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Thread: Zenith "Yugoslav air force" EP 143-6 chronograph

  1. #1
    Moderator Syrte's Avatar
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    Default Zenith "Yugoslav air force" EP 143-6 chronograph

    Greetings to all,

    An unexpected purchase materialized yesterday -- a chronograph.
    Some of you (Dave, Myron yes you ☺ !!) had suggested the idea many months ago.
    With two purchases in the past few weeks (one of them unprecedented), the chronograph idea went on indefinite hold.

    But then this showed up (seller's pictures):









    Those have been seen before.
    Stiocour has one he posted about some time ago and even let me try it on.
    (his dial is infused with beautiful radium sparkle all over, and his caseback reference is just three numbers away).
    They are said to be Yugoslav air force chronographs, presumably from the 1950s, but little appears to be known about them.
    Does anyone have more info? If so, much appreciated.

    This seller was in Eastern Europe and the asking price was way above what I was prepared to pay.
    One pusher is clearly off, and as usual no telling what a service might reveal.
    It had what appeared to be a marvelous chocolate dial with bronze reflections under a certain light.

    But it looked more dull on other photos:



    As it turned out the seller was not only willing to discuss the price, he was about to drive to Paris for the week end for the Euro championship. And he agreed to meet at a watchmaker's shop to have the movement looked at.
    If the purchase went ahead, I planned to pay him inside the shop as I didn't want to walk around with cash in the street in the company of a stranger. (Antoine, Springmount and Stiocour kindly helped brainstorm this).

    Lo and behold my safety planning was thrown off when the guy called, saying he and his friend were nearby but lost.
    He asked if I could come and get them. Darn. Two friends together?
    The watchmaker saved me and agreed to hold the cash while I went on my rescue mission.
    So here I am in a fancy neighborhood of central Paris, linking up with two young guys wearing beer and heavy metal tee shirts, who had just driven 1400 kilometers for a football match, and shuttling them to a watch inspection.

    The dial was every bit as beautiful as its best pictures suggested.
    The intact original lume looked pretty good to the naked eye for an old presumed military watch.
    The movement would need service but was deemed in good condition, with service marks inside the caseback from 1961 and 1964 only.

    When I left the shop with my loot I was in a bit of a shock, not being used to such transactions.

    Coffee and photos were part of the recovery.







    Now I have clearly gone into the deep end.
    But with its 37mm size and good "fundamentals" it feels like solid grounds.

    A million thanks to Stiocour and Northernman for their patient and generous guidance and chronograph expertise.
    And thanks to all as ever for being such a welcoming, supportive, and fun community.

    Again, any additional info about those would be great.

    Have a good week end,
    Best regards,
    S
    Last edited by dave; 06-14-2016 at 05:22.

  2. #2
    Senior Member foilguy's Avatar
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    What a great watch. Great story, better outcome.

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    Moderator Syrte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by foilguy View Post
    What a great watch. Great story, better outcome.
    Thanks so much Paul, coming from such a fine connoisseur it is a great compliment.

  4. #4

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    Well done Sylvie. Looks great. Same movement that goes in the wonderful Zenith A.Cairelli Roma I think. Ciao Ian.

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    Fantastic. Lovely looking watch. Glad to hear you didn't have any trouble with the transaction.

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    Member pilotswatch's Avatar
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    Bravo Sylvie, absolutly beautiful. Well done. Now you have crossed the line. Good luck.

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    Super Moderator dave's Avatar
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    wow - you done well - really like it and a nice size - congrats.

    phew - some anxious moments there - glad it all worked out.

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    Moderator Syrte's Avatar
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    Thanks so much gents -- thanks again Ian for the suggestions.
    Roddy, it would have been fun if you could have joined me!
    (I hope you've been able to get a bit of a break).

    Seems the football championship deserves part of the credit.
    An Italian collector posted on the Italian forum that he too was in talks with the seller.
    So I can totally see this young guy with several prospective buyers decided to just wing it, grab his friend,
    drive to Paris for a week end, see a game, and sell the watch. It must have been quite an adventure for them.

    Ken, you're exactly right (which is why I am back on line to turn off alerts ).

  9. #9

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    Congrats Sylvie!

    Spectacular watch and it looks great on you.

    Wear it in the best of health-

    Cheers,

    Todd

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    Love that browning dial..that's the kicker for me...the doctor says you're beyond help now..

  11. #11
    Moderator Syrte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lambstew View Post
    Love that browning dial..that's the kicker for me...the doctor says you're beyond help now..
    Thanks Konrad, that brown dial did me in.
    Also the prospect one might try to find more about those presumptive military connections.

    As for the doctor's diagnosis....
    I'm about to book myself into some jungle retreat without running water, electricity, or electronics -- so who knows...

  12. #12
    Super Moderator dave's Avatar
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    have just noticed the 3 - 6 - 9 telephone (probably) markings - a nice touch.

  13. #13

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    What an absolute stunning watch. Congratulations and a great story

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    That sounds like a bit of an adventure and with a very pleasing result. Congratulations .

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    Gentlemen (any ladies around?),

    Here's a long overdue update on this watch.

    Because not much is known on these chronographs except a few accounts on various forums, I requested an extract of archives.
    Zenith replied on July 4, 2016 and provided information which as I understand has never been published or reported before:

    1/ The "military style" black dial chronographs in question are part of a batch of 2000, ordered from Excelsior Park on January 20, 1954.
    2/ Their case numbers range from 9104211 to 9106210, which comports with empirical observation.

    Citation from the extract of archives:
    "HISTORY - production order January 20, 1954
    as part of a lot of 2000 such pieces ordered to Excelsior Park at that date".

    In a private email, they further indicated:"our Registers however (sadly) do not further specify the client (...) meaning we couldn't confirm their purchase by the Yugoslav government at the time. What we know for sure is that your chronograph was part of a lot of 2000 such chronograph's ordered from Excelsior Park in 1954 (as described in your Extract of Archives)."

    Zenith also sent me a picture of the archives register (below) recording the case numbers of the batch.





    While there is no documentary evidence that those chronographs were delivered to the governement of Yugoslavia, it has been observed empirically that a number of those chronographs, when found "in the wild", originate out of Belgrade or Zagreb.
    We had private discussions about this with our MWR pal Sticour, who had introduced me to these chronographs.
    As he puts it, the discovery that they're a part of a batch of 2000 is significant -- because 2000 high grade Swiss chronographs could not have been sold privately in a communist regime like Tito's Yugoslavia.

    Sticour also authorized me to share other observations, which I will do later, once I've had a chance to mark and upload pics.

    Best regards,
    S
    Last edited by Syrte; 04-16-2017 at 15:43.

  16. #16
    Member pilotswatch's Avatar
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    Wow, interesting outcome from an already interesting adventure of how you purchased the beautiful watch. Bravo.

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    Very interesting sleuthing. Would be interested in any other updates!

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    What an incredible followup to an incredible story, Sylvie. Thanks for keeping us updated. I have an old family heirloom Zenith pocket watch and Zenith was very good at documenting its history. In my case, their good record keeping unraveled a family a myth about the origins of the watch.

    Again, so great to hear this story Sylvie.

    Best,

    Myron

  19. #19
    Senior Member river rat's Avatar
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    You sure did your home work on the history of your watch. It sure came out nice with the proper pusher and service.

  20. #20
    Moderator Syrte's Avatar
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    Thank you so much gentlemen for your kind words, I was very curious to see what could be discovered about it.

    Myron, interesting to hear you too had interesting into from a Zenith archive search. As a understand it this is a service they only started providing recently.

    All the best,
    Sylvie

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