The CARDI Vostok Watch Brand: A Collaboration Between Design and Russian Mechanics

cardi vostok russian watch


The CARDI Vostok watch brand represents a unique collaboration between Western design and Russian mechanical precision. Founded in the early 1990s, this brand distinguished itself with unique designs and the use of high-quality movements produced by the renowned Vostok watch factory.

Origins and History

The history of CARDI Vostok begins in 1991, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The name “Cardi” is derived from the abbreviation of “Car Design Studio,” a Russian company specializing in automobile customization. In an attempt to diversify its activities, Cardi began collaborating with the Vostok watch factory to produce watches with a more “Western” aesthetic​ (WatchUSeek Watch Forums)​​ (WatchUSeek Watch Forums)​.

The early models of CARDI Vostok were known for their innovative design and the use of materials such as brass and cheap alloys, mainly produced by the Minsk Watch Factory. These watches were considered high quality, but over time the quality of the materials declined, leading the brand to lose popularity and cease production around 2009​ (Sovietaly)​.

Design and Movements

cardi vostok russian watch
Cardi Vostok Racingtime GP

CARDI Vostok models combine Cardi’s creative design with Vostok’s robust mechanical movements. The designs were often inspired by the automotive world, with names like “Capitan,” “MVM Sport,” “GP,” “Racing Time,” and “Radar”​ (WatchUSeek Watch Forums)​.

The watches used high-quality mechanical movements, such as the 2409 caliber produced by the Vostok factory. Some later models used movements from the 1st Moscow Watch Factory (Poljot) and the Slava factory, in addition to the original Vostok movements. However, after being acquired by Interex-Orion in 2000, the brand began using Chinese movements to reduce costs, further impacting the overall quality of the watches​ (WatchCrunch)​​ (WatchUSeek Watch Forums)​.

cardi vostok russian watch
Cardi Vostok Racingtime GP

Decline and End of Production

Despite initial success, various factors led to the brand’s decline. The quality of the materials used decreased over time, and the introduction of Chinese movements compromised the brand’s reputation for quality. These changes led to a drop in sales and, ultimately, the cessation of production around 2009. Today, Cardi has withdrawn from the watch market and refocused on automotive design​ (Sovietaly)​​ (WatchUSeek Watch Forums)​.


CARDI Vostok watches represent an interesting chapter in the history of Russian watchmaking, characterized by a mix of Western design and Russian mechanics. Although production has ceased, these watches remain collectible items for vintage watch enthusiasts and symbolize a period of transition and innovation.

For more information, you can consult the sources used in this article: WatchCrunch, WatchUSeek, Sovietaly, and SovietWatchStore.

Vostok Desert Shield: A Watch Steeped in Legend and History

soviet watch Vostok Komandirskie Operation Desert Shield

Among Russian watches, the Vostok Desert Shield stands out as a hero of numerous urban legends, misunderstandings, stories, and fictional anecdotes. Below, we explore the history and various versions of this iconic watch.

Origins and Creation

The American newspaper Beverly Times mentions the birth of the Vostok Desert Shield on January 28, 1991. The article, likely an advertorial, highlights Bruce Erikson, an American businessman who had the idea of importing “Made in the USSR” watches to the United States. Erikson founded Timepeace Russian Watches Inc. in 1990, commissioning the Vostok factory in Chistopol to produce 10,000 watches to commemorate Operation “Desert Shield” during the Gulf War.

Beverly Times article featuring Timepeace CEO Bruce Erikson displaying the Vostok Desert Shield watch
An article from the Beverly Times dated January 28, 1991, highlighting the promotion of the Vostok Desert Shield watch by Timepeace CEO Bruce Erikson.

The Flag Research Centre worked on the dial image, creating the famous design that combined the American flag with a palm tree and two green Arabian sabres, in homage to the Kingdom of Hejaz and the Sultanate of Nejd, united in 1932 to become Saudi Arabia. Erikson also intended to send a watch to President Bush. These watches were not intended for American soldiers serving during the Gulf War; the entire initiative was purely commercial.

Production Details and Various Versions

It seems that the actual production increased to 40,000 units, divided into several series worth distinguishing and analyzing.

First Series

The first series of the Desert Shield is recognizable by the absence of the Vostok B logo on the dial, with the inscription “Made in USSR.” The case is the 420 Amphibian, combined with a bezel with a luminous dot at 12, four small red dots, and seven black dots. The hands are those of the Amphibia, with the seconds hand red and a luminous “lollipop.”

The Timepeace logo is engraved on the case back, which also bears the words “VOSTOK,” “Series I,” “USSR,” “Self Winding,” “SS Case,” “Watertight 200m,” “21 jewels,” and a five-digit serial number. The movement is an automatic Vostok 2416B, with the words “twenty-one” and “21 jewels” written in black on the oscillating weight.

The watch was sold for $149, with a discount for military personnel at $99. It was sold with documents in English, suggesting it was intended for the American market, supporting the idea that it was not a military watch but an accessory available in outlets.

soviet watch Vostok Komandirskie Operation Desert Shield
Vostok Komandirskie Operation Desert Shield
Second Series

This version had an identical dial to the first series but some differences. The case remained the 420 steel model, but the coordinated bezel became the standard Amphibia one, with slightly larger red dots.

The case back had the Timepeace logo and the inscriptions “VOSTOK” or “VREMIR,” “USSR,” “Self-Winding,” “SS Case,” “Watertight 200m,” “21 jewels,” and a six-digit serial number. The movement remained the automatic 2416B, with the inscriptions “twenty-one” and “21 jewels” not in black.

When we talk about the possibility of finding the VOSTOK or VREMIR logo on the case back, we should add that “VREMIR” combines two words: “VREMIA” (time) and “MIR” (peace). “Vremir” was a registered trademark of Timepeaces Russian Watches Inc. in 1991. This detail on the case back is a sort of nod to the company’s name.

This series also had documents in Russian, indicating they were sold both in the United States and in Russia. The number of units produced remains unknown.

russian watch Vostok Komandirskie Operation Desert Shield
Vostok Komandirskie Operation Desert Shield
“Cadet” Model

Another popular model is the 34 mm Cadet model, distinctive for the inscription on the dial “Desert Shield” on the left semicircle and “Desert Storm” on the right semicircle, instead of “Operation Desert Shield,” indicating a design developed after 1991.

The case is the “Cadet” model, measuring 34 mm, with spear-shaped hands for the hours and minutes. The movement is the 2409A, 17 jewels with manual winding. The case back bears the Timepeace logo and the words “Vremir,” “USSR,” “Watertight 50m,” “17 jewels,” “Shockproof,” “SS back,” and a six-digit serial number.

This model often appears in small cases with standard Vostok case backs and is included in a 1993 Vostok catalog.

Other Versions

Browsing the internet or exploring flea markets, you can find Vostok Desert Shield watches with variations from the described models. These might have different case backs, more similar to standard Vostok designs, or dials with the Vostok “B” logo. It is believed that Vostok had a surplus of dials and assembled watches using different Komandirskie or Amphibia cases from the 420. These versions featured the “B” logo and used different cases or movements depending on the period.

Vympel Version

A very special version of the Desert Shield is known with the inscription Alcor Vostok (Алькор Восток) on the case back, a model that at first glance might seem like a fake made with a standard Chinese Tongji calibre, but several elements suggest authentic production, albeit bizarre.

This model is often attributed to the Belarusian factory Vitebsk Instrument-Making Plant, known for using standard Chinese Tongji calibres for its production. The attention to detail and the presence of Vostok logos on the calibre, dial, and case back suggest that, for some particular reason, the production was requested by Vostok. The case design suggests a Vympel, a brand that often used standard Chinese Tongji calibres for its production.

russian watch Vympel Vostok Operation Desert Shield
Vympel Vostok Operation Desert Shield

Modern Versions and Legacy

The Vostok Desert Shield has been honoured several times, with modern and contemporary models updated following new Vostok productions. The museum in Chistopol, where the Vostok factory is located, displays two examples of the Desert Shield, indicating its historical and commercial importance.

Despite its commercial origins, the Vostok Desert Shield is a fascinating artefact, reflecting a combination of history, marketing, and craftsmanship. Its history, linked to the Gulf War and the cultural exchange between the USA and the USSR, continues to capture the attention of watch enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

Faithful Transcript of the Article

Beverly, Mass, Monday, January 28, 1991

Company’s imported Russian watch commends Operation Desert Shield

Times staff

BEVERLY – Timepeace Russian Watches Inc., a Hale Street inport company that formed a year ago, is selling a watch made in the Soviet Union to commemorate Operation Desert Shield.

In the last month, the company already has given away about 300 of the 10,000 limited edition Russian military watches to troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Timepeace CEO Bruce Erikson, who runs the company out of his Hale Street home, is saving the first Operation Desert Shield watch made to personally present to President Bush in the future.

“Operation Desert Shield gave peace a chance,” says Erikson, who runs Timepeace with partners Bruce Corwin and W. Edgar Cornish. “America has emerged as the peace-keeping force in the world. Part of a peaceful world order is stopping an aggressor like Saddam Hussein.”

Erikson’s company is promoting the $149 watch among veterans group publications and in various upscale department stores as a way to show support for American soldiers fighting in the Middle East and their families at home.

Designed by the Flag Research Center in Winchester, the face of the Operation Desert Shield watch features an American flag, a palm tree and crossed sabers.

While Erikson admits the outbreak of war in the Persian Gulf was an unfortunate turn of events, he points out one opportunity it presents for many Americans.

“It’s an opportunity for some people to relive the Vietnam experience in a better way,” Erikson says. “People have come to understand the importance of supporting a war effort at home.”

Erikson was introduced to the high quality of Russian watches last year when he and his wife, Lynne, visited the Soviet Union as chaperons with a group from the Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School chorus.

When he returned, Erikson and the partners in the investment company he also runs out of his home began importing watches as Timepeace Russian Watches Inc.

Erikson’s new company would not only fan the embers of free enterprise in the Soviet Union, but also take advantage of what the 43-year-old entrepreneur considers one of Russia’s best-kept secrets.

It’s kind of a secret the Russians have because they have been cut off from the rest of the world for so long.

Beverly, Mass, Monday, January 28, 1991

Vostok Codes: A Complete Guide

Tabella identificativa dei codici degli orologi Vostok con modelli Amphibia e Komandirskie, diverse forme di casse e materiali, e elementi di sfondo dell'era sovietica e militare.

Vostok watches, produced in Russia, are icons of reliability and robustness in the watchmaking world. Known for their ability to withstand extreme conditions, these watches are cherished by both collectors and enthusiasts. Their history dates back to the Soviet era, during which they were developed to meet the needs of both the military and civilians. In this article, we will explore in detail the identification codes used to describe the movements and cases of Vostok watches. For convenience, the notation ABCDE/FGHIJKH is taken from the site:

Understanding Vostok Watch Codes

Russian/Soviet movement and case codes follow a specific format: ABCDE/FGHIJKH.


  • AB: Movement diameter in mm.
  • CD, CDE: Soviet movement specification. For more details, refer to the table at the bottom of the page.


  • FGH: Case variation. Each combination of numbers represents a different case design or style.


  • I: Case material. Here are some examples from Vostok models:
    • 0: Stainless steel and other metals without plating.
    • 1: Chrome plated.
    • 2: Gold plated.
    • 3: Gilded (at least 5 microns).
    • 4: Colour coated.
    • 5: Synthetic, polymer, rubber.
    • 7: Titanium alloy.
    • 9: Glass, crystal, ceramics, marble.


  • JKH: Handset. Each combination represents a specific type of hands used on the watch.

Classification of Vostok Cases

The table below categorises the different cases used in Vostok watch models. The information is organised by case code (FGH), case material (I), watch model, and case shape.

Vostok Case Table

Case Code FGHMaterial IHandset Code JKHModelCase MaterialCase Shape
350XXXAmphibiaStainless steelTonneau
1190XXXAmphibiaStainless steelOctagonal
710XXXAmphibiaStainless steelOctagonal
470XXXAmphibiaStainless steelCarre
320XXXAmphibiaStainless steelTonneau
9370XXXAmphibiaStainless steelRound
960XXXAmphibiaStainless steelBig Lug
250XXXAmphibiaStainless steelMinistry
020XXXAmphibiaStainless steelRound
420XXXAmphibiaStainless steelRound
627XXXAmphibiaTitanium alloyTonneau
381XXXKomandirskieChrome platedRound
383XXXKomandirskieGold platedRound
781XXXKomandirskieChrome platedRound
783XXXKomandirskieGold platedRound
441XXXKomandirskieChrome platedCarre
443XXXKomandirskieGold platedCarre
791XXXKomandirskieChrome platedRound
793XXXKomandirskieGold platedRound
1391XXXKomandirskieChrome platedRound
1393XXXKomandirskieGold platedRound
291XXXKomandirskieChrome platedRound
293XXXKomandirskieGold platedRound
341XXXKomandirskieChrome platedCarre
331XXXKomandirskieChrome platedTonneau
091XXXGeneralskieChrome platedRound

Case Materials

Vostok watch cases are made from various materials, each with its own durability and aesthetic characteristics:

  • Stainless Steel (0): Offers exceptional resistance to corrosion and long durability. It is the predominant material for Amphibia models, known for their robustness.
  • Chrome Plated (1): Primarily used in Komandirskie models, providing a shiny finish and good corrosion resistance.
  • Gold Plated (3): Found in some Komandirskie models, giving a luxurious and refined appearance.
  • Titanium Alloy (7): Lightweight and highly resistant, used in models like the Amphibia for increased durability.
  • TiN (Titanium Nitride) (9): Known for its extreme hardness and scratch resistance, providing a distinctive golden finish.

Case Shapes

Vostok watch cases come in various shapes, each with a unique design to suit different tastes and aesthetic preferences:

  • Tonneau: An elegant, barrel-shaped design.
  • Octagonal: An eight-sided design often associated with robustness.
  • Carre: A square or rectangular shape offering a classic look.
  • Round: The most common and versatile shape, suitable for any style.

Main Models

  • Amphibia: Famous for their water resistance and robust construction, these watches feature cases in stainless steel or titanium alloy. Originally designed for the Soviet naval forces, they have become popular among divers and adventurers.
  • Komandirskie: Inspired by military style, these watches, though not officially used by the military, are available in chrome plated, gold plated, and TiN versions. They are known for their classic design and reliability.
  • Generalskie: These watches also feature a military-inspired style but lack evidence of official military use. They often include models with chrome plated cases.


Vostok watches perfectly combine history, engineering, and design. The diversity of cases, in terms of materials, models, and shapes, offers enthusiasts a wide range of choices. Whether you are a collector or simply a watch lover, Vostok models with their unique characteristics and reliability make an excellent choice. Their history and continuous evolution make them a fascinating topic for anyone interested in horology.

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