Discovering the Charm of Soviet and Russian Watch Collections

Ritaglio schermata pagina Lancette Sovietiche Collezionare Sovietaly intervista

It may seem unusual, but sometimes a collection of Soviet/Russian watches can capture the attention and appreciation of even those who are not experts in the field. This intriguing niche of collecting has recently been highlighted in an interview published by the magazine “Collezionare,” available in both print and digital formats (

The Magazine “Collezionare”

The magazine “Collezionare” is a specialized publication focused on the world of collecting, offering in-depth articles, news, and interviews on a wide range of collectible items. From vintage to antiques and modern collectibles, the magazine serves as an authoritative and up-to-date resource for enthusiasts. Available in both print and online versions, “Collezionare” stands out for the quality of its content and the passion with which it tells the stories of collectors and their unique collections.

Two years ago, I contacted several journals related to collecting to promote my father’s Pirelli advertisement collection, including “Collezionare”. The interview with my father can be found at this link. Given the existing contact, a couple of months ago I reached out again to the journalist who conducted the interview, suggesting she might also be interested in my collection of Soviet/Russian watches. A few days later, she contacted me to schedule a phone interview.

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

On April 14, 2018, the online version of the interview was published and can be read at this link.

Soviet Watches

In the interview, Andrea Manini, a 44-year-old from Milan who has been collecting since 1992, shares insights into his collection of over 400 Russian watches. “What I really enjoy is that, unlike Swiss watches, Russian ones always have a story to tell.”

The Stories Behind Soviet Watches

Many stories surround Soviet watchmaking, particularly those involving Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. The watch he wore during the 1961 mission is still a mystery. Some claim it was a Poljot Sturmanskie, produced by the First Moscow Watch Factory, often referred to as the Russian equivalent of the Speedmaster used by Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon. Others believe it was the Type One by Sturmanskie, citing a photo where Gagarin wears this model over his red suit. “But who can say for sure? Maybe it was just a training shot,” says Andrea, emphasizing the mystery that often surrounds these famous timepieces.

The Influence of History on Soviet Watchmaking

The end of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s marked the beginning of a new era for Russian watchmaking in Italy. Andrea, like many other enthusiasts, started his collection in 1992, the year after the USSR’s dissolution. “1992 is my year zero, the year I began to appreciate these beautiful watches. That year, the first after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, all the unique goods from the former USSR became very sought after, including Russian watches, which started appearing in our jewelry stores. Over the years, I have expanded my collection to about 400 pieces.”

Early Discoveries

Andrea’s first purchase was a Vostok Komandirskie wristwatch. “The military look and the rocket on the dial attracted me, and only later did I discover that it was a Vostok Komandirskie model, with the Vostok 1 rocket that Gagarin used to orbit the Earth in 1961.”

Collection Categories

Russian watches are categorized in various ways. Andrea focuses on Russian space adventures and Soviet watches made for the Italian market. Other themes include Soviet polar explorations and Russian railways, particularly the BAM line.

The History of Russian Watchmaking

Russian watchmaking has a complex history intertwined with the country’s social, political, and military developments. During the Tsarist era, watches were mainly produced by artisanal workshops. With the advent of the Soviet Union, watch production became essential for both civilians and the military. Initially, pocket watches were produced, but gradually, wristwatches became the focus.

Watch Factories

Numerous companies arose in the Soviet Union, named after war or space adventures. “The First Moscow Watch Factory, later named Poljot (which means flight), Raketa (rocket), Pobeda (victory, dedicated to WWII), and Chaika (seagull, which was Valentina Tereshkova’s code name during her space flight).”

Export and Marketing

In the 1960s and 70s, Soviet watches were exported at low prices to promote sales. This was a state-imposed strategy. In Italy, Russian watchmaking has often been underrated due to its proximity to Switzerland. However, the Russians understood the importance of marketing and created watches with logos for export or specific models for certain markets.

Rare Models

Among the rarest models in Andrea’s collection is a Raketa Big Zero with a nephrite dial, a green stone similar to jade. Finding rare models is challenging, especially online where many fakes and assembled pieces are sold.

Tips for Collectors

To avoid buying fakes, Andrea advises consulting more experienced and reliable collectors. “Today, there are many forums and groups where you can exchange opinions and advice.”

This collection of Soviet/Russian watches, with its rich history and intriguing models, continues to captivate not only enthusiasts but also newcomers to the world of collecting.

Vostok Cosmonaut: The Watch of the Soviet Space Era

soviet watch Vostok Generalskie Cosmonaut

The Vostok Cosmonaut, also improperly known as the Vostok Astronaut, is a highly sought-after Soviet watch among collectors worldwide. Its charm lies in the dial that depicts the profile of a cosmonaut inside a space suit helmet. But who is actually depicted? Let’s explore the various theories and the different versions of this iconic watch.

Versions of the Vostok Cosmonaut

There are primarily three variants of the Vostok Cosmonaut watch: two from the Soviet era and one from the post-Soviet transitional period. Additionally, there are different types of cases and bezels that add to the variety of this model.

Soviet Era Versions
  1. Black Dial The black dial version is usually housed in a chromed Generalskie 091xxx case, with the Vostok automatic caliber 2416b. Produced in the 1980s, it was mainly destined for the Italian and German markets. This model is easily recognizable by its typical unidirectional bezel with small dots.
  2. Blue Dial The blue dial version, much rarer, is set in a Neptune case and features a Vostok automatic caliber. Despite the color differences, the dial design remains substantially identical to the black version.
Transitional Period Version

There is also a post-Soviet version of the Vostok Cosmonaut. This variant, often marketed as Amphibia, follows the success of the Soviet versions with a very similar dial. The main differences lie in the case and bezel, as seen in the following images.

russian watch Vostok Amphibia Valentina Tereskova
Vostok Amphibia Valentina Tereskova

The Dial of the Vostok Cosmonaut

The most distinctive part of the watch is undoubtedly the dial, which depicts the profile of a cosmonaut with a helmet against a backdrop evoking deep space. The Soviet and transitional versions are very similar but present some differences in graphic details.

At first glance, it’s not easy to notice the differences between the two versions. However, by carefully comparing the reflections on the helmet and visor, distinctive details can be identified. Just take the position of the “P” on the helmet as a reference.

Confronto tra i quadranti del Vostok Astronaut

Who is Depicted?

There are three main theories regarding the identity of the cosmonaut depicted:

  1. Yuri Gagarin The most common theory is that the cosmonaut is Yuri Gagarin, the first man to travel into space. The delicate features of the depicted face resemble those of Gagarin, as seen in historical photos​ (Astronomy Scope)​​ (Night Sky Pix)​.
  2. Anna Lee Fisher Some suggest that the image might be inspired by American astronaut Anna Lee Fisher. Although it’s unlikely for an American astronaut to be depicted on a Soviet watch, the resemblance to some photographs of Fisher is striking​ (Difference Wiki)​.
  3. Valentina Tereshkova The most fascinating and perhaps most probable theory is that the face depicted is that of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to travel into space. Her historic mission aboard Vostok 6 in 1963 makes her an icon of the Soviet space era​ (Astronomy Scope)​​ (WorldAtlas)​.

Does the Vostok Cosmonaut Have Clones?

There is a similar, though less prestigious, version of the Vostok watch. It is a Slava model with manual winding and caliber 2428. The light gray/white dial features the profile drawing of the cosmonaut but with less definition compared to the original Vostok. Curiously, the bottom of the dial bears the name Yuri Gagarin in Cyrillic (Ю. А. ГАГАРИН), which might support the theory that the cosmonaut depicted is Gagarin.

russian watch Slava Gagarin
Slava Gagarin


The Vostok Cosmonaut, with its various versions, is a milestone in any collection dedicated to the space era and Soviet watches. The simplicity of the design and the cleanliness of the dial make it one of the best Soviet watches of the 1980s. Regarding who is depicted on the dial, the mystery adds an additional layer of charm. Whether it is Gagarin, Tereshkova, or a generic cosmonaut, the Vostok Cosmonaut continues to celebrate those brave men and women who paved the way for space exploration.

Difference Between Cosmonaut and Astronaut

The term “cosmonaut” is used to refer to space travelers trained by the Russian or Soviet space agency, while “astronaut” is used for those trained by U.S., European, Canadian, or Japanese space agencies​ (StarLust)​​ (Astronomy Scope)​​ (Night Sky Pix)​. The distinction originated during the Cold War and reflects the independence and competition between the U.S. and Soviet space programs.

  • Cosmonaut: Derived from the Greek words “kosmos” (universe) and “nautes” (sailor), meaning “sailor of the universe.”
  • Astronaut: Derived from the Greek words “astron” (star) and “nautes” (sailor), meaning “sailor of the stars.”

Fun Facts About Anna Lee Fisher

Anna Lee Fisher was the first mother to fly into space and worked as a chemist and astronaut for NASA. She was married to William Frederick Fisher, also an astronaut, and together they represented one of the few married couples to have both flown into space​ (Difference Wiki)​.

Insights on Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova

  • Yuri Gagarin: The first man in space, on April 12, 1961, completing an orbit of the Earth with the Vostok 1 mission. His achievement represents a milestone in the history of space exploration​ (WorldAtlas)​​ (Night Sky Pix)​.
  • Valentina Tereshkova: The first woman in space, flew on June 16, 1963, aboard Vostok 6. Her mission lasted almost three days and marked a significant advancement in the inclusion of women in the space program​ (WorldAtlas)​​ (Night Sky Pix)​.

For further insights, here are some useful links:

  1. Forum Orologiko
  2. Watchuseek – Discussion on Vostok Cosmonaut
  3. Article on Valentina Tereshkova
  4. Biography of Yuri Gagarin
  5. History of Vostok Watches
  6. Technical Details on Soviet Watches
  7. Soviet Space Adventures
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