Two of the most challenging aspects of collecting Poljot chronographs are determining their age, and whether or not they are in original form. I have always been amazed at how little information is available in regards to dating these watches. This is especially true of the early chronographs produced during the Soviet era, where hard evidence indicating year of production as well as catalogues are few and far between. So here's hoping this guide will help all those interested in determining the age and originality of a Poljot chronograph.
A 3133 Chronograph appears on the front cover of Poljot's 1982 Catalogue:
Unfortunately, I will not be able to add sufficient information to allow you to pinpoint an exact year of production during much of the Soviet era. However, after cross-referencing a chronograph with the following information, you should be able to narrow the age down to within a few years. In most cases, you will have to rely on more than just one element to determine a) the approximate age of the chronograph, b) whether or not it has been repaired at some point, and c) whether or not it has been frankened together using available parts. In addition, you can expect to see a replacement part or two on many of the older chronographs that can confuse the dating process.
I would welcome any information that would help identify the age of a particular early model chronograph, and I will be happy to make changes/updates when necessary. However, if you have previously posted information about dating a 3133, or have posted images of a 3133 movement, I have more than likely already viewed it and taken it into consideration - and thank you for that. What we need now is hard-evidence such as a chronograph with papers from the late '70s or early '80s. Even circumstantial evidence such as Dad or Gradpa "received this watch in 1980 while serving in the military" or "when visiting the Soviet Union", or possibly an engraving that indicates the latest possible production date. Again, if it's already "out there", I've probably seen it.
The majority of watches and photographs in the following presentation are from my own collection. However, my conclusions are by no means based on my collection alone. I am simply using my own images, whenever possible, to avoid having to make numerous and sometimes impossible requests. Thanks to those who have, unknowingly, provided images for this presentation, as I have no record of where I copied them from.
The Balance Wheel
By the beginning of 1993, all Poljot Chronograph movement are fitted with a new silver alloy balance wheel. Checking the balance wheel is a quick way of determining which side of Q4-1992 a Poljot chronograph is on. However, there's always the chance that a well worn chronograph from the '80s has been retrofitted when serviced.
A "Made in Russia" in '92 chronograph with brass balance wheel:
A NOS "Kosmos-1992" with brass balance wheel:
A NOS "Space'92" tagged June, 1993 with a new silver alloy balance wheel:
A "MADE IN RUSSIA" stamp appeared on the balance wheel bridge between 1997-2004:
The Chronograph Wheels
A switch from silver to gold coloured chronograph wheels took place ca. 1983 - around the same time the chronographs became available to the public. Often you will see a mix of silver and gold chronograph wheels due either to repair or franken-work. See examples of both versions in the images below.
Chronograph Bridge Stamps - Model Number Stamp
The Initial Model Stamp - 1976-1990
Font type: OCR-B
Note that on the "3" the open end of the top bar extends out equally as far as the open end of the bottom bowl.
Early Poljot 3133 chronograph:
Late Soviet era Poljot Chronograph 1990:
Second Model Stamp early-"SU 3133" - 1990-1993
Font Type: OCR-B
An "SU" is prefixed just prior to the break up of the Soviet Union.
A late Soviet era early-"SU 3133" stamp 1991:
A Russian early-"SU 3133" stamp 1992:
Frankenmakers will fit this movement to an original or reproduction '80s dial because it has the "SU" stamp, and in most cases a brass balance wheel. Later model movements are also fitted with fake bridge stamps and brass balance wheels:
Having cross-referenced the above chronograph with the information in this document, one should be able to conclude that this is the ultimate 3133 frankenchrono!
The bridge stamp has been faked - "23 JEWELS" in latin on a so-called '80s OKEAH?
Different era bridge stamp - "SU 3133" on an '80s OKEAH?
"SU 3133" + "23JEWELS" in latin never happened.
The dial is a reproduction, the hands are wrong...
Just about everything about this watch is not right. The movement is a late-'90s fitted with brass balance and faked chrono bridge stamp. And here's the kicker... it can be all yours for the "Buy It Now" price of $625US!
Third Model Stamp late-"SU 3133" - 1993-1995
The font-type is a bolder modification of the previous stamp.
A)On the "3", the open end of the bottom bowl extends out further than the upper bar.
B)The right stem of the "U" is leaning slightly to the left.
NOS "Space'92" tagged June, 1993 with late-"SU 3133" stamp:
NOS "Kosmos 1994-1996"" with late-"SU 3133" stamp:
Forth model stamp - 1995-1997
The "SU" is removed prior to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. A coincidence? Maybe. Poljot produced numerous commemorative watches for the 1996 Olympics.
NOS Poljot "Body Guard" 1996:
Poljot "Casino" 1997:
Fifth model stamp - 1997-present-day
A new stamp with a "P" (which presumably stands for "Russia") prefixed to a bolder version of the original style number font.
NOS Poljot "Alpha Group Sniper" 1997:
Aviator with MakTime 3133 assembled in 2010:
Chronograph Bridge Stamps - 23Jewels Stamp
A conversion from Cyrillic to Latin on the "23JEWELS" stamp was introduced with the "Fifth model stamp - 1997-present"(see above).
Chronograph Bridge Stamps - Movement Serial Number and Poljot Crown
Assuming that the top of the chronograph bridge is where the jewels are located, for the vast majority of Poljot chronographs we are use to seeing a 4 or 5 digit serial number rotated counter-clockwise approximately 120 degrees from the normal horizontal position - with the lower part of the numbers being closest to the centre of the chronograph bridge. The top of the number is to the left, and the bottom is to the right. Some of the earliest models, however, are a mirror image of this with the top of the numbers being closest to the centre of the chronograph bridge(Image 1).
There are more than a few examples of this.
Also, note the head of crown/stem release push button on all of these movements is protruding instead of being machined hollow. Want to know if you have an early Poljot chronograph movement? Check this button!
Some versions have the Poljot crown stamped on the bridge(2,3), and some do not(1). Also note than neither of the above examples has a Poljot crown stamped on the main body of the movement.
Now, the question is which of the bridge stamp variations came first?
The most logical explanation would be the initial bridge stamp had the mirrored serial number without the Poljot crown(1); followed by version two which had a Poljot crown added(2); then version three with the cast about modern application of the serial number with crown(3); and then version four with the crown eliminated from the bridge stamp and placed on the main body beside the balance wheel as seen below.
EDIT: Another version with the protruding crown release button on the movement. This version has the crown stamp on the main body of the movement, indicating that is the newest version of the early 3133 chronograph movements. The chronograph is very similar to the one pictured in the 1982 catalogue(see above).
A typical mid-80s bridge stamp:
Of course, this is just my own theory. However, any other scenario would involve an extra flip-flop of the serial number at some point.
Whatever the case may be, the lack of a Poljot crown on the main body of the movement, and the protruding stem release button head, are the two common properties that enable you to date a movement to the early years of production. Plus, if you were to take into account serial numbers on the high side of 5000, it's not hard to imagine movements with these bridge stamps running into the early '80s. According to a few sources, production of the 3017 chronograph was approximately 5000 unit per year, and there is no reason to believe it was much higher for the pre-1989 3133 chronographs. Again, if anyone has some hard evidence--I'd love to see it!
Moving on from the so-called military-issue period, the only change of significance made to the serial number was in 1989 when it was changed from a 4-digit number to a 5-digit number. At this point during the era of Perestroika, projected production would have been in excess of 10,000 units per year and hence an extra digit would have been necessary.
An early 5-digit serial number "04226" 1989:
A complete bridge stamp overhaul took place in 1997 with a noticeable downsizing of the serial number font.
The Date Ring
The San Serif font on the early date ring prints is slightly bolder.
An early '80s aviator model sporting a replaced chrono second hand, repaired second and chrono minute hand, a replaced crystal, and the original older date ring print:
A mid-80s Aviator with a slightly more refined print of the same Sans Serif font on the date ring:
A new thin and tall Gothic-style font replaces the old Sans Serif date ring font in 1988.
Over a decade later, just Prior to the demise of Poljot, a new and much bolder font made it's debut in 2001.
The Chronograph Reset Lever
Converted from a two-piece adjustable to one-piece non-adjustable between 1986-87. Another easy way to date your chronograph.
Dials, Bezels and Cases
To keep things manageable, I'm going to limit coverage to the late-seventies and majority of the eighties. Juri Levenberg’s numerous catalogues, available through his eBay store, adequately cover the hundreds of dials available throughout the nineties.
Documented history of the early Poljot 3133 chronographs is, to say the least, vague. According to numerous sources(all repeating the same thing), the military-issue OKEAH was produced first, followed shortly thereafter by the military-issue Aviator Sturmanskie, and then we jump ahead 5-years to the release of the 3133 movement for non-military use in 1983 - with nothing more than a few links to spaceflights for other pre-1983 models. Beyond 1983, however, you can find a much greater degree of information, mostly imagery, supplied by sources across the internet.
A quick reference timeline chart:
First, I'd like to touch on something all the chronograph dials have in common; the machining of the chronograph eyes. There are a few different variations. On the early dials, the ridge connecting the sunken chronograph eyes and the main face of the dial has a curved slope:
Note the slight curvature at the far end of the the painted indices adjacent to the chronograph eye.
Some mid-'80s dials had what looks to be a trench around the vertical walls that connect the sunken chronograph eyes and the main face of the dial.
Later versions are simple straight cut right angles:
The so-called "Civilian" dials:
Not all of the colour variations (silver, black or blue) are listed.
A high-resolution scan of the chronograph(3) alledged to have been worn by Berezovoy on the T-5 Soyuz mission between May 13 - December 10, 1982:
At the time new to Poljot chronographs, Serif-type fonts began to appear on Poljot watches ca. 1980.
Although it's clear that the dials with the Sans Serif font date back to the seventies, there is evidence to support both the San Serif dials, and the newer style dials with the slab Serif-type font, existed side by side through the early and mid-'80s:
Almost identical dials.
The chronograph(2) in the centre of the image below is identical to the one alleged to have been worn by Gorbatko during the Soyuz 24 flight between February 7-25, 1977. Somehow, it made it's way into Poljot's 1992 catalogue. Unfortunately, I have no evidence to suggest that the older Sans Serif dials survived into the '90s. Therefore, I can only assume that (in the absence of an image of the newer model [i.e. with Serif-type font]) an older image from a previous catalogue was used in it’s place.
Note the positioning of the hands? For catalogue presentation, all Poljot watches had their hands positioned at 1:43. Also, notice the wrong hands on the model on the left, and the misaligned dial overlay! How did that make it to print?
One the most sought after Poljot Chronographs, limited production OKEAH chronographs from the late 1970s are almost non-existent, and original 1980s models are few and far between in today's online marketplaces.
The chronograph alleged to have been worn by Razhdestvensky on the Soyuz 23 mission between October 14-16, 1976:
The one easily identifiable difference between early(late-‘70s, early-‘80s) and later model OKEAH dials is the slightly smaller font used to print the name "OKEAH".
A picture taken from the official Volmax web site with the same small font:
A Poljot catalogue image (probably from the early '80s) of an early OKEAH:
Again, for catalogue presentation, all Poljot watches had their hands positioned at 1:43. Also note the red time zone numbers on the rotating bezel, another indication of an early model.
And here is what I believe to be the definitive proof that this is the original OKEAH dial:
This watch has a later model of the original 3133 movement with the protruding head on the crown release button(see "Chronograph Bridge Stamps - Poljot Crown" above).
A mid-'80s OKEAH:
Military-issue OKEAHs have stainless steel cases. To date, I have no evidence of OKEAHs being produced into the nineties.
Limited editions of the Aviator model were released up until it was replaced by the new grey painted version beginning in 1986. I own two of the older Aviator Sturmanskies. Both are fitted with stainless steel cases and stainless steel push buttons. I doubt this chronograph was ever available to the general public.
A mid-'80s Aviator Sturmanskie:
The early version of the new style stainless steel Aviator Sturmanskie 31569 - 1987:
How do you tell whether on not the case is stainless steel? It's not that easy. Check for wear-through on the chronograph push buttons and back side of the case - not the actual screwed down case back which is stainless steel on all models. The screw down stainless steel case back is a good excuse for vendors to claim "Stainless Steel".
A late Soviet-era Sturmanskie 31569 and 3133 -1991:
An excerpt from an early '90s Poljot catalogue: "During the latest Soviet-German space flight the new design of watch "Schturmanskie" was highly appreciated by spacemen."
An by modern-day collectors too!
My late Soviet-era Sturmanskie:
There out there, so take a good look at the dial of any '80s chronograph before purchasing. The easiest way to tell if the dial is a reproduction is by checking for a contemporary application of luminance, as the colour, texture, and volume is way off.
I hate to end on a sour note, so here's an awesome image of the still available Volmax OKEAH 3133: