Minsk, Hero-City of the Great Patriotic War

Minsk, Hero-City of the Great Patriotic War

ZIM watch dedicated to the city of Minsk of the 80s that mounts the proven calibre ZIM 2602 without shockproof. The dial commemorates the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II.

In particular, it honours the city of Minsk, the capital of present-day Belarus, which has been awarded the title of Hero-City.

russian watch zim minsk dial
Zim Minsk Hero-City 1985

13 cities of the Soviet Union, which distinguished themselves for courage and heroism during World War II, received the honorary Soviet title of Hero-City.

A symbolic award attributed to the city that corresponds to the individual honour of Hero of the Soviet Union, which was recognized together with the medal of the Gold Star.

Minsk during the Second World War.

But how did Minsk earn the honour of Hero-City? In June 1941, German troops surrounded the Belarusian city. During the clashes, the Soviet soldiers, despite the strenuous defence, had to yield, in early July. Over 300,000 Soviet soldiers were taken prisoner. The Minsk area became the focus of partisan resistance despite the very high number of civilian casualties during Nazi control.

In 1974, Minsk was awarded the honorary title of Hero-City.

To commemorate the honour today there is an important monument in Victory Square which is today one of the main squares of Minsk.

The monument of victory in Minsk.

The Victory Monument, designed in 1946 and built-in 1954, is the monument visible on the watch face.

It is a 38-meter high obelisk topped by a reproduction of the Order of Victory representing one of the highest Soviet honours.

On the four sides of the pedestal are a series of high reliefs celebrating the exploits of Belarusian civilians and soldiers during Great Patriotic War.

Reliefs present on the base are:

  • Liberation of the motherland
  • Soviet army during the Great Patriotic War
  • Belarusian partisans
  • homage to the heroes who gave their lives for liberation

Under the square was built an underground memorial to pay tribute to the liberators of Belarus. On the walls of the restaurant are engraved the names of 566 people who stood out during the battles against the Nazi soldiers.

The watch

The watch is a classic Zim Pobeda in a rectangular case with rounded sides. On the dial is the Victory Monument with the dates “1945” and “1985” at the base to commemorate the forty years since the end of the war.

russian watch zim minsk
Zim Minsk hero-city

Written “МИНСК ГОРОД-ГЕРОЙ” meaning “Minsk Hero-City” heads the white dial of the watch beside the obelisk. Black hands and small seconds at 6 o’clock. The calibre is the classic 2602 used on many ZIM of the 80s.

russian watch zim minsk 2602 caliber
Zim Minsk Hero-City 1985 calibre 2602


This watch is part of the Sovietaly collection. Please ask for permission to use the photographs of the watch.

Ostwok, a Russian watch pretending to be Swiss.

Ostwok, a Russian watch pretending to be Swiss.

My first encounter with an Ostwok

It goes back several years. I remember very well that a friend of mine showed me a Komandirskie with a strange logo instead of the “B” of Vostok. At the time the Internet was not very widespread and finding information about these mysterious Ostwok was not easy.

He told me that he had ordered it by mail via a form found in a magazine in Switzerland, the country where his father worked. It took me a while to find one for myself.

Here you can see my small collection: Ostwok – Vostok – SOVIETALY™

The brand name Ostwok

Ostwok is evidently Wostok’s anagram. The Vostok mark for German-speaking countries was written with the W in order to be pronounced correctly, the pronunciation of the “V” in German more resembles the Italian “F”. Moreover, perhaps by a simple coincidence, the first three letters of the brand form the word “OST” which in German means “East”, useful to underline that the watch comes from countries of Eastern Europe.

A Swiss or Russian watch?

The most useful information I found in a thread of 2014 on the Italian forum Orologiko.it to which we refer the reading and deepening (DIRECT LINK TO THE FORUM) in which we talk about the creation in 1993 of a company based in Switzerland named Ostwok SA. In 2002 the company was officially liquidated after having, as it is said, imported one and a half million Komandirskie watches. One of the unanswered questions is whether the watches were assembled in Switzerland or arrived directly in Switzerland ready to be marketed. There seems to be no certainty about that at the moment.

What is the difference with the Vostok “normal Komandirskie?

From what you can see, apart from the replacement of logos, there are no other obvious variations. The watches are in all respects, including the calibre, the usual Vostok of which you can find the corresponding in the catalogues of the 90s. The choice of models fell in many cases on cases finished tin. Personally, I cannot tell you if the choice of colour starts from tastes related to the market in those years or for commercial issues related to greater availability.

The watches were sold in a specially made kit consisting of a cardboard box in black or grey and a sheet with instructions and warranty indications.

Where to find information

Si trovano in rete informazioni riguardo agli Ostwok ma in maniera abbastanza frammentata e sporadica. Qui di seguito un elenco dei siti internet dove è possibile trovare informazioni:

How to change the date to a Vostok Komandirski

How to change the date to a Vostok Komandirski

It’s a relatively simple operation and knowing how to change the date to a Vostok is always convenient. Since there is no rapid exchange system given you have to operate on the normal daily exchange. This is how it is done:

  1. Remove the winding crown and place it in the position where you normally change the time.
  2. Bring the time forward until a date click occurs and continue until 1:00 AM
  3. Bring the time back until approximately 8:00 PM.
  4. Bring the time forward until it exceeds 12:00 AM, when the date changes.

Repeat the operation until you reach the desired date and you’re done!

Clearly, the delicacy is a must when carrying out the operations described above.

Are there other ways to change the date?

If we exclude stopping the watch until the day of the right month or disassembling the dial and changing the position of the wheel of the date I would say that the answer is clearly no. Although it seems a cumbersome system, for those accustomed even to quartz watches from a few euros to a quick date change, it must be recognized that the system is simple and does not complicate the calibre with additional springs and components.

Change the date, what does the instruction manual say?

Vostok watches that came to Italy in the 1980s were often accompanied by an instruction manual. Blue cover for Komandirskie and red cover for chronographs.

This is what is reported in the instruction manual


Pull the crown out to position 2 and change the date by turning the hands in a clockwise direction.

Push the crown back in (Position 1)


To change the date, follow these steps:

  1. Turn the crown in a counterclockwise direction until the hands read 12 o’clock
  2. Turn the hands in a counterclockwise direction back to 8 o’clock. Move the hands to 12 o’clock to advance the date by one day. Tepeat this operation until the desired date has been reached.


Before following the steps for quick date settings, be sure that the watch is fully wound.

How do you change the date in the modern Vostok Komandirskie?

The answer is always the same in general since the calibre used is always the same 2414 manual of the Soviet era. Other calibres have also been included in modern production, so the above instructions may not work. Please refer to the instruction manual provided with the watch to make the various adjustments including the date change.

Instructions from eBay

manuale istruzioni vostok komandirskie fornito insieme ad alcuni orologi acquistati su ebay

Interesting to know that you happen to receive a leaflet of instructions along with the watches purchased on eBay along with the Vostok watches. It is a simple A5 sheet that shows in English the basic instructions for use and adjustment of the most common Vostok calibres such as 2414.

On the leaflet, under “UPDATING OF A CALENDAR” you will find the following instructions in English:

Set the winding head into position 3. Set the correct date by turning watch head clockwise. After that, set the winding head into position 1.

The instructions on how to change the date are not very precise and above all do not correspond to the instructions given by the manual. It is then suggested to continue to change the time by continuing to turn clockwise in order to take advantage of the normal date change of the watch.

I would be very curious to know if there are other manuals or other methods to change the date in the Vostok Komandirskie. If anyone had any other information, I would ask very kindly to share it.

Il-2 Shturmivk. An Ilyushin Fighter in Samara?

Il-2 Shturmivk. An Ilyushin Fighter in Samara?

In Samara there is an important monument made with a fighter Il-2 Shturmovik. is located in one of the most important squares of the city and has a very curious history.

monument of aircraft Il-2 in Samara

The Ilyushin Il-2 Šturmovik (NATO Bark code) was a single-engined low-wing attack engine produced in more than 26,000 units and widely used during World War II. For its great versatility, it proved to be one of the decisive aerial resources in combat.

The ZIM watch

On the dial of this ZIM watch, commemorating the 400 years of the city of Samara, you can read the inscription “400 лет Куйбышев”. In the upper part there is a stylized drawing of the monument made using a real restored Il-2.

Zim 400 years Kuybichev – Il-2 monument

It is one of the main monuments of the city of Samara famous for both the monument to Glory and the monument dedicated to Chapaev.

The important role played by the city of Samara during the conflict justifies the presence of many monuments commemorating the Second World War.

The monuments of the city of Samara

At the beginning of the war, Many activities that were based in the cities near the war zones were relocated to the easternmost regions of the Soviet Union including the No. 1 factories in Moscow and the No. 18 factory in Voronezh which were moved to Samara which was then called. Kuybichev. Both began mass production of Il-2 in 1941.

The restoration of Il-2

About 25 years after the end of the war it was decided to build a memorial. The search for an Il-2 specimen to be used began. Unfortunately, it was not possible to recover any aircraft that could be used in the factories and hangars of the Soviet Union. A well-preserved specimen was found in the marshes near the town of Murmansk. The old workers of factory no. 18 took care of the restoration of the specimen.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the end of the war, in 1975, the monument with the restored Il-2 was installed in a central square of the city of Samara.


This watch is part of the Sovietaly™ collection. Please ask for permission to use the photographs of the watch.

How accurate are Russian watches, in my opinion.

How accurate are Russian watches, in my opinion.

What is the accuracy of Russian watches? This is one of the most frequent questions I am asked by Russian and Soviet watchmaking enthusiasts.

In forums, in Facebook groups, such as “Russian watches that passion”, or directly by message, I am often asked for opinions about it.

The argument is clearly broad and it is difficult to give a correct answer. What I usually say is, “It depends on what you mean by precision…”

We begin by debunking some myths about the precision of mechanical watches, or rather the calibres of watches, by going to the country of watchmaking by definition, Switzerland.

The C.O.S.C.

The Swiss body responsible for verifying the accuracy of calibres is the C.O.S.C. (Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) and is certainly the best known and the most nominated by watch enthusiasts.

Marchio svizzero di precisione COSC

It has existed since 1973 and certifies the quality of the calibres when they leave the laboratories of analysis. So be careful, from the analysis laboratories and not from the production cycle of the watch.

As for the accuracy, it must be considered that the movement must have a daily average deviation between -4 and +6 seconds.

The movements are controlled at temperatures of 8, 23 and 38 degrees celsius, with tolerances of +/-1 degree and in different positions for 15 days. If the tests are passed a certificate is issued.

As you can see so we are talking about average discards of a few seconds a day. Often in the common imagination, we imagine precisions much higher and close to absolute precision.

Reducing those few seconds of average deviation and therefore surpassing the “simple” chronometer certification requires a very high design and construction effort and very few calibres succeed.

The Soviet quality mark GOST

Returning to the accuracy of Russian watches we begin by saying that even in the Soviet Union there was a mark of quality of industrial products, including watches, called “ГOСT” (GOST), an acronym that derives from the Russian words Государсвенный Станнадаррр (State Standard).

Marchio sovietico di qualità GOST

Born in 1967 on the official decision of the government of Brezhnev, the goal was to improve the products made in the Soviet Union. It had a duration of three years and the penalties in case of affixing the mark without an effective valid certification were very severe.

The brand is found in watches often on the dial or imprinted on the case back. There are, however, examples where the mark was affixed to the label or outer packaging.

Orologio sovietico raketa con marchio GOST

In hindsight, experts say that one of the main defects of the GOST brand was to certify the product and not the production process. Certifying the production process tends to guarantee a better result at the exit and therefore allows you to be more sure of the goodness of the final result.

How accurate are Russian and Soviet watches

But then, after all this information, how accurate are Russian clocks?

Compared to a Swiss chronometer, not much. The range from -20 to +40 seconds per day at a temperature of 20μ (+/- 5 μa) is typical, for example, of a Vostok 2414A caliber.

The measurements are also shown on the passport that accompanied the watch at the time of sale.

Dettaglio del passaporto di un orologio russo in cui viene indicata la precisione

As you can see then a range that is very different from the parameters of the C.O.S.C.

In certain cases, however, the precision of Russian watches is also the result of a series of fortuitous circumstances. Individual clocks are often very accurate.

Far be it from me to lump everything together, the criteria of production and quality differed greatly, depending on the factories and the period of production. The individual calibres are also in some cases more accurate than others.

We also consider that Russian and Soviet watches were forced to ensure levels of strength and longevity of all respect. Ten years was the necessary time indicated on the passport before a review.

Most of the watches that arrive in our collections, at least I speak for mine, have in many cases been reworked, assembled, repaired. Except in very rare cases, they do not give evidence of periodic checks or revisions.

The vast majority of Russian watches in my collection march with the stated discard despite never having seen an overhaul or watchmaker.

Personal conclusions about how accurate are russian watches.

In everyday life when I want to know the time automatically I look at the phone and only in rare cases the watch. So I would say, with all the technology around us, the main function of clocking today, it’s outdated. Even when you wear a very precise watch on your wrist, such as a chronometer, we can consider it more, almost as a sign of prestige rather than actual utility

My great-grandfather, who grew up in the country, based his day on church bells ringing because he couldn’t afford a wristwatch. For a long time, the concept of precision has been much, much more labile than today.

dettaglio dello schermo di un cronocomparatore per la misura della precisione degli orologi russi

Nevertheless, it is always a good rule to check the correct functioning of the watch when making a purchase and verify that in the various descriptions it is not indicated as not working. I personally take it for granted that a used watch is not very accurate and for this reason, I bought a chronocomparator and over time I learned to adjust the calibre to try to optimize it as much as possible.

Importante sì quindi ma con il dovuto distacco.

The Soviet Postal Service and a commemorative Luch watch.

russian watch Luch letter from WWII

The military postal service, in the two World Wars, proved to be an essential service to maintain the morale of the troops. It was often the only way to maintain contact with loved ones for months or even years.

Luch women’s watch commemorating the Russian military postal service during World War II

The importance of the military postal service

In some cases, the urgency of the mobilization did not even allow greeting their loved ones. It’s precisely for this reason that in all wars a lot of importance has been given to the efficiency of the postal service. Often receiving a letter or postcard simply meant that your loved one was still alive. On the other hand, news of their loved ones displaced often in remote areas and far from the front revived in the soldiers the desire to fight to protect their loved ones from the invading enemy.

The postal service counts as the ammunition transport

Specially prepared railway wagons were intended exclusively for the transport of letters. The service was free. The priority of the correspondence was the same date as the supplies and ammunition. In some areas of the country, where delivery was particularly dangerous or difficult, mail or, in some cases, secret messages, was entrusted to carrier pigeons. The Germans often shot pigeons trying to intercept mail. Hawks specially trained also killed carrier pigeons.

Where did the triangle come from?

The triangular letter in Russia, or rather in the countries of the former Soviet bloc, was a symbol of the military postal service, of the letters of war.


Many were the formats of the letters sent to and from the front but the triangular letter is certainly the most famous and symbolic. It is said that all children knew how to fold a sheet of paper correctly.

Censorship controlled all the letters that passed. The folding system of the triangle letters allowed the opening and closing of the letters quickly and safely.

How to fold triangle letters

The Luch watch

A ladies’ watch with a very pretty dial. You can see 3/4 triangular letters and on being a red postmark with the inscriptions CCCP and Victoria in Russian. The watch was made in 1995 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War, as it is called the Second World War in Russia.

Luch watch commemorative dial of the Soviet war postal service

Monument to the postman of the first line

There is in the city of Voronezh a monument dedicated to front-line postmen. The statue is inspired by Corporal Ivan Leontiev who died during the war while delivering mail in the front line and was awarded the medal “To military merit”.


This watch is part of the Sovietaly collection. Please ask for permission to use the photographs of the watch.

Raketa Marine Navy 24h, the mystery unveiled…

russian watch Raketa 24h Marine

The Raketa Marine, a classic among Russian watches with a little secret…

russian watch Raketa 24h Marine
Raketa 24h Marine

Raketa Marine is one of my favourite classics, one of the most famous and sought after Raketa 24h watches. Produced during both the Soviet and Russian periods. Often listed by collectors as a “must-have” to start or complete a collection. One of the most aesthetically pleasing Russian watches.

If we look carefully at the dial we can easily distinguish three main functions.

1) Raketa Marine – 24h hours

The watch is fitted with a Raketa calibre 2623.H ( 26mm in diameter, manual winding only, 24h with antishock).  HERE is a small guide on Russian calibres. So it’s a typical, if not the typical 24h Russian watch. The time reading is not as complex as you might think, just consider that the hour hand makes a turn on a full day and not twice as in the watch we are used to. This involves a gap between the hour indices and the minute indices that we will explore later. The watch in its various versions, Russian, Soviet and branded GOST, differs little. The Raketa Marine is always clearly visible and easy to read.

Raketa Marine 24h explanation
Raketa Marine 24h
Raketa Marine 24h rotation of the guards
Raketa Marine 24h rotation of the guards

2) Raketa Marine – Watch duty

One of the distinguishing features of this watch is the rotating inner ring, adjustable by a special crown placed under the charging hour “8”. The ring has a very simple use and serves to identify the times of the watch shifts. The latter in the navy are made by 4 hours of the guard and 4 hours of rest. The three watch shifts and the three rest shifts, therefore, make up the total 24 hours. The ring is swivel to conveniently set the beginning of the first round. At this point, however, the mysteries of the Raketa Marine begin… Does the fact that one of the four-hour shifts is in red and the other two in blue have any meaning or is it just to highlight what is the first round? Experience tells me that the Russians are very precise and never do things randomly. On this aspect, I have yet to investigate, although probably the hypothesis of indicating the first round remains the most plausible.

[EDIT: 05/03/2022] There’s also another theory on the internet about the dashed lines on the quadrant. Some say they give sailors shower times. From what I have been told the issue has been dealt with on some Russian forums, it seems watch.ru, but personally, I can not find any trace of it.

3) Raketa Marine – Radio Silence

But the densest mystery that has surrounded the Raketa Marine for some time, which I hope I have solved once and for all (maybe for someone it was clear, but many people, if asked they could not answer ), concerns the blue lines on the dial between 6:00:00 and 7:00 and between 18:00 and 19:00. It is these graphic symbols that it is not very intuitive to give a purpose within the day. The “mystery” of Raketa Marine is solved as usual with careful observation and a little’ in-depth research.

As I said before, the Russians are very precise and looking at the dial of this Russian watch you can see that the lines are blue, like the minute indexes and not like those of the hours, which are black.

If you pay even more attention you can see that the lines are aligned with the hour indices and not with the hour indices. Made this observation and collected information on what can happen for three minutes every half hour and not for two hours every 24 is found in a well-known practice inside the ships (on a Raketa Marine everything makes sense), namely the “radio silence period”.

Animation helps to understand correct

raketa marine radio room mistery gif

What is “Radio Silence”?

In a very simplistic way, it is a few minutes (precisely 15-16-17 and 45-46 and 47 minutes of each hour) in which radio operators are asked not to carry out transmissions but to listen to allow to pick up any SOS launched from ships in danger. This period concerns only the telegraphic listening frequency of 500 MHz. There is also another period of listening of a different frequency to pick up any radio messages of MAYDAY.

The topic can be deepened on this page in English: RADIO SILENCE


On the net, there are many examples and two often used are of famous Soviet clocks and watches:

The 500 kHz frequency

Probably due to issues related to the legibility of the dial of the watch, only the period related to the 500 kHz telegraph transmissions was highlighted.

The practice of listening on medium waves at a frequency of 500 kHz went into disuse in 1999 after about 90 years, replaced by systems much more modern and reliable. At the time of the design of the Raketa Marine so the practice was still in use.

HERE are interesting insights in Italian about the use of this frequency.

I hope that with this reasoning we can consider all the doubts that have surrounded those small blue lines present on the dial of the Raketa Marine.

On closer inspection, however, there are many “Radio Room Clock” that report only this band. They are probably from the period before the introduction of the full one with the 4-time bands.

Here is a historical example.

Last articles

Vostok Astronaut. Is Valentina Tereshkova on the dial?

soviet watch Vostok Generalskie Cosmonaut

Vostok Astronaut, or Vostok Cosmonaut, is generally the name given to this beautiful Soviet watch. The name is clearly given by the design of the dial that represents the profile face of an astronaut inside a helmet of a spacesuit.

Much sought after by collectors around the world because of the direct reference to the Soviet space adventure (you can see very well the iconic CCCP on the helmet) exists in various versions that we will go as far as possible to analyze.

The charm of this watch also comes from not knowing exactly who the astronaut is portrayed inside the helmet. We will try to understand together what are the plausible theories about it.

Vostok Astronaut, but how many versions?

We can mainly identify three variants of the watch, two of the Soviet period and one of the transactional period. There are other versions that differ for the type of case or ring. Difficult to understand if they are original of factory or watches with the pieces replaced.

The Soviet versions.

These two versions, especially the one with the blue dial and the Neptune case, are the less common ones. In both cases the dial is identical except for the background colour.

The version with black dial is normally found in Generalskie 091xxx chrome case with the Vostok calibre automatic 2416b. Produced in the 80s and mainly intended for the Italian and German markets. The example in the picture has the typical unidirectional ring with small dots that are easily found in the automatic Vostok intended precisely for these two markets.

The blue version of the Soviet period, much more difficult to find than the previous one, is in the Neptune case and has an automatic Vostok calibre.

The dial for both versions is substantially identical and differs only in colour.

The transactional period version.

There is also a post-Soviet version of the Vostok Astronaut. It’s possible to assume that, given the success of the Soviet version, it was taken over by Vostok for the production of an Amphibia with a very similar dial.

Below you can see two versions with the same transactional period dial. Both in case 020xxx with clearly different ferrules. At the moment I cannot say which is the correct ring.

russian watch Vostok Amphibia Valentina Tereskova
Vostok Amphibia Valentina Tereskova

The Vostok Astronaut’s dial.

The most beautiful and characteristic part of the watch. The profile of the astronaut with the helmet in the background evokes deep space. The Soviet and transitional versions are very similar, similar but not the same.

At first glance, one does not easily realize the differences between the two versions. The astronaut’s design differs in many details that can easily be seen if we compare the two prints.

Confronto tra i quadranti del Vostok Astronaut

Easy to see how the reflections on the helmet and the visor are reported in a different way. Just take to reference the position of the “P” on the helmet.

Who is the person in the suitcase?

Three are currently the most popular theories if we exclude the one in which we hypothesize a “generic” astronaut.

Y. Gagarin

The Soviet astronaut, or rather the Soviet cosmonaut, is generally identified with Y. Gagarin, the first man to have gone into space. The theory is based on the fact that Gagarin’s features, as you can see from the photos, were quite delicate and not particularly marked.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin

Anna Lee Fisher

Fascinating theory but a bit imaginative because it is difficult to imagine, if not jokingly, an American astronaut in a Soviet suit, especially in the 80s. The image of Anna Lee Fisher, however, recalls very much the one on the dial and I would not exclude that those who designed the dial could not have been inspired by this photograph.

Anna Lee Fisher

Valentina Tereshkova

The theory I perhaps prefer and perhaps even the most probable. On the dial of the Vostok Astronaut could be represented Valentina Tereshkova, The first woman to have gone into space. He left aboard a Soyuz capsule from Baikonur in June 1963 and, above all, returned safely to Earth after a three-day solo mission. We’re in the ’60s, and at the time, the very thought of getting a woman into space was innovative. But the Soviet Union has often given us on a silver platter these gems of emancipation and feminism probably also the result of studied political propaganda.

Vostok Astronaut has clones?

There is also a “dubious” version with a design very similar to the Vostok but that looks less pleasant in my opinion. It is a hand-wound Slava watch with calibre 2428. On the light grey/white dial, we find the profile of the astronaut seen before but in blue colour. The design clearly recalls the Soviet version but is less defined and convincing.

Another curious fact is that in the lower part of the quadrant we find the name of Yuri Gagarin in Cyrillic (Ю. А. ГАРИН), which could support the argument that the astronaut represented is Gagarin and not Valentina Tereshkova.

russian watch Slava Gagarin
Slava Gagarin


The watch, or rather watches, are definitely a milestone in any collection dedicated to space and especially to space watches. Beautiful to show and wear. Regardless of the model or version, the simplicity of the design and the cleanliness of the dial makes it one of the most successful Soviet watches of the 80s. As to who is represented on the dial, I would say that it is irrelevant. Maybe it was the desire of those who realized the design to leave the doubt and keep thinking about those brave men and women who opened the way to space exploration.