Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta
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    Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Настоящая история знаменитых подводных часов из Златоуста или хватит лгать, товарищ Invicta


    Original version of the article in Russian by Sergey Klimakov The Cheliabinsk Worker (Сергей Климаков, “Челябинский рабочий"):Медиа Завод - Челябинск outside - Челябинск, Златоуст, Имидж, Импорт, Фальсификация, Бренд

    One day surfing the Internet I ran across the source where people were discussing which watches Arnold Schwarzenegger is wearing: Invicta watches or ones from Zlatoust and the only thing they had in common: everybody agreed that these watches sat on his wrist well, met his role as politician and the choice was far better then his previous provocative Audemars Piguet. In the whole world Schwarzenegger has begun the best walking advertisement for Russian diver watches. As many know Arnold Schwarzenegger began to show preference to “Russian Divers” about two years ago. He often appears with his watch on the wrist in public and gives interviews. This watch looks really impressive on his huge wrist. “Terminator” has raised the popularity of “Russian Divers” and, accordingly, the popularity for the city of Zlatoust and how! If you google “Zlatoust knives” you get 25.000 responds against about 40,000 if you google “Zlatoust watches”.

    I had often paid attention to watches looking like old Soviet diver watches from Zlatoust and, of course, I knew that a Swiss company, Invicta, produced such type of watchess called “Russian Diver”. I read their story about their watches which only raised a lot of questions in my mind.

    As I’m from Urals and the name Zlatoust means much for me, I began thinking about Zlatoust Watch Factory, Schwarzenegger, and Invicta and how that all is tied together. I’m not only from Urals, but I’m a journalist working in Urals region. A strong decision occurred in my mind to find all possible answers to my questions. So, I went to Zlatoust Watch Factory with all my questions. Now listen what information I’ve found out.

    In 1950s and 60s Zlatoust watch plant apart from other interesting products were producing 191-ChS watches for the Soviet Navy divers. Without any exaggeration, these watches are something unique! It’s the largest watches in the world: diameter (without the crown) is about 60 millimeters, the weight is 250 grams. Massive stainless steel case is very complicated, but it’s meant to be undestroyable on principle. And the most exotic thing about the watch is that it was produced with the use of radioactive materials! To achieve luminous effect, digits on the dial were covered with radium salt. Watches indicated a high level of radioactivity: the Geiger counter went beyond 8.000 (!) microroentgen per hour. Just for comparison: the natural level of radioactivity amounts 15-30 microroentgen and the permissible level of radiation for the housing accommodation must not exceed 60 microroentgen. But such a high level of radioactivity wasn’t a technological miscalculation. For high intensity of dispersion of gamma-rays the level of radioactivity at the distance of 10-12 centimeters equals only 200 microroentgen per hour and if the distance is over 1 meter the emission of radioactive elements equals natural. Such a huge watch didn’t feel comfortable to wear on the wrist but if the watch is on sleeve of the diver suit with dial positioned outside then the radioactivity hardly exerts harmful influence on the diver.

    The production of these unique watches was stopped in the first half of 1970s. Since that time they have became a real legend. These watches and the legend behind them were especially popular abroad USSR and then Russia. Most evidently the story of Russian navy divers wearing radioactive watches seemed to be unbelievable and therefore especially attractive and intriguing. On the other hand, the soviet military watches have always been popular in the Western countries and around the world.

    You can ask: but where is a mention about Invicta? Nowhere. There is no place for Invicta in the real history behind Zlatoust diver watches.

    Of course, it is not accidental that in 2003 Invicta watch company began to promote their watch line called “Russian Diver” and made them in the same style as famous Zlatoust 191-ChS diver watches. As for the purposefulness of Invicta watches, they are sooner decorative then really functional ones seriously being inferior to Zlatoust 191-ChS ones in this point.

    Invicta is a Swiss watch company and is well-known from the middle of XIX century. In 1991 it was bought by American businessmen, who worked out and began to promote a very aggressive marketing strategy for the brand.

    The tall tale, which was chosen for promoting the so-called “Russian Diver” style line was very interesting. They alleged that in 1959 the USSR Navy General Headquarters chose Invicta as the best among other Swiss watch companies and, thus, the company was commissioned to make a limited edition of 100 diver watches whether as prize watches for the best Navy divers or to compare the quality of Swiss watches to that of Soviet ones. As for the design, they say that the style of these watches was discovered among documents belonging to grandmother of Eyal Lalo, the president of Invicta. According to their words, that old sample thoroughly and improved was the only real prototype of all diver watches made in Zlatoust. And that’s why, as they conclude, Invicta have moral rights to produce watches of this style. Of course, not a single document or other serous evidence was introduced in order to prove it. All the respected specialists display irony towards their tall tale.

    Even the inscription on the dial of so-called “Russian Divers”, written intentionally (or maybe just through ignorance?) with glaring mistake as ИМФ СССР instead of ВМФ СССР, indirectly can show non-participation in creating real Zlatoust diver watches. This type of a “mistake” is often used by the pirate companies stealing other companies` ideas.

    However, all that doesn’t prevent Invicta from selling thousands of watches because their advertising strategy is worked out to have influence on average men which first buy a watch and then interest about its authenticity.

    Nowadays, the Invicta Russian Diver line numbers about thirty different models at the price range between $150 to $2.000 ad the basic model of this line, a copy of the real Zlatoust diver watch remains Model 2625 with the price at $600.

    Invicta actively promote their watches through Internet sale sites and ShopNBC TV channel.
    Perfectly planned and methodically carried out, this strategy yields excellent results. Popularity of their so-called “Russian Divers” has greatly increased. This success has attracted Invicta competitors. And first of them all are Chinese “pirates”, absolute evil for all brands. Guys from Invicta don’t conceal that their “Russian Divers” are being officially produced in South Eastern Asia with slight usage of Swiss and American components. And naturally as a second wave, a wide stream of primitive “Russian Divers” fakes appears now here and there.

    Secondly, smart fellows from Russia are also not idle and have joined in with this trend to get their tasty morsel from the pie called “Russian Diver”. They unscrupulously use not only the legend of Zlatoust 191-ChS watches but also the name of the factory itself. They have been selling their fakes mainly to foreigners through the Internet and traditional watch shops in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, advertising them as authentic 191-ChS. They are almost equal to the real Zlatoust 191-ChS in size (1-2 mm smaller) but not in quality. Their fakes have serial number and “ВМФ СССР” logo on the dial and the back cover. A certificate with the “ОТК” mark with the “Не радиоактивно/No Radiation” stamp is applied to the watch. There is the inscriptions Заказ Министерства обороны СССР and Златоусовский часовой завод (where the letter “Т” in the word “Златоустовский” omitted intentionally).

    The secret of new fake Zlatoust diver watches from Saint Petersburg discovered one of the members of WWII collectors’ forum: Here is a citation from his post in this forum:

    “ … It`s even not a modern replica, just souvenir products having nothing to do with the USSR except the case of the watch. It’s a “made in Saint Petersburg” watch made in 2005-07 years. The movement is from Molnija pocket watch and, how it is abovementioned, they often break down. I am acquainted with the author of this “project”. By the way, if you have the box for this watch you can read on it: Златоусовский часовой завод (try to find lost letter!). The author thinks that if in case of any problem for him, this trick can save him. First time he was writing right: Златоустовский, then somebody advised him to do so.” As you know this trick is usual for a “pirate”.

    Apparently, this smart fellow from Saint Petersburg has expanded the collection of his “Divers” up to 13 models at average cost of $350 and his business is going on well.
    MigL. and Chronotopos like this.

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    Re: Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Besides fake Zlatoust Diver watches, the 191-ЧС mark can be noticed on watches under well-known brands “Чайка” (Chayka) and “Полет” (Poljot). These diver watches are 10-12 mm smaller then real Zlatoust ones. Whether they are just a home-made imitation or some of Russian plants responds to the trend we haven’t managed to learn.

    After all that, a logical question appears: does anybody at Zlatoust Watch Factory itself remember about their perspective legacy? Happily, the answer is yes. As I have learnt, thanks to the initiative of Victor Fironov, new General Director of ZChZ, who filled this position as long as one year and a half, the production of a new version of the famous 191-ChS has been renewed and got new index – 192-ChS. And now real Zlatoust Russian diver watches can be bought only from the site of the factory. According to Sergey Fedotov, the Chief of Marketing and External Economic Links Department, the technological task to renew the watch wasn’t a simple one. The luminous effect of the dial and the hands was improved by using non-radioactive luminous mass. It was decided to use another movement of better quality and new rubberized fabric for straps. Some more changes into the design of the watch have been made in order to produce as high quality watches as possible. Anyway these modern Zlatoust divers remain nevertheless genuine Zlatoust diver watches as they were in the time of the USSR – functional (allowing to dive much more then 100 meters deep), reliable (the case as before of the hardest stainless steel) and legendary. By the moment they have produced a limited edition and they are not cheap.

    Some of them were presented by the management of the plant to our famous and well-know around the world scientist, Polar researcher and State Duma deputy Artur Chelingarov and they say that a very V.I. Person tried a new Zlatoust Diver on his right hand and we can be sure if this person appears with the watch on public at least one time, ZChZ will be supplied with orders for long.

    It’s known that among Russian people there is the only person which Arnold Schwarzenegger is acquainted with very well and who he is in sympathy with. This person is a strongman Mikhail Koklyaev. Since 2006 Mikhail has participated many times in Arnold Classic Competition. I hope he will take part in the competition next year too. I wonder what if the management of ZChZ could try to send their 100% genuine new Zlatoust 192-ChS to Arnie through Mikhail. Let’s see it.

    The news from ZChZ and comments: Zlatoust Diver Watches – the official site of Agat Watch Factory
    MigL. and Chronotopos like this.

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    Re: Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Fascinating stuff, Silversen! Thank you so much for translating this and posting it here.

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    Re: Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Quote Originally Posted by pwalsh21 View Post
    Fascinating stuff, Silversen! Thank you so much for translating this and posting it here.
    +1 :thanks

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    Re: Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Not that I ever believed a word that Eyal Lalo ever said about his Chinese divers, but I'm sure he never expected someone to visit Zlatoust and find out the truth. Thanks for posting this, it was nice to learn the history behind the real Russian diver.

    I don't know why Invicta couldn't just be content to produce homages of the Zlatoust diver without the cockamamie story. After all, they've been making Rolex knock-offs for the years and don't try to claim they had anything to do with the real thing.

    The first time I saw one, I noticed "ИМФ СССР" and immediately knew that to be wrong.

    If I want a Russian diver, I'll buy it from Russians, not Invicta.

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    Re: Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Interesting article with lot of useful stuff!
    Some informations must be verified though - for example, i never heard of Chayka copies of that watch and several things still make me puzzled.

    Some parts from the article:

    In 1950s and 60s Zlatoust watch plant apart from other interesting products were producing 191-ChS watches for the Soviet Navy divers. (...) And the most exotic thing about the watch is that it was produced with the use of radioactive materials!
    I remember that some time ago ago i was crucified by some people because i was saying that early Zlatoust divers had radium paint. They said "Do you have any proof?" and i have said: "No, i have simply seen them around". I received lot of criticism for that. Following pics and proofs proved that, and the article finally confirms a quite common thought.

    The production of these unique watches was stopped in the first half of 1970s.
    Indeed, i would prefer more precise dates, also in order to separate the different series. Also, it would be useful to make a database of the original papers by the owners.

    Secondly, smart fellows from Russia are also not idle and have joined in with this trend to get their tasty morsel from the pie called Russian Diver. They unscrupulously use not only the legend of Zlatoust 191-ChS watches but also the name of the factory itself. They have been selling their fakes mainly to foreigners through the Internet and traditional watch shops in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, advertising them as authentic 191-ChS. They are almost equal to the real Zlatoust 191-ChS in size (1-2 mm smaller) but not in quality. Their fakes have serial number and ВМФ СССР logo on the dial and the back cover. A certificate with the ОТК mark with the Не радиоактивно/No Radiation stamp is applied to the watch. There is the inscriptions Заказ Министерства обороны СССР and Златоусовский часовой завод (where the letter Т in the word Златоустовский omitted intentionally).
    So finally we have a supposed origin for those watches - St. Petersburg.
    So, are the cases made in St. Petersburg? Or it is mentioned only as favourite market place for those products?

    Anyway, this is the most generic part of the article. I have a 58mm, stainless-steel version, and it's 2 mm smaller than the "flat bezel" 60 mm model (the only original watch mentioned by the factory), exactly like the brass-made ones. And the movement is Zlatoust, not Molnija. All the informations about the fake certificate (fake year, fake OTK, etc) are well-known since years, except the "Златоусовский" without "T".

    Probably the missing letter is a recent trick, but this is not enough to recognize an original 191-ChS. For sure, reissues and originals have different box colors.

    The secret of new fake Zlatoust diver watches from Saint Petersburg discovered one of the members of WWII collectors forum: Here is a citation from his post in this forum:

    It`s even not a modern replica, just souvenir products having nothing to do with the USSR except the case of the watch."
    I always thought that, although it was made in brass and not in SS, that case has the same dimensions and same parts of the original one.
    So was the brass case made in USSR? And who made it?

    Its a made in Saint Petersburg watch made in 2005-07 years. The movement is from Molnija pocket watch and, how it is abovementioned, they often break down.
    2005-2007...i had one of those watches for a while, from 2004 untill the past year, but it was pre-owned and i guess that that production was started even years before.

    The movement was standard Molnija and it does not break. Chrome is bad, mine had already signs of chrome loss, although it was used probably very few times. But everything else had a striking resemblence with the original one (i'm talking about early copies).

    So we have a "St. Petersburg" trace at least we know the origin of that market (still not sure about the production, but it's true that later copies -included the Invicta- have very few traces of the original layout, so it is possible that the case has been definitively replicated elsewhere.

    By the way, if you have the box for this watch you can read on it: Златоусовский часовой завод (try to find lost letter!). The author thinks that if in case of any problem for him, this trick can save him. First time he was writing right: Златоустовский, then somebody advised him to do so.
    This is 100% right. Here is the box of the 2004 chrome-plated copy. The "t" ("m" in Cyrillic, please correct if i'm wrong) is in its place.



    Quote Originally Posted by Silversen View Post
    Besides fake Zlatoust Diver watches, the 191-ЧС mark can be noticed on watches under well-known brands Чайка (Chayka) and Полет (Poljot). These diver watches are 10-12 mm smaller then real Zlatoust ones. Whether they are just a home-made imitation or some of Russian plants responds to the trend we havent managed to learn.
    Never heard of diver watches made/branded by Chayka or Poljot
    Probably the articles refers to Moscow Classic - as already said many times, those are not Poljot and anyway the model is probably called "Vodolaz". It's totally different from the Zlatoust, and it can't be considered as fake, not an home-made imitation, although the style is the same.
    The curious thing is that the Moscow Classic Vodolaz is claimed to have imitations as well - definitely a source of headaches.

    As I have learnt, thanks to the initiative of Victor Fironov, new General Director of ZChZ, who filled this position as long as one year and a half, the production of a new version of the famous 191-ChS has been renewed and got new index 192-ChS. And now real Zlatoust Russian diver watches can be bought only from the site of the factory. According to Sergey Fedotov, the Chief of Marketing and External Economic Links Department, the technological task to renew the watch wasnt a simple one. The luminous effect of the dial and the hands was improved by using non-radioactive luminous mass. It was decided to use another movement of better quality and new rubberized fabric for straps. Some more changes into the design of the watch have been made in order to produce as high quality watches as possible. Anyway these modern Zlatoust divers remain nevertheless genuine Zlatoust diver watches as they were in the time of the USSR functional (allowing to dive much more then 100 meters deep), reliable (the case as before of the hardest stainless steel) and legendary. By the moment they have produced a limited edition and they are not cheap.
    This is a positive fact, especially if it begins to be a "real" production (not only 20 pieces), albeit limited in quantity. The next 50 pieces are a good sign. Rubberized fabric was already in use on original and copies too (copies did nto have leather straps). I would expect a thicker strap with a more consistent appearance.
    I'm quite puzzled about the choice of a Vostok movement, it is extremely small in comparison with the case Considering that the production is still very limited, a stock Molnija would be the best choice, probably some of them are still around, although the Chelyabinsk factory was closed time ago. 100M rating is not impressive for a watch like that, but i guess it's a prudential data, as already seen before with other similar watches.

    Anyway, i think that if they will produce the 192-Chs in constant way, it will be a success for the factory.

    Last edited by michele; August 4th, 2010 at 11:09.

    former Russian Watch Forum Moderator (2005-2012)

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    Re: Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Quote Originally Posted by michele View Post
    Interesting article with lot of useful stuff!
    Some informations must be verified though - for example, i never heard of Chayka copies of that watch and several things still make me puzzled.

    Some parts from the article:

    I remember that some time ago ago i was crucified by some people because i was saying that early Zlatoust divers had radium paint. They said "Do you have any proof?" and i have said: "No, i have simply seen them around". I received lot of criticism for that. Following pics and proofs proved that, and the article finally confirms a quite common thought.

    Indeed, i would prefer more precise dates, also in order to separate the different series. Also, it would be useful to make a database of the original papers by the owners.

    So finally we have a supposed origin for those watches - St. Petersburg.
    So, are the cases made in St. Petersburg? Or it is mentioned only as favourite market place for those products?

    Anyway, this is the most generic part of the article. I have a 58mm, stainless-steel version, and it's 2 mm smaller than the "flat bezel" 60 mm model (the only original watch mentioned by the factory), exactly like the brass-made ones. And the movement is Zlatoust, not Molnija. All the informations about the fake certificate (fake year, fake OTK, etc) are well-known since years, except the "Златоусовский" without "T".

    Probably the missing letter is a recent trick, but this is not enough to recognize an original 191-ChS. For sure, reissues and originals have different box colors.

    I always thought that, although it was made in brass and not in SS, that case has the same dimensions and same parts of the original one.
    So was the brass case made in USSR? And who made it?

    2005-2007...i had one of those watches for a while, from 2004 untill the past year, but it was pre-owned and i guess that that production was started even years before.

    The movement was standard Molnija and it does not break. Chrome is bad, mine had already signs of chrome loss, although it was used probably very few times. But everything else had a striking resemblence with the original one (i'm talking about early copies).

    So we have a "St. Petersburg" trace at least we know the origin of that market (still not sure about the production, but it's true that later copies -included the Invicta- have very few traces of the original layout, so it is possible that the case has been definitively replicated elsewhere.

    This is 100% right. Here is the box of the 2004 chrome-plated copy. The "t" ("m" in Cyrillic, please correct if i'm wrong) is in its place.





    Never heard of diver watches made/branded by Chayka or Poljot
    Probably the articles refers to Moscow Classic - as already said many times, those are not Poljot and anyway the model is probably called "Vodolaz". It's totally different from the Zlatoust, and it can't be considered as fake, not an home-made imitation, although the style is the same.
    The curious thing is that the Moscow Classic Vodolaz is claimed to have imitations as well - definitely a source of headaches.



    This is a positive fact, especially if it begins to be a "real" production (not only 20 pieces), albeit limited in quantity. The next 50 pieces are a good sign. Rubberized fabric was already in use on original and copies too (copies did nto have leather straps). I would expect a thicker strap with a more consistent appearance.
    I'm quite puzzled about the choice of a Vostok movement, it is extremely small in comparison with the case Considering that the production is still very limited, a stock Molnija would be the best choice, probably some of them are still around, although the Chelyabinsk factory was closed time ago. 100M rating is not impressive for a watch like that, but i guess it's a prudential data, as already seen before with other similar watches.

    Anyway, i think that if they will produce the 192-Chs in constant way, it will be a success for the factory.

    Grazie, mio caro amico Michele, per il tuo commento!

    I hope you understand that I only translated this article, so unfortunately I can`t give you more information. But I`m sure finally we will find all the answers we want to.

  8. #8
    Mod. Russian, China Mech. Chascomm's Avatar
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    Re: Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    I posted a link to the article on another forum. I think you can guess which one Not mentioning the name of course, but it is run by ShopNBC and bankrolled by Invicta. Not surprisingly the discussion quickly became heated. Not my intention at all

    According to the great Jim himself, the story is (and apparently always has been ) that the factory in Zlatoust designed and built the original without any input from Invicta, but in 1959 the Soviet navy directly approached Invicta to produce a special all-Swiss version of that design, for a limited issue of 100 pieces to senior officers. Invicta claim to posess two of the originals. One at the Florida office and the other (the grandmother's watch) in the private collection of Eyal Lalo. They have been shown on the ShopNBC show 'on many occasions' several years ago and footage is being sought to allay the suspicions of the doubters.

    Comments?
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    Re: Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Quote Originally Posted by Chascomm View Post
    According to the great Jim himself, the story is (and apparently always has been ) that the factory in Zlatoust designed and built the original without any input from Invicta, but in 1959 the Soviet navy directly approached Invicta to produce a special all-Swiss version of that design, for a limited issue of 100 pieces to senior officers. Invicta claim to posess two of the originals. One at the Florida office and the other (the grandmother's watch) in the private collection of Eyal Lalo. They have been shown on the ShopNBC show 'on many occasions' several years ago and footage is being sought to allay the suspicions of the doubters.
    Comments?
    Wow, do they collaborated in so intense way, exactly during the worst period of the Cold War? Mmmmh...

    No need of footage - we are simple people and we would appreciate from them at least some pics of the alleged, original Invicta, if it's existing. Not an hard task, i think.

    Anyway, i was figuring the senior officers with the "bling-bling" Invicta on their wrists...and, why not, with a Flava Flav-style clock on the chest...

    former Russian Watch Forum Moderator (2005-2012)

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    Re: Real History Behind Famous Zlatoust Diver Watches or Enough of Your Lie, Mr Invicta

    Quote Originally Posted by michele View Post
    Anyway, i was figuring the senior officers with the "bling-bling" Invicta on their wrists...and, why not, with a Flava Flav-style clock on the chest...
    ...or the famous 'Bling Diver' (aka The Yellow Submarine)



    Can't you just picture one of those high-level meetings between NATO and Soviet top brass. Just shaking hands while wearing one of those would come across as intimidation.
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