has popped up for sale. I also have to add that I have doubts that only 5000 Heuer Monaco's were made, across all dials and movements: that is only an estimate, and probably a modest one.

My own estimate for the production number of Astronics should be revised upwards accordingly. I'm thinking 5000 now.

But the exact number doesn't matter: what matters is that the Astronics were certainly made in their thousands. Seeing how many Astronics come up for sale regularly, it is obvious they are not rare.

Additionally, I've read the opinion of a watchmaker who used to work for Movado USA. Based on the number of Astronics that came in for service, he also said that the Astronics must have been made in their thousands.

Please, Astronic fans, don't worry: this shouldn't affect value much.
Nobody believed the '100' estimate anyway. And look at the vintage Heuer Monaco's, they are not rare either.




 

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My own estimate for the production number of Astronics should be revised upwards accordingly. I'm thinking 5000 now.

...Please, Astronic fans, don't worry: this shouldn't affect value much. Nobody believed the '100' estimate anyway. And look at the vintage Heuer Monaco's, they are not rare either.
Well, every academic or pseudo-academic pursuit needs its outside-the-mainstream thinkers to spur debate, so hats off to you. At least I've got my super-rare Espada to hedge my investment if the market takes your view and Astronic prices plunge even lower. But so do a lot of other collectors, it would seem... some even have two. Strange I don't see a lot of Astronics posted on this or other watch forums, but it's probably just the mall watch stigma and not scarcity that is keeping them all 5000 of them off the forum threads.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Well, every academic or pseudo-academic pursuit needs its outside-the-mainstream thinkers to spur debate, so hats off to you. At least I've got my super-rare Espada to hedge my investment if the market takes your view and Astronic prices plunge even lower. But so do a lot of other collectors, it would seem... some even have two. Strange I don't see a lot of Astronics posted on this or other watch forums, but it's probably just the mall watch stigma and not scarcity that is keeping them all 5000 of them off the forum threads.
Scorn and disbelief are my usual fee ;-)

Time will tell.

I'm sorry to say though that I don't agree either that the Espada is "super-rare".

The Espada, with less than a thousand made, is rare.

But to qualify as "very rare", there shouldn't be more than a 100 made.

So if you feel like Goldfinger / Dr. Evil, the Luna Luxe should be the one for you:

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Zenith ref. G20809, 18 K yellow gold with yellow gold bracelet, only 61 were made.

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