Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384
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  1. #1
    Member WTSP's Avatar
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    Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    I recently had the chance to purchase a vintage A384. Iíve been very happy with my Original 1969 38 mm, and never expected to purchase one of the true originals. Also, I considered my Ebel Senior Chronograph with its caliber 134 to fill any need I might have for a vintage El Primero. However, when I got a chance to see an A384 in person I had to have it.

    Now I need to decide how to restore it, and it certainly does need restoration. Some of the key issues include:

    • The start/stop pusher is extremely sticky and can barely be pushed down to activate the chronograph.
    • The central second hand is loose and resets at 42 seconds rather than 0. I suspect its collar is loose.
    • Given the watchís age and uncertain service history Iím sure it needs a general oiling.


    Other than those concerns it actually runs quite well, at less than +/- 10 seconds per 24 hours. The date and chronograph functions work perfectly as well (with the caveat relating to the central seconds hand). I assume that sending it to Zenith is the best thing to do. Iíve called the local service center in my area and they told me that they would forward it to Switzerland as they do not have parts for this type of watch.

    I usually send a summary of a watchís issues and any specific requests that I have with a watch when I get it serviced. I was thinking of requesting the following:

    • Case: No finishing.
    • Chronograph pushers: Replace
    • Crown: At the centerís discretion, with a preference for an original period accurate 1969 crown replacement if possible. Itís a Zenith/Movado square star logo now, so I expect itís a service crown to begin with. I can live with it. If they replace it with a modern five star crown Iíd be okay with that as well.
    • Hands: Replace the 30 minute totaliser, which is not original currently. Iím thinking of saying that they should replace the central minute and hour hands as they are scratched up, but if they are replaced with new hands with better lume, the luminescence of the hands and dial wonít match. So Iím not quite sure what would be ideal.
    • Dial: This is the hardest part. The dial has some patina, including a blemish at 3:30, but itís still in good shape. The lume is weak, but Iím fine with that. Looking at this dial means staring back into 1969 (or at least a date prior to 1972). I suppose Iíd prefer to keep it, but then the lume might not match the hands if they are replaced. Also, if the date wheel has to be replaced for any reason, it would probably be lighter and stick out. Iíd rather they match.
    • Date window: Preserve if it is still functional, but if it must be replaced due to wear or some other reason, replace the dial to match it as well.
    • Crystal: Polish or replace, at their discretion as long as itís original acrylic.
    • Movement: I havenít opened the watch, but I presume from the way that the colour of the dial and date window match, that they are from the same period and that it is a 3019 PHC. I absolutely want to preserve the movement. Iím fine with any parts being swapped out as necessary. They had better not play around like some other companies and swap the whole thing out for a comparable movement though. If they were to swap it out for another 3019 PHC of similar vintage I guess I could live with it, but if itís a caliber 400 that would be totally unacceptable.


    What do you think of my options? I'm not sure if all of this will be reasonable or possible, but I'm at least trying to sort out what to aim for. It also leads me to think about what it is that makes a watch original and authentic. I get the feeling that it's maintaining the integrity of the case, dial, hands and movement. Defining that in this situation seems like a bit of a challenge.

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    (That's a small piece of paper over the serial number. I'm too lazy to modify the image to blur it.)

  2. #2
    Member sempervivens's Avatar
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    Re: Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    Congratulations!

    As to your list:

    I would only have the minute recorder hand replaced, and the chronograph seconds hand if necessary.

    Certainly don't touch the dial or other hands.

    Crystal: it seems it has a small crack so yes it should be replaced.

    Pushers can be replaced, not sure if they are the original pushers anyway.

    In general I would ask for all the replaced parts to be returned.

    Case looks wonderful. Don't know why people sometimes blur or cover the case number.

    Service by Zenith might be costly but that's your choice.

    Good luck!




    Quote Originally Posted by WTSP View Post
    I recently had the chance to purchase a vintage A384. Iíve been very happy with my Original 1969 38 mm, and never expected to purchase one of the true originals. Also, I considered my Ebel Senior Chronograph with its caliber 134 to fill any need I might have for a vintage El Primero. However, when I got a chance to see an A384 in person I had to have it.

    Now I need to decide how to restore it, and it certainly does need restoration. Some of the key issues include:

    • The start/stop pusher is extremely sticky and can barely be pushed down to activate the chronograph.
    • The central second hand is loose and resets at 42 seconds rather than 0. I suspect its collar is loose.
    • Given the watchís age and uncertain service history Iím sure it needs a general oiling.


    Other than those concerns it actually runs quite well, at less than +/- 10 seconds per 24 hours. The date and chronograph functions work perfectly as well (with the caveat relating to the central seconds hand). I assume that sending it to Zenith is the best thing to do. Iíve called the local service center in my area and they told me that they would forward it to Switzerland as they do not have parts for this type of watch.

    I usually send a summary of a watchís issues and any specific requests that I have with a watch when I get it serviced. I was thinking of requesting the following:

    • Case: No finishing.
    • Chronograph pushers: Replace
    • Crown: At the centerís discretion, with a preference for an original period accurate 1969 crown replacement if possible. Itís a Zenith/Movado square star logo now, so I expect itís a service crown to begin with. I can live with it. If they replace it with a modern five star crown Iíd be okay with that as well.
    • Hands: Replace the 30 minute totaliser, which is not original currently. Iím thinking of saying that they should replace the central minute and hour hands as they are scratched up, but if they are replaced with new hands with better lume, the luminescence of the hands and dial wonít match. So Iím not quite sure what would be ideal.
    • Dial: This is the hardest part. The dial has some patina, including a blemish at 3:30, but itís still in good shape. The lume is weak, but Iím fine with that. Looking at this dial means staring back into 1969 (or at least a date prior to 1972). I suppose Iíd prefer to keep it, but then the lume might not match the hands if they are replaced. Also, if the date wheel has to be replaced for any reason, it would probably be lighter and stick out. Iíd rather they match.
    • Date window: Preserve if it is still functional, but if it must be replaced due to wear or some other reason, replace the dial to match it as well.
    • Crystal: Polish or replace, at their discretion as long as itís original acrylic.
    • Movement: I havenít opened the watch, but I presume from the way that the colour of the dial and date window match, that they are from the same period and that it is a 3019 PHC. I absolutely want to preserve the movement. Iím fine with any parts being swapped out as necessary. They had better not play around like some other companies and swap the whole thing out for a comparable movement though. If they were to swap it out for another 3019 PHC of similar vintage I guess I could live with it, but if itís a caliber 400 that would be totally unacceptable.


    What do you think of my options? I'm not sure if all of this will be reasonable or possible, but I'm at least trying to sort out what to aim for. It also leads me to think about what it is that makes a watch original and authentic. I get the feeling that it's maintaining the integrity of the case, dial, hands and movement. Defining that in this situation seems like a bit of a challenge.

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Views: 121
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    Name:  IMG_0460 (2).JPG
Views: 125
Size:  1.03 MB

    (That's a small piece of paper over the serial number. I'm too lazy to modify the image to blur it.)
    omeglycine and WTSP like this.
    Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas, praeter ...

  3. #3
    Member omeglycine's Avatar
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    Re: Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    I agree completely; do not replace the dial and hands (apart from the minute recorder hand). I would opt for a fresh crystal. Looks to be a nice example overall.

    Congratulations, and I look forward to after pictures!

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  5. #4
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    Re: Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    Yes, minimal changes imo.
    I would change the minute recorder, crystal and pushers only.
    A star crown is preferable if you find one.

    Lume seems to be crumbling, I would get that stabilized.

    Good luck with the project!

  6. #5
    Member WTSP's Avatar
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    Re: Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    Thanks everyone for your input, I really appreciate it. I think I may be coming around to keeping the hands (with the exception of those that need to be switched for functional reasons). Thanks Sempervivens for pointing out the crack in the crystal. I presume it's at 6 o'clock? I hadn't noticed it before you pointed it out.

    I was wondering if with the advent of the A384 revival Zenith would use new parts to service the vintage models. It also makes me reflect on the nature of authenticity and originality. Let's say that Zenith's approach is to replace all parts with new stock that corresponds to the model, a new dial, date wheel, hands, pusher and crown, case refinishing, springs, gaskets, etc., bringing the watch back to a near pristine condition. Is that not the "normal" approach that one should take? So many collectors go on about how horrible franken watches are. It's true that watches that are a hodge podge amalgam of parts are awful. But what about a watch that has original parts from the manufacturer which are model accurate, if not historically accurate?

    I suppose I do buy into the ideal of finding a pristine vintage watch bearing all of its original parts in reasonably good cosmetic and functional condition. I'd like to aim for that with this watch. At the same time, the 30 minute totaliser hand is not original, neither is the crown. The central seconds hand and crystal will need to be replaced. It's not going to be a perfect original.

    So what objectives should be aimed for in restoring this watch? I can think of two:
    A) Being able to feel that I am staring down a time tunnel to 1969 and the original El Primero launch.
    B) Having a functional, attractive timepiece that I can include in my regular rotation. It's too nice a watch not to wear! ;)

    Now that I think about it that way, if the order of these two priorities were in reverse, I suppose I'd be fine with getting as many new parts as possible. Since the history is my priority, I guess I'll aim to preserve as much as Zenith will allow. I think I'll contact them to ask what their approach and potential options might be.

  7. #6
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    Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    Status update for those who are interested. I sent the watch to the LVMH service center in Mississauga. A week after the package was confirmed to be received in the courrier tracking system, they hadnít contacted me. I called to ensure they received the package as I was a bit nervous in case it had made it into the wrong hands. They informed me that it had arrived, gave me my ticket number and said I would receive an estimate via email.

    Almost two weeks later no estimate. I called again and theyíve I formed me that I should have received a request to confirm that I accept a charge to send the watch to Switzerland for evaluation as the servicing would take place there. Iíve been told they will get back to me with the cost of shipping in 48 hours.

    In sum, Iím not glad that I have to run after them for updates and that things are a little slow. On the plus side they do seem to have entered the watch into their system and know what needs to be done with it. Iíll follow up with more details as this roles along over the next few months.

  8. #7
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    Re: Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    Another update. I received the watch back shortly after Christmas. Overall it was in decent condition with its original dial, subdial and central seconds replaced but not the main hands, so its retained its vintage look and sharp case angles. However, the central second hand wasn't properly aligned and the hours subdial hand didn't reset properly. I requested that they take it back, which they did. I'm waiting on the result. In terms of service experiences this is par for the course for me. 80% of the time watches come back with issues like this. I was hoping that Zenith would be better. That least their customer service staff responds quickly and is very professional.

  9. #8
    Member georges zaslavsky's Avatar
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    Re: Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    Quote Originally Posted by WTSP View Post
    Another update. I received the watch back shortly after Christmas. Overall it was in decent condition with its original dial, subdial and central seconds replaced but not the main hands, so its retained its vintage look and sharp case angles. However, the central second hand wasn't properly aligned and the hours subdial hand didn't reset properly. I requested that they take it back, which they did. I'm waiting on the result. In terms of service experiences this is par for the course for me. 80% of the time watches come back with issues like this. I was hoping that Zenith would be better. That least their customer service staff responds quickly and is very professional.
    Good luck. I never dealt with the Zenith official service but dealt with a watchmaker who is specialized in restoring vintage Zenith and who did and does a much better job than what Zenith do themselves for a third of the cost. I don't expect issues after a restoration and I like to see the person I am dealing with. I always advise to go to an independant when it comes to restoring vintage timepieces.
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  10. #9
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    Re: Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    Quote Originally Posted by georges zaslavsky View Post
    Good luck. I never dealt with the Zenith official service but dealt with a watchmaker who is specialized in restoring vintage Zenith and who did and does a much better job than what Zenith do themselves for a third of the cost. I don't expect issues after a restoration and I like to see the person I am dealing with. I always advise to go to an independant when it comes to restoring vintage timepieces.
    Itís great that you have a service person who can do that. The independents that Iíve dealt with have not been any better than the official service centres in Switzerland. The only good servicing experience Iíve ever had is a local AD with an authorized service branch in house. That was for IWC. I donít think Zenith has enough turnover currently to have anything other than a national center which has to refer anything really tricky to Switzerland.

    I love Zenith, but Iíve come to the conclusion that I need to make collecting choices in accordance to what is easily serviceable as much as according to what I enjoy.

    Do you think your guy can work with the El Primeroís ďdry lubricationĒ approach to the escapement?

  11. #10
    Member georges zaslavsky's Avatar
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    Re: Choosing an approach to restoring a vintage A384

    Quote Originally Posted by WTSP View Post
    Itís great that you have a service person who can do that. The independents that Iíve dealt with have not been any better than the official service centres in Switzerland. The only good servicing experience Iíve ever had is a local AD with an authorized service branch in house. That was for IWC. I donít think Zenith has enough turnover currently to have anything other than a national center which has to refer anything really tricky to Switzerland.

    I love Zenith, but Iíve come to the conclusion that I need to make collecting choices in accordance to what is easily serviceable as much as according to what I enjoy.

    Do you think your guy can work with the El Primeroís ďdry lubricationĒ approach to the escapement?
    My watch Guy did the El Primero "dry lubrication" approach to the escapement by vaporization of molybdenum disulfide and mine is a Zenith certified and trained watchmaker so no worries. If the watchmakers at Zenith can't service a basic el primero then you should be concerned and go to the highest level of the hierarchy and complaint of the quality of the work done, this is what I would do. My watchmaker is based in France.
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    22 times Olympic games timekeeper, Nasa watch supplier and holder of several world records of precision, Omega has the world's trust
    Omega and Rolex for ever
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    Zenith Swiss Watchmaking and Chronometry champion since 1865

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