Zenith and Eterna Bezel Wind Watches

Discussion in 'Wrist Watches' started by Kevin Neathery, Nov 3, 2019.

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  1. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    May 15, 2018
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    This one I am not sure where it should be posted. I have 2 in the current configuration of a wristwatch. One complete original Eterna and one parts Eterna. I have 2 more on the way. A Eterna in the full complete odd kit and another complete Zenith.....so what is all this about.

    I purchased this unusual Zenith Special "Wristwatch" a while back. There was no information to go by so once it arrived I dug into the watch. The first 2 pics are from a few minuets ago and the others are from when I was taking it apart to learn more.

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    The back was cleverly made to thread onto the center post of the watch. It is prevented from turning by a set screw in the smaller hole at 12. With the set screw removed you can remove the adapter.

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    By pressing in on the center post with the adapter partly threaded on you can actually get the watch out of the outer "can".

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    There were then 3 screws on the edge holding the back on the case.

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    So once into the watch I was able to obtain the serial I sent to Zenith SA. More on the result of that shortly.

    Inside there is a Georges Favre Jacot marked movement. Gilt finish and 15 jewels. The watch is wound by turning the bezel and set by pulling on the bezel until it clicks and then turning in either direction to set. Onve in position you just press down and it clicks back into winding.

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    A few interesting things to note. The setting ins completed by a pinion that goes all the way through the watch next to the smaller cog. There is no indication or evidence that the winding wheels that would have been on the movement were ever installed. No wear to the gilding to indicate any winding by the traditional method.

    So the results from Zenith.... After a month of waiting I got a phone call from Switzerland. Usually they just email a copy of the cert and info. In this case though they wanted more info. Apparently their records are "odd" when it came to this serial. The movements were made in 1919. They were not shipped until 1936. The GFJ markings were still common for the Russian market as the GFJ name was still very much recognized there. They opted for many years to continue with the name even after the change to Zenith as a brand.

    The record did not indicate who the delivery was to. They were listed as being sold as complete watches and wristwatches at that. We discussed the dial and they confirmed that the dial is correct but for the German market and they did not believe the watches were shipped to the Germans.

    Prior to the calls with Zenith I had been hunting others of these down on line. Not easy to do but there were some great fellow collectors willing to talk about their watches. Same dials, movement markings, and design. So the dial was not swapped on by whomever made the adapter. I made sure to relay the serials and descriptions to Zenith who confirmed that they were all recorded the same way. I made sure to pass on any info I go to the collectors that had helped.

    A few months later my watchmaker happened on 3 watches in a lot he bought. 2 Eterna and one GFJ bezel winds. Sadly the GFJ had a miss matched non Zenith dial on it. The one Eterna had no dial at all and the other Eterna was complete. So knowing that finding a Zenith special dial with no seconds would be difficult I ordered a modern dial to sit in place until I can find a suitable replacement. The watch was in the stainless steel adapter seen below.

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    As to how these started life...the Eterna's helped answer that.

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    I have an unmodified Zenith on the way as well as an Eterna complete in the box. Before you think these must be huge....the diameter is only 40mm across the bezel and 50mm across the original with the holes.

    The statement was made that these were made to be used in a radio triangulation kit back in WW2. They resided in a box where they were suspended by springs to minimize shocks. I will be able to post more once the one in the box arrives. As to the Eterna and Zenith that don't have boxes I am actually considering a way to mount them as a watch without modification to the original cases.
     
  2. Tomxhar

    Tomxhar Registered User

    Sep 2, 2019
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    These are extremely interesting, and I see the Eterna has a patent application.
    Could you not have a new base for those without boxes made from aluminium, similar to the one with the Panerai like dial?
    A thin sheet the same thickness as the original would be the easiest way to go.
     
  3. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    I actually have a design drawn up to have a 2 piece case made from wood. More like a cylinder that the whole original could be mounted in and offer a certain level of protection.

    The internal way the Eterna is set up is very different than the Zenith. I will get some pictures of an Eterna like I did for the Zenith. Still used the 3 screws to hold the back on but there are bearings to make the click engagement to the outer case vs the Zenith "fingers" design. The Eterna movements are also of an odd Cal. I will post more tonight on the Eterna. If I find pictures on my computer I may post sooner.
     
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  4. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    As for the Eterna we see that the cog on the back is actually attached to the spiral spring and not the case back itself like the Zenith. We can also see the round bearings that are part of the case. The movement shows no missing nor any place for a set bridge or any keyless works on the dial side. The outer case on the Eterna is not interchangeable with the Zenith. A this time I have not found any other brands that were used as this type of bezel wind watch. The Eterna in the pictures is my parts watch so some things, like the small cog on the back for the winding and setting is missing. I don't like taking the working ones apart out of fear of damaging something.

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  5. Tomxhar

    Tomxhar Registered User

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    Is there a possibility that these are dashboard clocks for cars or aircraft?
     
  6. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    I am looking to get pics from the seller that I can post before it arrives but the Eterna I have on the way has the box. The box was designed to sit on the dash of a vehicle. The watch as you see with the screw holes on the bezel sat in another holder. It was secured in place by the screws in the 3 holes. That part it was held in was then suspended in a frame from the 4 sides with springs. That frame was hinged and set in a box so that you could angle the watch framed part up with the hinged lid of the box as a back support to the top of the frame.

    As to being mounted in any other way originally I have not seen. Being they all come out of the old eastern block countries it is possible they were ordered by the Russian army or another country to their west. The lack of any Russian markings, or any country markings in any other language, makes them a bit more of a mystery. What I can say is that the movements are the same as what you see in some of the "Pilot" watches that are marked GFJ on the dial and movement. I have even seen a Zenith "Pilot" with a GFJ movement like in these.

    Like I said, the records show these were made in 1918-1919. There is a possibility, based on other collections I have, that they could have been ordered by the Imperial Russian Army. The reason for the long gap between manufacture and shipment could be explained by the fall of the Czar. Remington was making Nagant rifles for the Imperial Army and when the revolution happened there was a contract with Remington that the new government would not honor. Remington had a few thousand, I believe, of these Nagant rifles ready but nowhere to ship. In the end Remington sold them on the domestic US market as hunting rifles with Remington markings. When the Czar fell there were business deals that were not fulfilled. It is not a far stretch to think that watches made on contract in 1918 were shelved and when the countries were gearing up for WW2 the watches had a new need and use. So the bill was finally paid, so to speak, and the "Watches" shipped.

    Remember too that Zenith's records say they were shipped as complete watches. Now that there are 2 companies making similar watches, and Eterna having a patent, says that the watch makers were making them like this per order and not modification once they arrive. This though is an ongoing conversation with Zenith.

    So a car or dash watch....kind of. But not in the usual sense of a in the dash mounted.
     
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  7. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    The Eterna in the box arrived today. There would have been rubber feet attached to the bottom but the metal posts are still there.

    There are absolutely no markings on the box.

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  8. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    Well disaster has struck. The one in the lower left had the click snap while winding. Now the hunt is on for a part for a watch that no one usually sees. May have to have the click made. Such is the fun of old vintage watches. The click is in the shape of the number 9 and is a pieve of flat metal with no other protrusions. So making may not be too hard.
     
  9. Tomxhar

    Tomxhar Registered User

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    Take a picture with the two pieces together (as if whole) and measurement. I will look to see if I have a possible replacement.
     
  10. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    The length is 5.5mm and the diameter 2.83mm at the round part.

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