vostok Astronaut, or Vostok Cosmonaut, is generally the name given to this beautiful soviet watch. The name is clearly given by the design of the dial that represents the profile face of an astronaut inside a helmet of a spacesuit.
Much sought after by collectors around the world because of the direct reference to the Soviet space adventure (you can see very well the iconic CCCP on the helmet) exists in various versions that we will go as far as possible to analyze.
The charm of this watch also comes from not knowing exactly who the astronaut is portrayed inside the helmet. We will try to understand together what are the plausible theories about it.
Vostok Astronaut, but how many versions?
We can mainly identify three variants of the watch, two of the Soviet period and one of the transactional period. There are other versions that differ for the type of case or ring. Difficult to understand if they are original of factory or watches with the pieces replaced.
The Soviet versions.
These two versions, especially the one with the blue dial and the Neptune case, are the less common ones. In both cases the dial is identical except for the background colour.
The version with black dial is normally found in Generalskie 091xxx chrome case with the Vostok calibre automatic 2416b. Produced in the 80s and mainly intended for the Italian and German markets. The example in the picture has the typical unidirectional ring with small dots that are easily found in the automatic Vostok intended precisely for these two markets.
The blue version of the Soviet period, much more difficult to find than the previous one, is in the Neptune case and has an automatic Vostok calibre.
The dial for both versions is substantially identical and differs only in colour.
The transactional period version.
There is also a post-Soviet version of the Vostok Astronaut. It's possible to assume that, given the success of the Soviet version, it was taken over by Vostok for the production of an Amphibia with a very similar dial.
Below you can see two versions with the same transactional period dial. Both in case 020xxx with clearly different ferrules. At the moment I cannot say which is the correct ring.
The Vostok Astronaut's dial.
The most beautiful and characteristic part of the watch. The profile of the astronaut with the helmet in the background evokes deep space. The Soviet and transitional versions are very similar, similar but not the same.
At first glance, one does not easily realize the differences between the two versions. The astronaut's design differs in many details that can easily be seen if we compare the two prints.
Easy to see how the reflections on the helmet and the visor are reported in a different way. Just take to reference the position of the “P” on the helmet.
Who is the person in the suitcase?
Three are currently the most popular theories if we exclude the one in which we hypothesize a “generic” astronaut.
The Soviet astronaut, or rather the Soviet cosmonaut, is generally identified with Y. Gagarin, the first man to have gone into space. The theory is based on the fact that Gagarin's features, as you can see from the photos, were quite delicate and not particularly marked.
Anna Lee Fisher
Fascinating theory but a bit imaginative because it is difficult to imagine, if not jokingly, an American astronaut in a Soviet suit, especially in the 80s. The image of Anna Lee Fisher, however, recalls very much the one on the dial and I would not exclude that those who designed the dial could not have been inspired by this photograph.
The theory I perhaps prefer and perhaps even the most probable. On the dial of the Vostok Astronaut could be represented Valentina Tereshkova, The first woman to have gone into space. He left aboard a Soyuz capsule from Baikonur in June 1963 and, above all, returned safely to Earth after a three-day solo mission. We're in the '60s, and at the time, the very thought of getting a woman into space was innovative. But the Soviet Union has often given us on a silver platter these gems of emancipation and feminism probably also the result of studied political propaganda.
Vostok Astronaut has clones?
There is also a “dubious” version with a design very similar to the Vostok but that looks less pleasant in my opinion. It is a hand-wound Slava watch with calibre 2428. On the light grey/white dial, we find the profile of the astronaut seen before but in blue colour. The design clearly recalls the Soviet version but is less defined and convincing.
Another curious fact is that in the lower part of the quadrant we find the name of Yuri Gagarin in Cyrillic (Ю. А. ГАРИН), which could support the argument that the astronaut represented is Gagarin and not Valentina Tereshkova.
The watch, or rather watches, are definitely a milestone in any collection dedicated to space and especially to space watches. Beautiful to show and wear. Regardless of the model or version, the simplicity of the design and the cleanliness of the dial makes it one of the most successful Soviet watches of the 80s. As to who is represented on the dial, I would say that it is irrelevant. Maybe it was the desire of those who realized the design to leave the doubt and keep thinking about those brave men and women who opened the way to space exploration.