The Commemorative Watch of the Director of the Kharkiv Military University: A Piece of History in My Collection

Orologio commemorativo del Kharkiv Military University.


Recently, I had the opportunity to acquire a very special watch for my collection of Soviet and post-Soviet memorabilia. This commemorative watch comes from the Kharkiv Military University, located in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. In this article, I will tell you the story of this fascinating item, the meaning of the inscriptions on the dial, and the technical features of the watch.

Orologio commemorativo del Kharkiv Military University.
Orologio commemorativo del Kharkiv Military University.

Acquiring the Watch

As an avid collector of historical Soviet and post-Soviet items, I am always on the lookout for unique pieces that tell a story. When I came across this commemorative watch, I was immediately drawn to its robust design and significant history. The dial reads “ВІД НАЧАЛЬНИКА ХАРКІВСЬКОГО ВІЙСЬКОВОГО УНІВЕРСИТЕТУ,” which translates to “From the Director of the Kharkiv Military University.”

Watch Description

The watch has a chrome-plated brass case, giving it an elegant and durable appearance. Inside, it features a Vostok 2414A hand-wound calibre, a reliable movement appreciated for its accuracy. The dial is decorated with the emblem of the Kharkiv Military University, colourful and representative of the pride and tradition of the institution. This type of watch is usually given as recognition for distinguished service or as a token of affiliation with the University.

Meaning of the Inscriptions

The Cyrillic inscriptions on the watch dial refer directly to the Director of the Kharkiv Military University. This indicates that the watch might have been a gift or an award, a symbol of recognition for commitment and service to the institution. It’s fascinating how these small details can tell such a rich story.

The Kharkiv Military University

The Kharkiv Military University, officially known as “Національний університет оборони України імені Івана Черняховського” (National Defence University of Ukraine named after Ivan Chernyakhovsky), is located in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. Founded during the Soviet period, this university has continued to train officers and specialists for the Ukrainian armed forces, maintaining a high standard of military education and training.

The Kharkiv Region

Kharkiv is one of the major cities in Ukraine, located in the eponymous region. It is an important cultural, educational, and industrial centre. The Kharkiv Military University plays a crucial role in training the country’s armed forces and has a long tradition of excellence.


Having this commemorative watch in my collection is a true honour. Not only is it a beautiful example of military design, but it is also a piece of history that represents the importance and legacy of the Kharkiv Military University. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of the value of service and dedication.

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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