The history of Russia’s watchmaking industry began interestingly in the early 1900s when watchmakers emerged in the Soviet Union and they started making timepieces for the Red Army. By World War II, the Russian watchmakers had produced millions of watches and brands such as Vostok (formerly Chistopol), Sturmanskie and Poljot began to emerge subsequently.
These watches also played an important role in the Space Race. In fact, Yuri Gagarin, when he became the first man in outer space in 1960, wore a Sturmanskie watch. After that, in the 1970s, the famous Swiss watch movement maker, Valjoux, sold the machines used to make the reliable and robust Valjoux 7734 movements to Poljot who then used them to create the legendary and highly regarded Poljot 3133 movement which is still in service today.
Russian watches are famous for expressing a blend of technical knowhow, robustness and retro-vintage vibes. For those used to seeing watches from other traditional watch-producing nations such as Switzerland, Germany and Japan, Russian watches have a certain sense of attractive quirk that offers a unique aura for those seeking something different to wear.
Take for example the Poljot International Polar Bear. This is a manual winding timepiece that comes in four colour schemes. The one with an army green theme that reminds us of the Red Army marching on the tundra. The exotic feature on this watch is its 24-hour display with the hour hand only needing to turn a complete circle to cover 24 hours. With it, a watch such as the Polar Bear is in high demand among pilots, sailors and inhabitants surrounding the Arctic regions.
Then, there is the Sturmanskie Chrono "Okeah" Edition Blue. This watch is a remake of the flagship of the First Moscow Watch Factory’s collection created in 1976 specifically for use by officers of the Soviet Navy. The Okeah is powered by the sought-after Poljot 3133 chronograph movement and is a true standout in its unique aesthetics as well as its functionality.
We also would like to highlight the Poljot Basilika Spacelight. This watch features the astronomical complication of the moon phase. The dial is created in a whimsical manner and highlights the Sun, the Earth and the Moon. They indicate the seconds, date and moon phase respectively. Comets traverse across the dial in a dream-like manner as time moves on the watch.
Observing these fine Russian watch examples, we begin to realize that there is a myriad of possibilities when we witness them. Their beautiful and intricate designs as well as distinctive appeal make them an enigmatic joy to behold. They are definitely created without much limitation from the ideals of their European counterpart watchmakers and, perhaps, that is why they can succeed and remain popular.
Yuri Gagarin and the first watch in space. Featured Photo by Sturmanskie