After I had experienced the fine chronometer quality of the A277 chronograph (with cal. 146 HP), it didn't take much time for me to fall for another 'early' Zenith chronograph, now with cal. 146 DP.
The difference between cal. 146 H and cal. 146 D : the first is a 'triple register chronograph' which has 30 minute and 12 hour counter, whereas the second is a 'double register' chronograph which has a 45 minute counter
(except the Cairelli CP 2 where the cal. 146 DP is executed with a 30 minute counter).
These are some snapshots in poor light but it will give an idea I hope
(this is a movement pic by the seller)
The crystal is in a used condition, with a small crack at 6 o'clock. I polished it a little and maybe will wait to change it until the watch needs a complete service. What do you guys think?
The last pic shows (on the left) a NOS Zenith 19 mm strap which I bought for it as an extra. (In the meantime I had already put it on another plain vintage 19 mm black leather strap, which probably also resembles the original).
The size of the watch is +- 38 mm without crown. It has 19 mm lugsize.
The movement and white dial and case in good condition, the lovely red second hand, the serial number close in range to the SN of my A386, these aspects and details easily sold it to me.
In the meantime I noticed some more finesses such as the different positioning of the numbers in the subdials.
Just like its bigger brother, A277 cal. 146 HP, it winds very smoothly and works very well and keeps excellent time, with a power reserve of ca. 41 hours.
It seems to me there isn't much known about these 'early' Zenith chronographs: not about the movement, nor about the different models.
Ranfft even hasn't got the caliber 146 in his list.
A few different models can be found on the internet, but I couldn't find an exact same one. One which resembles it best is its black & white dial sister watch on a French forum : zenith 146 DP (scroll down to see the pics of the watch I mean) : the same style of hour markers, same style of second hand (in a different colour) and a serial number that is very close.
Roessler also has a few entries and some information. He mentions in his caliber list that the 'P' version of cal. 146 introduced some small changes ("flat coil, shockproofing") and was executed in 1969.
More information could be found on the net about the Zenith Cairelli C.P.2, which has the same movement (except that it uses a 30-minute counter).
On a Swiss German forum ( • Thema anzeigen - Wohl eine der schönsten Zenith´s ) I found it confirmed that the 146 P movements for the Cairelli were made in 1969 (the dials for the Cairelli were apparently made later, in 1970). I quote :
"146H = Stundenzähler
146D = 45-Minuten-Zähler
146P bzw. 146DP = (Plat) Flachspirale ohne Spiralklötzchen, Glucydurunruh, Kif-Stoßsicherung,19800 a/h, 17 Steine,
Die Zifferblätter des Chronos kamen vom Fournisseur Lindner, bei dem Zenith am 11. März 1970 2500 Zifferblätter bestellte. Zenith selbst bestätigt, dass es von der Uhr max. 2500 Exemplare gegeben hat.
Das Gehäuse aus Edelstahl mit Schraubboden, Hesalithglas, Aluminium-Drehlünette,wassergeschützt,Weicheisen-Innengehäuse
Die Werke wurden wohl 1969 und die Gehäuse 1970 produziert. "
According to this post, the movements (cal 146 DP for the Cairelli's) were made in 1969, the dials for the Cairelli's were ordered by Zenith on 11 March 1970 from their supplier Lindner.
This concerns the Cairelli CP 2, but it indirectly seems to confirm what Roessler's mentions in his caliber list, that the change of cal 146... to cal 146 ...P dates to 1969 (and involved changes in the shockproofing and a flatter coil).
About the catalog reference... There aren't so many vintage catalogs available...
Based on my little research I would conclude that the catalog reference for this watch probably was A271. I found an earlier version (in the catalog ca. 1965) which had the ref. A2.71.
Some details such as the hour markers and the style of second hand and the lugsize, even the case size, may have changed over the years, but IMHO it could be that the main reference remained unchanged for the next five or seven years. Only the '.' was usually left out later, so A2.71 became A271.
As was the system in those days : A (for a steel case), 2 (for a waterresistant case), 7 (for a chronograph movement). The last number further defines the model (dial style, two or three subregisters etc).
To conclude, I would estimate this version dates to 1969. If it is correct that the movement cal. 146 DP was only made in 1969 (I think this is an interesting piece of information which is probably correct) that definitely would date it to 1969. Based on the serial number 384D358, I would also date it to 1969.
Naturally if anybody has any more information or catalog pics to share this would be very welcome.