Here is a watch that you don't see too often-a vintage Etanche Grands Fonds submariner!
I came across this watch for the first time on the TZ Sales Corner. I had never seen such a watch before, and thought that it looked quite interesting indeed. I thought about it, researched what I could, and had a restless night-I knew I would have to sell something in my collection to attain this one, but I just wasn't sure. I mean, what if this turned out to be a real dud??
So, I negotiated with the seller a bit, and paid the price. Then I waited...
As soon as I opened the box, I knew I was on to something. First off, the steel bracelet was VERY long, and there was NO way that I would be able to wear this on my 7 1/2" wrist. The more I thought about it, it dawned on me that the bracelet was intended to be long to fit over a wet suit, so the length was indeed correct. I was able, through trial and error, to fit the bracelet to my unwetsuited wrist-the connectors between the bracelet links were actually opposing "C" type clips, so the bracelet was indeed adjustable.
Next, I looked over the case-it is a 36mm x 43mm case, excluding the crown at 6 o'clock. It is 13.5mm thick, including the domed crystal.
The case is a relatively simple steel slab-type construction, with a rotating bakelite bezel. The caseback denotes a 300M water-resistance, the ZRC name, and "antimagnetique" designation. The crown was an unmarked screw-down model-more on that later.
Opening the caseback, I saw a soft iron shield, and a small disc intended to help keep the shield in place-so, this was indeed antimagnetic! Prying off the soft iron cover, I saw the vintage ETA 2472 movement. This is a standard, 21-jewel automatic movement. Nothing too fancy, but thanks to a screwed balance, capable of excellent accuracy.
Looking at the dial (again, soft iron was used for the dial side, too) one notices the simple "12-6-9" layout, with the date window taking the place of the "3" position. The date wheel has red date indicators. Simple hour markers are used in the remaining positions, and a small luminous dot is present at each hour designation. The hands are quite broad, and are full of lume material, difference in hour/minute hands being the length only. The second hand has a luminous dot at the end, with a small point at the very tip.
I knew through my research on the internet that these watches are quite rare, and were used by several high-profile groups through the years., including the French Navy, French Commando Hubert, and various search and rescue units. Also, I have seen video captures of members of the Cousteau team wearing the watch as well.
My particular model seems to be one of the earliest models, and there are several versions that share the same case. The hands seem relatively unique to this model, although there are similar hands-minus the seconds hand-on later models from ZRC.
When my watch arrived, as it had an uncertain service history, I decided to send it off for service. At one point, when I inquired as to the projected return date, I was told that the watchmaker (not one I had used before) was waiting on a crown/stem to be delivered, as the existing crown was bent. I had noticed that it was difficult to set the time on the watch when I received it, and that there was a certain wobble when winding it. So, I asked that the original parts be returned, and I got back to waiting.
Unfortunately, when the watch arrived, the crown that the watchmaker had installed was too small, and was difficult to turn. I thought that I had little recourse, as the original crown was no longer water tight, and was in essence unusable, so I put the watch in my watchcase, and proceeded to forget about it for about a year or so.
A few weeks back, I decided to send the watch off to someone I knew could correct the problem-Jack, at IWW. After a few emails, I sent the watch off to him, and waited for the results-we had discussed putting on a triplock crown, which I thought was a possibility due to the lack of crown guards on the ZRC, and the thickness of the case-it was!
So, a few days ago, I got my ZRC back, which, after the crown/tube replacement, passed a pressure test-now I can resume wearing this watch, and it has reclaimed a place on my wrist
Note: Some pictures borrowed from the wonderful "Cousteau and watches site," and ForumAMontres sites-thanks for the information gained!