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 Today, Cardi has withdrawn from the watch market and refocused on automotive design​ (Sovietaly)​​ (WatchUSeek Watch Forums)​.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

The Amphibia Revolution: The Invention of Soviet Waterproof Watches

Michail Fëdorovič Novikov e Vera Fëdorovna Belova, sviluppatori degli orologi Amphibia.

This is an interview with Novikov and Belova, the inventors and developers of the Amphibia project.

Mikhail Fyodorovich Novikov and Vera Fyodorovna Belova, Developers of the Amphibia Watches

The developers of the Amphibia watches, Mikhail Fyodorovich Novikov and Vera Fyodorovna Belova. Image from a video by Vyacheslav Medvedev.

Michail Fëdorovič Novikov e Vera Fëdorovna Belova, sviluppatori degli orologi Amphibia.
Gli sviluppatori degli orologi Amphibia Michail Fëdorovič Novikov e Vera Fëdorovna Belova. Immagine tratta dal video di Vjačeslav Medvedev.

In 1967, a peculiar event caught the attention of many: a “Volga” car drove over a watch. This was not an accident but a public demonstration of the extraordinary capabilities of the Amphibia, the first Soviet waterproof watch. The article describes this moment as follows:

«…10 …7 …5. Неумолимо, метр за метром движется колесо машины. Затаив дыхание, застыли люди. Что же будет? … Три … метр и, наконец, произошло то, чего с таким любопытством ожидал собравшийся здесь народ: колесо «Волги» переехало… часы» (…10 …7 …5. Relentlessly, metre by metre, the car’s wheel moves forward. People hold their breath, motionless. What will happen? … Three … metres and, finally, what the crowd gathered here was so curiously expecting happened: the wheel of the Volga ran over… the watch.)

The creators of the Amphibia, Mikhail Novikov and Vera Belova, tell us about the genesis and peculiarities of this revolutionary watch. Novikov, then head of the New Developments Bureau, was tasked with designing a watch that could compete with the best foreign models, ensuring reliable operation up to 200 metres in depth and resistance to significant variations in pressure and temperature.

Novikov M.F.:

“The challenge was to develop a watch that was not inferior to foreign models and that ensured reliable operation up to a depth of 200 metres, in conditions of great pressure and temperature variations. The name ‘Amphibia’ was chosen through an internal competition, representing a being that feels at home both in water and on land.”

The design of the Amphibia required the adoption of innovative technical solutions to avoid patent issues and to overcome the limitations of the available technology. For example, the watch glass was designed with a special profile to withstand extreme pressures, while the rubber gasket was developed with highly specific materials to ensure perfect watertightness.

Belova V.F.:

“The glass of the Amphibia is thicker than normal: 3 mm compared to the 2 mm of the ‘Komandirskie’ watches. Not only are the thickness and configuration different, but the manufacturing process is also special. The glass is polished to ensure a perfect seal under high pressure.”

Belova emphasises that the processing of the Amphibia glass required extreme precision, with a production process that included polishing to ensure the absence of any imperfections. The watch case’s resistance was further enhanced using stainless steel, a material that was not common for this type of application in the USSR at the time.

Novikov M.F.:

“It seemed that we could simply copy foreign models, but many of their solutions were patented. Moreover, our equipment could not guarantee the necessary precision. We had to find solutions that were just as effective but without infringing existing patents.”

The Amphibia was not just a water-resistant watch; it was an engineering masterpiece. Every detail, from the rubber gasket to the stainless steel case, was designed to overcome the toughest challenges. Novikov and Belova, with their dedication and innovation, managed to create a watch that would mark an era.

In addition to the civilian version, a military version of the Amphibia, called the NVCH-30, was developed for Soviet Navy divers. These models were subjected to rigorous tests of resistance and operation, including drills simulating sea rescue scenarios.

Belova V.F.:

“These watches were tested with very rigorous programmes. Even the strap had to pass extreme resistance tests. The strap’s connection to the NVCH-30 looked a bit strange but was extremely robust.”

The legacy of the Amphibia lives on today as a symbol of innovative engineering and durability. Novikov and Belova, with their vision and expertise, have left an indelible mark on the history of watchmaking.

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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