El primero AH386 1971



Iconeek is proud to extremely proud to introduce here the original and highly sought after Zenith AH386, El Primero, from the 1970s

The reference AH386 is synonymous with the launch of the groundbreaking El Primero chronograph caliber in 1969. Introduced at the Basel fair in 1969, the Ref. AH386 was one of the first self-winding chronographs. The other two were of course the Caliber 11, and the Seiko 6139. Anyway, it was definitively the first automatic chronograph with high frequency, 36’000 alt/hour. In the Zenith collection, it was furthermore the only model available in stainless steel with a round case. Furthermore, the model was the only one fitted with much sought after intercrossing and multi-colored registers. The model was also the only one to feature a 1/10th second  division to highlight the fact that the movement was accurate enough, with its high frequency 5Hz,  to measure the 1/10th second. The El Primero Ref. AH386 has become  extremely hard to find and is without any doubts the first choice for whose collect Zenith’s watches or High frequency 1970s vintage chronograph. According to the book Zenith, by Joël Duval the model, ref. AH386, was produced between 1969 and 1972, a total production of 4500 examples in stainless steel. According to the book Zenith, by Manfred Rössler, Edition Damiani, only 2,500 examples of the AH386 reference were produced between 1969 and 1971. Rare, made in small quantities, well-powered with its column wheel high beat cal. 3019, the Zenith AH386 has become an absolute classic. The kind of watch who immediately attracts the collector’s eyes.  The watch is a true classic, which is why Zenith reissued it several years back.

Versions of the A386 model:

The model can be split into three production runs:

– The Mark I, early production series, with case no. 538DXXX to 539DXXX, estimate range in the 200 to 400, with thin sub dials hands, plain (or smooth) case back, no groove on the lugs, slightly different design from the two other mark, dial with letter P (from CHRONOGRAPH) and letter C (from AUTOMATIC) perfectly superposed, winding crown set with  a four pointed star inside a circle inside case back engraved and centered, as follow, by order of appearance from top to bottom  « Zenith, Swiss Made, Acier Inoxydable » (no Spillman number)

– The Mark II,  with case no. 706DXXX to 708DXXX, made between 1969 and 1970, with a bit larger sub dial hands, plain (or smooth)  case back, groove on the lugs, dial with letter P (from CHRONOGRAPH) and letter C (from AUTOMATIC) perfectly superposed, winding crown with four pointed star and a circle (on our model has a later crown), inside case back engraved and centered, as follow, by order of appearance from top to bottom  « Zenith, Swiss Made, Acier Inoxydable, SP 1205 ».

-The Mark III, such as the present watch, with case no. 861DXXX to 233EXXX,  D& E range made between 1971 and 1972, with large sub dial hands, case back with centered Zenith Star logo, embossed stylized four pointed star inside a circle, groove on the lugs, dial with letters P (from CHRONOGRAPH) and letter C (from AUTOMATIC) perfectly superposed, as well as second letter H from CHRONOGRAPH and first letter A from AUTOMATIC perfectly superposed, because of the larger overall size of all the writings, winding crown with four pointed star and a circle, inside case back engraved circumferentially, from first quarter to last «  Acier Inoxydable » , « Zenith », « Swiss Made » and «  SP1205 »  as follow, by order of appearance from top to bottom  « Zenith, Swiss Made, Acier Inoxydable, SP 1205 ». Many dials on the A386s have been replaced, and service dials feature long tails on the end of the “O” in « El Primero ».

Why the model is actually so popular? because it was well-born. Combining an incredible design combined with a multi-colored dial, rarely seen at the time, with the oversized intercrossing registers, and famous movement, the A386 is one of the most iconic wristwatches of the 20th century.

Made in 1971, our model has a two-body construction,  a large 38 mm diameter stainless steel tonneau-shaped case with round chronograph pushers in the band, flat polished bezel, brushed stepped pointed lugs,  a screwed case back, an hesalite crystal. The outer case back is clearly engraved with the serial number « 923D515 ». The inside case back is engraved «  SP1205, Zenith, Swiss Made, Acier Inoxydable » . « SP » stands for « Spillman ». Spillman is the case manufacturer for the A386 and other El Primeros. The size between the lugs is 19 mm.

Under the slightly domed plexi crystal, we discover a five-tone dial opalin silvered with black graduated ring, three guilloche subsidiary dials for the light grey constant second at 9, the grey 12-hour register at 6, blue 30-minute register at 3, luminous white hands with black tips, red central chronograph hands with luminous square tip, aperture for the date between 4 and 5, applied faceted rectangular steel indexes, with luminous coating, outer tachymeter scale. The indexes show a natural patina, consistent with age. Under the screwed case back, we find the famous caliber 3019PHC, automatic, certified chronometer, with high frequency and column wheel chronograph mechanism. The El Primero movement is to Watchmaking, what the Concorde was to Aviation, well in advance for his time and build to last. The movement remains today one of the most accurate chronograph, still in production, for its age.

With its big size, suitable for almost everybody, incredibly striking design, unmatched history, technical importance, great wearability,  the model has become legendary.  The tri-color dial, the early high-beat self-winding movement, the sharply angled case,  the great wearability of this watch all make it one to own, especially if you’re a vintage chronograph lover. The model has set the statement Zenith’s actual dna. Launched in 1969, the El Primero models continue to be one of the most popular Zenith watches still sold by the brand today. the El Primero movement is actually declined into more than 23 versions. The exact same model is illustrated in Zenith, by Joël Duval, édition Albin Michel, pages 318 & 319. The model is also illustrated in Zenith, by Manfred Rössler, Edition Damiani, page 249. Dial, case and movement are signed.

One of the most sought after and iconic Zenith’s chronograph ever produced !

Condition: 8/10, with box and original guarantee, Extract from the Archives, also accompanied by the steel Zenith bracelet dated 1968, (endlinks need to be replace with the correct ZF reference), in working condition, later 400Z automatic bridge and hands

Brand: Zenith

Model: El Primero, Mark III

Year : 1971

Reference: AH386

Movement no. : 115053

Case no.: 923D515

Material: stainless steel

Dial: five-color tone, luminous hands, aperture for the date, red chronograph hand

Movement: cal. 3019PHC, 31 jewels, monometallic balance, self-compensating flat balance spring, shock absorber, column wheel mechanism

Bracelet: leather strap, additional stainless steel Zenith bracelet with end links no. ZB and clasp engraved GF 3/68, approx. overall length. 190 mm.

Functions: date, chronograph, self-winding

Water-resistant: no more (yes, at the time)

Dimensions:  38 mm diam. Thickness 13.50  mm.

Accessories: fitted red Zenith presentation box, user manual and original guarantee dated march 1973 in Bern, Zenith Extract from the Archives

Ref. ICO: 99-20-009F