Seeing Double. The story of the matching Leica M3’s

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by Bellamy /

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Seeing Double. The story of the matching Leica M3’s
A curious and somewhat remarkable tale indeed. Wolfgang decided to buy a couple of Leica M3’s, the odds of buying two cameras that are exactly the same must run into the millions to one, yet that is what happened to Wolfgang. Check it out.

Prologue

At the beginning of 2016, I decided to stop digital photography for good, and therefore sold my last digital tool, the Monochrom. My reason was that I was longing to get back to making black and white photos in the traditional way again: I wanted to start by putting a black and white film into a camera, taking the photos, developing the negatives and transforming them into a real photo on baryte paper.
I was happy to find a Fokomat enlarger still working perfectly, after I did some little repairs. Then I bought a Rolleiflex 2.8 D and after a complete revision, I was able to start the photo making process. However, as this Rolleiflex is not very handy, I thought about buying a Leica again. But which one?

Leica’s new analogue cameras were fantastic, but so was their price. After reading and reading, your very good thoughts about the old M’s too, I decided to look for a M3. 

The hazard

This is where this story begins. I met a Bavarian collector whom I had been knowing for years and appreciate because everything he owns is in perfect state. He showed me a fantastic M3, beautiful, nearly without any signs of use. Buying it was an easy decision. As I wanted to use this camera and was aware of course that it needed lubrication and exchange of rubber parts after all these years, I sent it to a well known specialist for Leica and Rolleiflex.
So the camera was gone again and meanwhile, I worked with the Rolleiflex, learning again how to make a photo on black and white film. However, I kept my eyes on Leicas being sold in the internet. Quite soon I noticed a Leica M2 offered at a very interesting price, but not in the perfect condition I usually sought. So I contacted the owner who turned out being a very genteel person and collector, living in the North of Germany. He then told me when we spoke on the phone that he also had a Leica M3 for sale, in new condition. He suggested sending it to me and would even take it back if I didn’t like it.

A few days later, I held it in my hands, and this M3 was really like new. I turned it round and round, checking everything, and was very happy. Then my eyes fell on the serial number, and I thought something was wrong with them. My first M3 was still far away at the service, but I had some photos: I had not been mistaken – the number was the exactly the same! A few days later I got the first M3 back from the service and there it was, the double.

Confirmation

We were very short before holidays and so I took them with me, together with the rest of my equipment. However I used the serviced M3 very carefully, because it was dawning on me how crazy it is to find two M3 cameras with the same serial number. Back from holidays, I decided to find out all about this double and to contact the Leica customer service. So I called there and had a nice phone conversation with a very friendly lady who couldn’t believe this story, until I mailed her some photos. It was then decided to send them both to Leica for inspection. So I did, and it took a while to find out…….nothing, except that these are two original M3s, in perfect optical and working condition. They put the original L-seal on the serviced M3, a kind of confirmation that everything is OK with them.

Here is the translation from the e-mail I received from the customer service:

(…)

We have checked now both M3 cameras, but unfortunately this did not help much, as there were no engravings of the serial number in the top cover. Neither did we find the serial numbers of your cameras in the withdrawal registers, so it is impossible to tell anything about their history.

One of the cameras has a new bottom plate and the chrome of the top cover seems to be a little rougher. (I personally cannot  see) The back cover is anodized but does still have the original vulcanite. The unlock button (which has the nice German nickname “rose garden/Rosengaertchen”) is a later modified version (see enclosed picture: version 1 left /version 2 right).

We have applied our “L” seal to the other camera. The A ring was already new. Both cameras’ functionality is well.

I regret that we are unable to provide you with more background information. Nevertheless, the simple fact that you have succeeded in purchasing two cameras with equal serial numbers from two different sellers, just within months, makes them to something really special J.

Both M3s are in excellent condition and should be stored safely in a special case or cupboard, please not in a bag.

We will return your treasures to you shortly.

Best regards,

Leica Camera AG

Customer Care

And that’s more or less the whole story. 

Wolfgang

Well, what are the odds? To find two identical cameras in such a random fashion. I don’t think they should ever be separated again. Thank you to Wolfgang for taking the time to share his amazing experience with us.

Wolfgang has a site that you can check out as well depictio.com

JCH

5 comments on “Seeing Double. The story of the matching Leica M3’s”

    jukka vatanen January 20, 2017 at 8:14 pm / Reply

    What propably has happened is that one of those M3 bodies had a full overhaul so that the body was sent to factory without the upper plate and then the requested serial number had been engraved to the new top. I had once an original MP #302 it was changed from chrome to black and also full CLA. the chrome top plate was in finland, but body returned from Leica with a new black top plate. So I had two M3 top plates with same number. As MP has the serial number also inside the body, “counterfeit” MP:s can not be produced as there is also other differences in original MP ( Steel gears versus brass gears in film wind and a few other “secrets”)

    eric de montigny January 21, 2017 at 2:15 am / Reply

    First they are not the only twins known, the serial 1000070 made in 1960 also exist twice so 2 M3 1000070.
    Now there may be another explanation for yours, Leica had many small batches (30 to 200) of M3 M2 and M4 assembled by Ernst Leitz Canada (ELC). The number from 1135001 to 1135100, that’s a hundred, used twice, first by ELC and again by Leica GMBH. They add a star at the end of the serial number for those made in Germany. Otherwise the top is identical and say GMBH.
    Maybe Leica didn’t consider this when they evaluate these two body so my best guess is one made in Germany and the other one made in Canada. From this batch of 4000 in 1963 maybe some have been assembled in Canada with the same number (duplicate) as those made in Germany.

    I’ve research this topic last w-e when i arrive minutes too late to buy a clean M3 in Montreal, one from the 1135001 bath, without the star so an ELC. The guy sold it for 240$ not knowing what he have in hand.

    Travis Lewis January 23, 2017 at 3:32 am / Reply

    I have a couple of M3’s and Coincidentally enough my daily shooter is #1073 077. Less 100 cameras younger than these two.

    Stan cacitti January 23, 2017 at 8:56 am / Reply

    Looking for a Nikon Sp body 8+ or better to replace my long ago Sp

    Jimmy Yang January 24, 2017 at 9:16 am / Reply

    Really cool story, congrats!!

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