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

cardi vostok russian watch

Introduction

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 Today, Cardi has withdrawn from the watch market and refocused on automotive design​ (Sovietaly)​​ (WatchUSeek Watch Forums)​.

Conclusion

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 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: netgrafik.ch.

Understanding Vostok Watch Codes

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

ABCDE

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

FGH

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

I

  • 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

  • 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
349XXXKomandirskieTiNCarre
331XXXKomandirskieChrome platedTonneau
339XXXKomandirskieTiNTonneau
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.

Conclusion

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.

Vremia Watches: Soviet Charm and European Quality

swiss watch Vremia Chrono black

Vremia watches, also known as Vremja (in Cyrillic время), are a fascinating example of how international collaboration can create unique and high-quality products. These watches were created in the late 1980s, thanks to the Italian company Binda, with the aim of capitalising on the growing popularity of Soviet culture in the West.

swiss watch Vremia CCCP
Vremia CCCP

The Birth of the Vremia Brand

The BPEMR (BPEMA) CCCP brand was officially registered on 24 March 1989, during a period of commercial opening in the USSR under Gorbachev’s leadership. This opening allowed for the export of various Soviet products to Western markets, where they were enthusiastically received thanks to their exotic charm and robust quality.

russian watch Vremia B&W
Vremia B&W

Features of Vremia Watches

Vremia watches are distinguished by a range of models with reliable mechanical movements such as the Slava 2414, Poljot 2612.1, and Poljot 3133. Their dials, essential and clean, embody the Soviet style of the era. Some models feature distinctive symbols like the Red Star, while others are more subtle, with a small “cccp” inscription in the centre of the dial.

swiss watch Vremia Gold
Vremia Gold

Binda: The Italian Heart of Vremia Watches

Founded in 1906 by Innocente Binda, the Binda company has played a crucial role in the watch sector for over a century. Under the leadership of his grandsons, Simone and Marcello Binda, the company continues to produce and distribute high-quality watches. Binda Italia is known for its ability to combine innovative design and advanced technologies, offering a variety of products ranging from fashion models to more classic and technical watches, including “Swiss Made” timepieces.

swiss russian watch Vremia Pocket
Vremia Pocket watch

The Uniqueness of Vremia Watches

Vremia watches represent a perfect fusion of Russian tradition and Western craftsmanship. The “zerone rosso” model is an emblematic example of this mix, with a design that could easily have been produced by Poljot. Even the time-only and alarm clock models are highly appreciated for their quality and design.

These watches are a true hybrid: Italian construction with Russian mechanics. While they are adapted to the Italian market, they retain a unique charm that distinguishes them from traditional Russian watches. Despite the criticisms of purists, Vremia watches offer exceptional value, with accessible prices ranging from 100 to 150 euros.

swiss russian watch vremia
Vremia Red Zero

Unique Details on the Case Back

A distinctive detail of Vremia watches is the inscription on the case back, which reads:

“Часы собранные в Швейцарии, двигатель механический подлинный русского производства. Mechanical movement originally produced in Russia, watch assembled in Switzerland.”

This inscription highlights the combination of Russian mechanics and Swiss assembly, ensuring the authenticity and high quality of these watches.

swiss watch Vremia Red Star black dial
Vremia Red Star black dial

Conclusion

Vremia watches are a fascinating chapter in the history of watchmaking, characterised by a unique mix of Soviet aesthetics and European quality. Thanks to Binda’s initiative, these watches reflect the best of both worlds, combining attractive design with high standards of quality. A true treasure for watch enthusiasts looking for something unique and meaningful.

Poljot History: Soviet Watchmaking Excellence

soviet watch Sturmanskie Type 2

The Poljot brand represents one of the most significant symbols of the Russian watchmaking industry, with a history rich in technical successes and space adventures. Since its founding, Poljot has embodied the Soviet ambition to achieve technological self-sufficiency and establish itself as a world leader in watch production.

The Origins: From the United States to the Soviet Union

In the late 1920s, the Soviet Union relied heavily on imported watches, a necessity that cost the government precious gold. To end this dependency, it was decided in 1927 to start domestic watch production. In 1929, through the Amtorg Trading Corporation, the Soviet government purchased the facilities of two bankrupt American factories: the Ansonia Clock Company and the Dueber-Hampden Watch Company. Twenty-one former Dueber-Hampden employees moved to Moscow to train local workers, marking the beginning of the First Soviet Watch Factory.

Initially, the factory produced four main models: a 15-jewel pocket watch for the Ministry of Communications, a 7-jewel wristwatch for the Red Army, a 7-jewel civilian pocket watch, and a 15-jewel ladies’ wristwatch. Thanks to the training received, local workers soon managed production autonomously.

The War Period and Innovation

With the German invasion during World War II, the factory was relocated to Zlatoust and returned to Moscow in 1943. During this period, the factory also began producing ammunition. In 1946, the K26 Pobeda model was launched, followed in 1949 by the Sturmanskie model, designed exclusively for military aviation. This watch became famous when Yuri Gagarin probably wore it during the first human space flight on April 12, 1961.

In the 1950s, the factory continued to innovate, introducing the first automatic watch under the Rodina brand in 1956 and special models for unique missions, such as the Soviet Antarctic expedition in 1957. That same year, to celebrate the success of the Sputnik mission, commemorative watches were produced, remaining in production for only one year.

The Establishment of the Poljot Brand

In 1960, the first models bearing the Poljot name, which means “flight” in Russian, were launched. The brand became synonymous with quality and precision, exporting watches worldwide. The Strela chronograph, inspired by the Swiss Venus 150, was used by Alexei Leonov during the first spacewalk in 1965.

With the introduction of the Poljot brand in 1964, the factory consolidated all its models under a single label. The 1970s saw a renewal of available movements and the acquisition of production lines from the Swiss Valjoux, leading to the creation of the 3133 movement, a chronograph used for both military and civilian purposes.

The Post-Soviet Era and Revival

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992, Poljot was named the official supplier to the President of the Russian Federation. The company ceased quartz watch production to focus on a niche market, introducing new lines based on modified 3133 movements. However, the company had to downsize and sell machinery to other companies, leading to the founding of Volmax by some former Poljot employees.

Despite the challenges, in 2003, Poljot adopted the name First Moscow Watch Factory, continuing production for the international market. Today, the Poljot brand is recognized for its tradition of precision and reliability, keeping alive a history inseparably linked to aviation and space adventures.

Curiosities and Iconic Models

Among the most famous Poljot models are the “Sturmanskie” worn by Gagarin and the “Strela” chronograph, symbols of Russian space exploration. Poljot watches are handcrafted by skilled artisans, giving them a distinctive and unique character. Limited editions and the “Aviator” collection are particularly appreciated by collectors for their bold design and cockpit readability.

Insights into Poljot’s History

The 1930s: The Birth of the Soviet Watch Industry

In 1930, with the construction of the factory in Moscow, watch production began at a brisk pace. The first watches produced still bore the Dueber-Hampden brand, but soon Soviet technicians managed to develop entirely new models. The First Soviet Watch Factory, renamed in 1935 in honor of Sergei Kirov, achieved notable success, producing millions of pocket and wristwatches.

The 1940s: War and Reconstruction

During World War II, the factory was evacuated to Zlatoust to avoid capture by the Germans. During this period, besides producing watches, the factory contributed to the war effort by manufacturing ammunition and other military materials. After the war, in 1946, the factory launched the famous Pobeda model, a symbol of Soviet victory.

The 1950s and 1960s: The Space Era

In the 1950s, Poljot began producing watches for military aviation and Soviet cosmonauts. The Sturmanskie model, worn by Gagarin during his historic space flight, became an icon. With the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik in 1957, Poljot celebrated the event with a commemorative watch. Producing automatic watches and chronographs became a priority, leading to the creation of models such as Rodina and Strela.

The 1970s and 1980s: Innovation and Expansion

During the 1970s, Poljot continued to innovate, introducing advanced movements such as the 3133 chronograph. The factory acquired production lines from the Swiss Valjoux, enabling the production of high-quality watches for both military and civilian markets. The 1980s saw an increase in exports, with Poljot becoming an internationally recognized brand.

The Foundation of Volmax and the End of 3133 Production

In the late 1990s, Poljot ceased quartz watch production to focus on high-quality mechanical movements. However, economic difficulties led to the sale of movement production machinery to other companies, including Vostok. In 2002, some discontented employees left Poljot to found Volmax, a company that continues to produce watches under the Aviator, Buran, and Sturmanskie brands.

In 2003, Poljot adopted the name First Moscow Watch Factory, limiting the Poljot brand to the domestic market. Production of the 3133 chronograph movement, a milestone in Poljot’s history, ceased definitively in 2011, marking the end of an era.

How to read a Raketa 24h watch: a comprehensive guide

russian watch raketa 24h

How to read a Raketa 24h watch

Raketa 24h watches are a type of mechanical watch produced by the Raketa factory in St. Petersburg, Russia. These watches are characterized by a 24-hour dial instead of the usual 12-hour dial.

russian watch Raketa 24h Marine
Raketa 24h Marine

How the hour hand works

The hour hand on a Raketa 24h watch is the longest hand and is located in the center of the dial. The hour hand completes one full rotation in 24 hours, from midnight to midnight.

To read the time on a Raketa 24h watch, you need to identify the index on the dial that corresponds to the position of the hour hand. The index indicates the time of day.

For example, if the hour hand is at the 12 o’clock index, it is midnight. If the hour hand is at the 6 o’clock index, it is 6:00 am. If the hour hand is at the 18 o’clock index, it is 6:00 pm.

russian watch Raketa 24h Zestril
Raketa 24h Zestril

How the minute hand works

The minute hand on a Raketa 24h watch is the shortest hand and is located in the center of the dial, next to the hour hand. The minute hand completes one full rotation in 60 minutes.

To read the minutes on a Raketa 24h watch, you need to identify the number on the dial that corresponds to the position of the minute hand. The number indicates the minutes of the day.

For example, if the minute hand is at the 12 o’clock index, it is 00:00. If the minute hand is at the 6 o’clock index, it is 00:30. If the minute hand is at the 18 o’clock index, it is 06:00.

Soviet and Russian Raketa 24h watches

Raketa 24h watches were often used in closed environments or above the Arctic Circle, when it is not possible to accurately determine the time of day by observing the sun.

In fact, above the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets during the summer and never rises during the winter. In these cases, a Raketa 24h watch is the only way to know the correct time.

russian watch Raketa 24h Red Star
Raketa 24h Soviet navy

Vintage Soviet Watches from the 1980s

Rivista orologi da polso marzo aprile 1989 n9 anno 3 pagina 1

Recently, I had the opportunity to delve into a vintage watch magazine from the late 1980s. The issue in question is “Orologi da Polso,” Year III – No. 9, dating back to March-April 1989, published by Edizioni Studio Zeta of Monza. Among the various articles, one particularly intriguing piece explores the history and influence of vintage Soviet watches from the 1980s and their connections with European countries, including Italy. Below, I present a detailed overview of the article, providing insights into the state of the watch industry during that era, enriched with additional context and information for a comprehensive understanding.

The Soviet Watchmaking Phenomenon

The article begins by highlighting a significant historical context: the Soviet Congress of 1925 aimed for economic self-sufficiency, transitioning from an importer to a producer nation. It was unimaginable a few years prior that vintage Soviet watches from the 1980s would become fashionable, almost a cultural phenomenon.

Russian horology boasts an illustrious history. The Kremlin’s tower clocks, constructed in the early 15th century by Lazar Serbin, and the carillons of the Saviour Tower, restored in the 19th century by the Butenop brothers, are notable examples. Under Tsar Peter the Great, famous French artisans were invited, fostering a watchmaking school in Russia, despite French artisans enjoying greater privileges.

Notable Russian Watchmakers and Collections

The article further mentions Ivan Kulihin, a renowned watchmaker from the 18th century, whose exquisite pieces are housed in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad and various museums in Moscow. An exhibition in Florence showcased magnificent pieces from the Romanoff collections, revealing the craftsmanship of the Bronnikov family, known for their wooden clocks, and the contributions of watchmakers like Tolstoy and Nosov to mechanical advancements.

The Soviet Watch Industry’s Evolution

Before the October Revolution, parts and mechanisms were imported from Switzerland for assembly in Russia. In the late 19th century, France invested in Tsarist domains, and after World War I, Italy acquired Russian pocket watches, which were later issued to railway personnel.

The Soviet watch industry’s roots date back to the 1930s, evolving significantly by the 1940s, with factories converting to military production during World War II and later returning to civilian manufacturing. The principal Moscow factory, established in 1942, eventually became Vostok, one of the most prominent Soviet watch manufacturers.

Soviet Watches in the 1980s

By the 1980s, over fifteen factories in the USSR specialised in various watch productions, including well-known brands like Chaika, Poljot, Zaria, Paketa, Slava, and Penza. The 1950s marked the beginning of exportation, primarily to Warsaw Pact nations. The article discusses the romantic history of the Mark watch, resembling the Poljot, and its connection to an Italian family.

Italian-Soviet Collaborations and Market Impact

The first significant import of Soviet watches to Italy occurred in the late 1980s, spearheaded by Orazio Occhipinti of Mirabilia di Milano, who distributed Paketa watches. These vintage Soviet watches from the 1980s, known as “raketa” in Russian, saw a surge in popularity, influenced by Gorbachev’s policies and an increasing openness towards Soviet products.

At the Vicenza fair, Mirabilia also presented Poljot watches, featuring mechanical movements and shock-resistant cases. The Vostok brand offered models tailored for different military branches, with manual winding, water resistance up to 10 atmospheres, and luminous hands and indices.

Additionally, Italian-designed watches with Russian mechanisms emerged, like the Soviet, combining Russian quartz movements with Italian aesthetics. The Elmitex company introduced the Perestroika collection, a blend of quartz and mechanical chronographs, at both the Vicenza and Moscow fairs.

Conclusion

This 1989 issue of “Orologi da Polso” provides a fascinating snapshot of Soviet watchmaking during a transformative period. It reflects the blend of historical craftsmanship and modern industrial capabilities, highlighting the Soviet Union’s impact on the global watch market. The Italian perspective, with insights from key figures like Jacopo Marchi and collaborations with Soviet manufacturers, underscores the cross-cultural influences that shaped the horological landscape of the late 20th century.

For further reading, I encourage exploring the complete article and the magazine scans, offering a deeper dive into this captivating era of watchmaking history.

Rivista orologi da polso marzo aprile 1989 n9 anno 3 copertina
Rivista orologi da polso marzo aprile 1989 n9 anno 3 pagina 1
Rivista orologi da polso marzo aprile 1989 n9 anno 3 pagina 2
Rivista orologi da polso marzo aprile 1989 n9 anno 3 pagina 3
Rivista orologi da polso marzo aprile 1989 n9 anno 3 pag 4
Rivista orologi da polso marzo aprile 1989 n9 anno 3 indice

Unlocking the Mystery of the Vostok Cosmopolis

russian watch Vostok Amphibia Cosmopolis

A New Theory for the Amphibia Vostok Cosmopolis

The Vostok Cosmopolis is one of the most sought-after and mysterious watches from the Soviet Vostok brand. Often linked to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, this watch has captivated collectors and enthusiasts with its unique design and potential connections to space and philosophy. Here, we explore the various theories surrounding this model and present a new hypothesis that could finally explain the significance of the Vostok Cosmopolis.

Characteristics of the Vostok Cosmopolis

The Vostok Cosmopolis is an Amphibia model with a round case, featuring the classic Amphibia hands: the hour hand shaped like an arrow, the linear minute hand, and the red second hand with a luminous dot. The bidirectional rotating bezel has the typical luminescent dot. The dial showcases a large eye, coloured blue and red, set against a green striped rectangle. Above and below the rectangle, the inscriptions “КОСМОПОЛИС” and “COSMOPOLIS” in Cyrillic and Latin, respectively, give the watch its distinctive name.

Current Theories

1. The Baikonur Cosmodrome

The simplest theory links the Vostok Cosmopolis to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. According to this hypothesis, the eye symbolises a look towards the future and space exploration. However, this theory remains weak as, during the Soviet era, references to space ventures would have been more explicit.

2. Space Cities

Another theory discussed on the Watchuseek forum in 2006 suggests that the watch represents a space city. This idea also ties back to the Baikonur Cosmodrome but lacks substantial evidence.

3. Cosmism

On the Italian forum Orologiko, a user proposed the theory of “Cosmism,” a Russian philosophical movement viewing matter as dynamic and living. According to this view, the eye on the dial represents the concept of a living cosmos, supported by historical figures like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the father of Russian astronautics.

4. Hylozoism

Another hypothesis on the Orologiko forum links the cosmic eye to hylozoism, a philosophical doctrine considering matter to have life. The eye could represent God, with the cosmos as its living manifestation.

The New Theory: Cosmopolis Publishing House

A new hypothesis has emerged through recent research. A user on VK, “Boshdan Boshomolov,” suggested that the logo on the dial might belong to the “Cosmopolis” publishing house, active around 1990-1991. This Soviet-American joint venture, based in Moscow, published several books, including “Commercial Banks” by E. Reed and others.

confronto scritte editore cosmopolis vostok amphibia sovietaly mister

Research Details

The “Cosmopolis” publishing house was known for publishing science fiction and other literary works with futuristic and philosophical themes. The publisher’s logo, resembling the eye on the watch’s dial, suggests a visual connection between the watch and the publishing house.

cosmopolis casa editrice
cosmopolis casa editrice

Conclusions

While absolute certainty is elusive, the theory that the Vostok Cosmopolis is a commemorative watch for the Cosmopolis publishing house is the most plausible. The dial design, featuring the eye and the Cyrillic and Latin inscriptions, reflects the Soviet-American nature of the publisher. The presence of the “Made in USSR” inscription and the early 1990s dating further support this hypothesis.

For more details, you can visit the following links:

The Vostok Cosmopolis remains one of the most enigmatic and fascinating watches in the Soviet Vostok production, a piece of history embodying the mystery and innovation of its time.

casa editrice cosmopolis
casa editrice cosmopolis

Discovering the Charm of Soviet and Russian Watch Collections

Ritaglio schermata pagina Lancette Sovietiche Collezionare Sovietaly intervista

Strange as it may sound, even a collection of Soviet and Russian watches can be appreciated and recognised by non-enthusiasts. Andrea Manini, a 44-year-old from Milan, has been collecting these timepieces since 1992 and now boasts over 400 examples. “What amuses me greatly is that, unlike Swiss watches, the Russian ones always hide a story to tell,” says Manini.

Ritaglio schermata pagina Lancette Sovietiche Collezionare Sovietaly intervista
Lancette Sovietiche collezionare online

The world of Soviet watchmaking is rich with stories, particularly those surrounding Yuri Gagarin, the first man to conquer space. The exact watch he wore during his 1961 mission remains a topic of debate. Some claim he wore a Poljot Sturmanskie, produced by Moscow’s First Watch Factory, while others argue it was the Type One by Sturmanskie, citing a photograph as evidence. “But who can say for certain? Perhaps it’s just a shot taken during a simple exercise?” muses Manini, highlighting the mysteries often associated with these famous timepieces.

Manini’s passion for Russian watches began in 1992, the year following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russian watches started appearing in Italian jewellery stores, sparking his interest. His first purchase was a Vostok Komandirskie, bought for a few lire at a roadside stall. The military look and the rocket on the dial intrigued him, only later discovering its significance related to Gagarin’s historic flight.

Manini’s collection focuses on Russian space adventures and Soviet watches designed for the Italian market. There are also categories dedicated to Soviet polar explorations and Russian railways. Watches commemorating space milestones, like Sputnik, Laika, and Gagarin, are particularly numerous and fascinating.

The evolution of Russian watchmaking is complex, intertwining with the country’s social, political, and military history. Initially, Russian watches were crafted by artisan workshops during the Tsarist era. The Soviet era brought industrialisation, with factories producing watches en masse for civilians and the military, using machinery acquired from American companies.

Famous brands emerged, like Poljot (meaning flight), Raketa (rocket), and Pobeda (victory). Each name reflects a historical or cultural significance, such as Chaika, named after Valentina Tereshkova’s code name during her space flight.

Despite mass production, watches from the 1960s and 1970s are of superior quality, often misunderstood due to their low export prices and the Italian proximity to Swiss watchmaking. Many Russian watches were rebranded for export, like Raketa, Slava, and Poljot becoming Sekonda for the UK market.

For the Italian market, unique models were created, like the Slava Fri Fri with a pink dial and the California with a black dial and pink indices. Two unique chronographs used Vostok cases and Poljot movements, packaged in wooden boxes and sold at high prices.

One common misconception is that Vostok watches were used by the Russian military. In reality, they were state-commissioned but not exclusive to the military. The Amphibia model, developed for divers, is another highlight, featuring a unique screw-back case.

Among Manini’s rarest pieces is a Raketa Big Zero with a nephrite dial. Finding such rare models requires caution as the online market is rife with fakes and assembled watches. Manini advises consulting knowledgeable collectors and forums to avoid pitfalls.

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