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A toast to Russian watches

by Michael Weare
26 February, 2013
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About the author

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

Chernigivske Beer

If you’re looking for a mechanical watch but don’t want to shell out the serious money demanded by most Swiss watch brands, there is another option besides the more mainstream and commonplace Japanese brands. And that’s to buy Russian.

Russian watches, like Russian beer, represent excellent value for money. In Poland for example, one of the hangovers of the Soviet era (no pun intended) is a range of refreshing Russian beers. A large frosty glass of Chernigivskie Ice Beer will set you back just a little over £1. ‘Give me a Chernigivskie‘ became my slogan as soon as I discovered this brew while visiting there.

But back to the watches, and Russian watches, especially Poljot and Vostok, are still fitted with reliable, hardworking mechanical movements that just keep going and going. The design of Russian watches is unmistakeably masculine, graphically strong and eye catching, and more often than not, military inspired. So if you’re into aviation, diver or milspec type watches, you will probably like Russian watches.

While they have become more popular in recent years thanks to the likes of ebay and some web entrepreneurs, how many people do you know that actually own a Russian watch? Especially unique are watches that feature Russian lettering on the face.

They’re a real conversation piece, along with some of the more ostentatious watches designed for Presidential gift giving and for the Kremlin, both of which we feature here. With a little ebay surfing you should be able to pick up most of these watches at a good price – much less than what you would pay for a Swiss watch of similar spec.

Vostok Komandirskie

 

Vostok Komandirskie

Vostok is probably the best known of all the Russian watch brands. Based in Chistopol, Vostok were known for making military watches for the Red Army during the Cold War. Their designs are credited with being durable, strong and long-lasting. Vostok means “east” in Russian – so called because the factory was set up in Tatarstan, well to the east of Moscow. You just can’t spend a lot of money on this type of watch. They were originally made in a wide variety of military styles for your average Russian soldier. For a mechanical watch they are extremely economically priced at around $51.00. This particular model is called the Komandirskie. It runs on a 2414A mechanical movement with 17 precision jewels. It features a red sweep seconds hand with calendar and a bi-directional rotating timing bezel with markings.

Poljot Presidential watch

Poljot Presidential watch

Poljot is probably one of the most respected names in Russian watches, famous for their top quality pilot’s watches.

The President watches are magnificent mechanical chronographs based on a reliable shock protected Russian mechanism . The watch case is made from 10 microns of gold coating which will keep the watch gleaming with a golden lustre for many years.

The design of the watch conforms to a strict official Presidential style; the brown leather strap perfectly complements the gilt case and the crown with a sapphire. At 12 o’clock is featured the gilt emblem of the Russian State a double-headed eagle, and the flag on the top of the dial-plate, with the words “President of Russia” inscribed on the bottom. The watch runs on a Poljot 3133 chronograph movement.

Watches are gathered manually at the watch factory after passing a special test for durability. These watches can usually be picked up for around $675.00.

Denissov Aeronavigator Chronograph

Denissov Aeronavigator Chronograph

The watch may say Denissov, but in reality, this is another Poljot. Russians love their watches to be unmistakeably macho, big and chunky and this 45mm pilot’s watch is a typical example. The large Arabic numeral 12 and the indices are clear and punchy. Functions include hours, minutes, seconds, and a date calendar. The watch runs on a Poljot 31681 chronograph movement, which loses or gains around 10 seconds a day. This watch is water resistant to 45 metres and retails for around $950.

Umnyashov F-2 31681

Umnyashov F-2 31681

The creator of  Umnyashov Watches, Alexander Umnyashov, has a pedigree which goes back to the Soviet era where he worked at the First Moscow Watch Factory “Flight”. There he studied and mastered the intricacies of watchmaking. This knowledge became the basis for Alexander when he created his own brand pouring all he learned from the making of Soviet watches: high quality and reliability, at a ‘democratic’ price. Of course what you would never find on a Soviet era watch is an American F117A stealth bomber aircraft insignia, but hey, the Cold War is long since over and this watch represents an intriguing mix of Russian and American influence. It runs on the Poljot 31681 chronograph movement. These watches can be found for around $350 to $375.

Vostok Kremliovskie

Vostok Kremliovskye

 

The Kremliovskie is a magnificent, reliable mechanical automatic watch which runs on a 31 jewel movement. Water resistant to 100 metres, the black dial features a gilt two-headed double hawk in the centre and an inscription “Kremlin” . The case is made from steel with a 5 micron 14k gold covering and can be picked up for just $224.

Michael Weare | Website

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

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