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Russian and Soviet Watches - my collection and a bit of history

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  • Russian and Soviet Watches - my collection and a bit of history

    Hi all! I'm new here but have lurked around for a few months enjoying what everyone has to offer, and I like the NZ-based nature of this site particularly. A recent thread had some discussion about the level of activity on the forum and how new threads and contributions will keep the discussion going (even if it is just between the more regular posters). So, I thought what better way to introduce myself to the forum than show you all a couple of watches that maybe a few of you might not have seen before? I am sure that many of you will have seen these brands before (Don, Scouser and Tempus come to mind), but I hope that they are of interest if you haven’t run into them until now.

    I had a quartz fashion watch die on me a while ago and it was only at that point that I started finding out about automatic and manual-wind mechanicals. I needed a new watch, but I probably didn’t need another expensive hobby to get caught up in! But some things can’t be helped - watches offered quite the broad scope to research different brands, cases, dials, complications, materials etc. so after doing my reading I ended up buying a Seiko automatic within my budget. A year later here I am having bought and sold a few different pieces, taken in by the watch bug completely. It's been an interesting ride the last year or so delving into the multitude of brand histories and design features, and the practical nature of a watch lets you take something with you out and about each day that you can enjoy.

    I have had something of a focus on Soviet/Russian watches for the last 8 or 9 months. The story and history of Russian watchmaking is quite unique and it’s a fun challenge safely navigating all the frankenwatches, repainted dials and other eBay minefields to get a nice vintage piece without breaking the bank. I really enjoy the unique dial designs of the Soviet era along with the rugged movements, as well as having a little bit of history on my wrist from a time that has moved on and a nation that no longer exists. I’ll also try and add some general info on Soviet era watches alongside the details of the ones I own.

    For each of the vintage Soviet watches I bought I first tried to find a historical catalogue entry for them as this helps with confirming the authenticity and avoiding the frankenwatches that are commonplace from eBay sellers. It also gives an idea of the date of the watch’s production which isn’t easy for Soviet pieces at the best of times. I have put my own photos and the annual catalogue pages of each below. There are a quite a few pictures I want to add so I will have to make multiple posts to keep within the 5-attachment limit for each.


    Raketa Cushion Case (manual wind, late 1980s to early 1990s)

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    I think this Raketa is most likely from the late 1980s, as I was only able to find an exact catalogue match from a 1991 export catalogue right before the fall of the USSR.

    This was the first vintage watch I ever bought. When it arrived from the Trademe seller the acrylic crystal was fairly scuffed up so a quick polish with fine sandpaper and Brasso sorted it out, only to reveal the dial was covered in fingerprint marks! I quickly decided that this would annoy me until it was gone so with no prior knowledge of how to open a case or remove a watch movement, I proceeded to remove it by trial and error (with the help of Google). I managed to get the movement out of the case but in the process, I also jammed the crown release pin under the movement bridge, which meant properly disassembling the movement to fix it. Scary stuff for a complete novice! Somehow I managed to do this without losing any parts and was quite happy with myself, so it was time to put the movement back together and finally enjoy the watch. As I was screwing one of the bridges back into place it turned out I hadn’t quite set the minute wheel pivot into the jewel correctly and with a horrible crunch I broke the pivot right off. After a lot of swearing and tinkering it became apparent I couldn’t fix a broken pivot myself, so it was on to eBay for a $15 NZD spare 2609.I movement from Bulgaria to be able to wear this finally! Those annoying fingerprint marks snowballed into a hell of a learning experience about the 2609 series of movements from Raketa, incredibly frustrating at the time but in hindsight very educational.

    Movement: Raketa 2609.I – 17 jewels running at 18,000 beats per hour.
    Case Size: 33mm chrome-plated brass.
    Last edited by Gauss; 11-06-19, 09:38. Reason: Spelling

  • #2
    Raketa Centre Stripe (manual wind, late 1980s to early 1990s)

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    Another one I believe is from the late 1980s based on the earliest catalogue entry I could find.

    Most of the brands in production during the Soviet era, Raketa included, produced watches for both export and domestic market use. These were exported internationally by Mashpriborintorg (Машприборинторг), a Soviet import/export trade entity that sold Soviet goods throughout the world and still exists in the present day exporting electronic goods, aeronautic parts and industrial manufacturing equipment.

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    The other two Raketas I have were produced for the export market, identifiable by the English on the dial rather than Cyrillic script, but I wanted to be sure that I had one that was originally produced for the Soviet domestic market as well. I found this one in remarkably good condition from a Hungarian eBay seller, and after making an offer it was on its way. I prefer the styling of the cursive “Raketa” logo in its Cyrillic form rather than its English one, and the printing of both the script and the stripes on this dial is very nice. It uses the Raketa 2609.NA movement, probably the most common movement produced during the era and apparently has a reputation as a sturdy and reliable runner that you don’t have to be too gentle with.

    Movement: Raketa 2609.NA – 17 jewels running at 18,00 beats per hour.
    Case Size/Material: 34mm chrome-plated brass.

    Comment


    • #3
      Raketa “Segment” Dial (manual wind, first catalogue appearance 1972)

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      I imagine this one is almost certainly from the 1970s, as its first appearance in a catalogue is 1972 and I have not seen it again in the available catalogues for the 1980s.

      This one was all about the dial design. I came across it in very good condition with only some small blemishing near the 6 o’clock marker. The dial features a complete lack of a minute track (not to everyone’s taste I’m sure but it keeps the design very clean), and horizontally elongated hour markers at 12, 3, 6 and 9. 4 printed lines divide the dial into segments, with the silver colour having a sunburst effect ("rays" as per the catalogue page). Just above the 6 o’clock you can see the factory mark of Petrodvorets Watch Factory, where all Raketas are still manufactured to the present day. All Soviet watch factories had their own unique factory mark that was often stamped on to their movements before the 1980s, when production shifted to having movements simply marked “SU” as per below (along with a list of the 13 manufacturers and their unique mark):

      1. Poljot
      2. Slava
      3. Raketa
      4. Chaika
      5. Molniya
      6. Zarya
      7. Vostok
      8. Mayak
      9. Sevani
      10. Yantar
      11. Luch
      12. Vityaz
      13. Zim

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      The 2609.AI movement seems to be a 21-jewel version of the 2609 series, but I am not sure what function the extra 4 jewels serve. I would assume it might be some extra shock protection somewhere, perhaps one of you might know more about that than I would, any info would be appreciated! The lug-to-lug measurements make it wear more like a modern 37-38mm than the its 34mm case size, and it gets the most wear time out of all the Raketas that I have at the moment. The dial design and the case shape make it great fun to wear, and with a mesh bracelet or leather strap it can suit both casual and dressy situations.

      Movement: Raketa 2609.AI with 18,000 beats per hour
      Case Size/Material: 34mm, chrome-plated brass.
      Last edited by Gauss; 11-06-19, 09:39. Reason: Formatting

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      • #4
        Welcome Gauss.
        Thanks for the introduction. Two very stylish pieces you have here.
        'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder' - but lets face it some people have better eyesight than others!

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        • #5
          Vostok Amphibia SE (automatic, 2019)


          Click image for larger version  Name:	SE 710.jpg Views:	1 Size:	35.1 KB ID:	50347 Click image for larger version  Name:	20190610_153542.jpg Views:	1 Size:	36.1 KB ID:	50348 Click image for larger version  Name:	s-l300.jpg Views:	1 Size:	23.6 KB ID:	50344



          This is my most recent purchase. I have seen multiple people on other forums advise that vintage Russian watches have 30 metres water resistance – keep 30 metres away from water at all times! So I figured I would buy one of the “Special Edition” versions of this popular classic diver so I can wear a Russian watch without worrying about the rain or washing the dishes. This is a time-only 710B32 SE reference of the Amphibia, with a funky beat rate at 19800 per hour. I haven't opened the back just yet as it's basically brand new so I have used a stock photo of the 2415.01 movement.

          I remember reading a post here on Timekeepers from Don where he and Tempus discuss the Amphibia as a “living dinosaur”: https://www.timekeeper.co.nz/forum/w...urist-movement. This is bang on for this series of watches as the basic design hasn’t changed since their introduction in the 1960s. The Soviet/Russian manufacturing mindset seems to be if you create a product that isn’t terribly expensive and it works well, there is no reason to significantly change the product or stop its production. A perfect example is the UAZ-452 offroad van. As per the picture below they were introduced in 1965 and are still being made today with changes being very incremental since its first production. Imagine being able to buy a factory new Ford Anglia today where the only factory changes in 50 years were a slightly bigger engine and different side mirrors!

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          The basis of the design for the above Amphibia can be seen in a few of their earlier designs from the 1970s, only with the removal of the date complication and a larger case.

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          I feel that what the UAZ-452 is to the automotive industry, the Vostok Amphibia is to the watch world in the present day, with the original big gasket, wobbly crown and caseback design still being an effective water resistance package in the modern era (see this video for an Amphibia being pressure tested and only failing at 82 bar/820 metres!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-YKyDkpXbc)

          Modding these watches is popular, I don’t mind the handset but I have already got some replacement paddle hands on the way and am looking forward to installing them and using this Vostok as one of my daily wears. It’s currently running about +10s per day so I’m more than happy with that for what I paid.

          Movement: Vostok 2415.01 running at 19800 beats per hour.
          Case Size/Material: 41mm stainless steel.


          This was a long series of posts and I thank you if you have stuck with my rambling all the way to the finish! Soviet and Russian watches are not everyone’s cup of tea, as a general rule you will not be getting the same fit and finishing as you would on your Japanese and Swiss makes and some of the modern production are a bit kitsch and tacky. However I think they offer an opportunity for some watch-buying fun. I enjoy reading about the relative merits of ceramic vs. pre-ceramic bezels on Rolex Submariners and the Baselword hits and misses as much as the next enthusiast, but I think that its great that just about anyone can enjoy something a bit different from Eastern Europe without having to re-mortgage the house to pay for it! You pay a generally small price for a rugged movement and quirky designs, and if the worst case happens and your watch has an issue it won’t have cost you the earth (or you might be able to even fix it yourself!).

          I hope you have enjoyed what I’ve been able to show here, and I look forward to participating on the forum more in the future.

          Gauss
          Last edited by Gauss; 11-06-19, 09:40. Reason: Formatting

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Hammers View Post
            Welcome Gauss.
            Thanks for the introduction. Two very stylish pieces you have here.
            Thanks for looking in Hammers, some of the designs have definitely aged very nicely.

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            • #7
              Great stuff Gauss, the Russian pieces and their history are fascinating

              Comment


              • #8
                Great read. Does the crown on the Vostok Amphibia SE screw down to give it the 200m WR?

                Comment


                • #9
                  What a marvellous read. Thanks for taking the time to post Gauss. And welcome aboard.
                  Preparation and planning prevent piss poor performance

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thank you Gauss and welcome. A first post of this quality puts you straight through to ‘Jedi’ status.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thank you all, I am really glad that these are interesting for you!

                      Originally posted by kiwi.bloke View Post
                      Great read. Does the crown on the Vostok Amphibia SE screw down to give it the 200m WR?
                      Hi there kiwi.bloke. Yes, all references of the Amphibia SE use the same screw-down crown and gasket/caseback combo to give 200m water resistance. As a bonus, the large caseback gasket in all Amphibias is not under direct pressure from the screw-down caseback ring. Rather the screw-down ring only directly contacts the back plate, the back plate then squeezes and secures the gasket without damaging it and actually increases the water resistance at greater depths. A neat solution for the time!

                      To the best of my knowledge the SE range is a somewhat recent development by the Chistopol Watch Factory and Meranom (Vostok's manufacturing centre and official retailer respectively) to introduce some new cosmetic designs but they remain functionally the same as any other Amphibia.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Gauss View Post
                        Thank you all, I am really glad that these are interesting for you!



                        Hi there kiwi.bloke. Yes, all references of the Amphibia SE use the same screw-down crown and gasket/caseback combo to give 200m water resistance. As a bonus, the large caseback gasket in all Amphibias is not under direct pressure from the screw-down caseback ring. Rather the screw-down ring only directly contacts the back plate, the back plate then squeezes and secures the gasket without damaging it and actually increases the water resistance at greater depths. A neat solution for the time!

                        To the best of my knowledge the SE range is a somewhat recent development by the Chistopol Watch Factory and Meranom (Vostok's manufacturing centre and official retailer respectively) to introduce some new cosmetic designs but they remain functionally the same as any other Amphibia.
                        Thanks, was just doing some further reading. Very interesting design philosophy with re the crown, crystal and case back design. Which I assume this model all reflects. Would be the bomb on a mesh bracelet. Looks to be a decent wearable size as well. Keen to now understand if it’s a genuine dateless movement.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by kiwi.bloke View Post

                          Thanks, was just doing some further reading. Very interesting design philosophy with re the crown, crystal and case back design. Which I assume this model all reflects. Would be the bomb on a mesh bracelet. Looks to be a decent wearable size as well. Keen to now understand if it’s a genuine dateless movement.
                          From my research the 2415.01 has the capability for a date function but it is not present, but the base movement is used to better fit a non-date dial into a case that would normally house a date window dial, as per the retailer confirmation of the below post on WUS:

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                          As for it being wearable its 41mm wide with 45mm lug to lug measurement, Good presence without seeming oversized like some other divers that start to push 42mm. I have fairly skinny wrists and it wears very well. I actually bought the blue NATO and a mesh bracelet together once the watch arrived, I should have posted a photo with the mesh on it as well now that I think of it! The new hand set arrived in NZ this morning so once they are delivered and installed I'll put a new picture up with the mesh on it too.

                          G

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                          • kiwi.bloke
                            kiwi.bloke commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Where did you buy from, Meranom? No issues?

                          • Gauss
                            Gauss commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Yep Meranom was the one. No issues at all, they shipped it quick and it arrived at my door within 2 weeks. If there are any problems I've heard that Dmitry (owner/operator) is very helpful.

                        • #14
                          Those Raketa’s a both very stylish watches

                          Thanks for a good ready and welcome

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Awesome post Comrade, looks like i will be swapping a few posts with you in future.....
                            While i'm not as good as i once was.....i'm as good once as i ever was.......!

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