Vostok Amphibia SE 670333S: the return of the Albatross
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  1. #1
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    Vostok Amphibia SE 670333S: the return of the Albatross

    The last decade of existence of the Soviet had been a very busy working time for Soviet watchmakers: from 1981 to 1991 many iconic designs were introduced and commercialised, both in the COMECON area and in Western countries. Among those watches one of the most successful had been the last then incarnation of the Amphibia family line from Chistopol, the antimagnetic octogonal 370 and 470 cases with the then new manual 2409 movement, often (but not always) sold with new dials named "Albatros". Since then "Albatros" has become the unofficial nickname for this breed of Amphibias.

    It can be speculated that the antimagnetic Albatros as well as its predecessor, the tonneau cased antimagnetic Amphibia with 2209 movement was developed for the Soviet military as well as civil Navy: on modern ships with radar as well as other equipment that might generate strong electromagnetic fields (radios) a watch with an additional mild iron shield under the backplate might have been extremely convenient. While not an official issues officers and sailors could purchase these watches in military shops called Voentorg:

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    This picture was kindly share by the user YNP, who in the 80s served in the Soviet Navy as deck officer and naval engineer. He said he bought this antimagnetic Albatros in the mid 80s during his military service



    This is the milling cut used to create the sides of the cases 370/470, my understanding is that it's still used.

    Albatrosses were very popular but unfortunately discontinued just after the end of the Union, unlike other styles that remained in production until now.

    In July Meranom (an official Vostok retailer from Chistopol) reintroduced the Albatros with a new case redesigned to fit the automatic 2416 movement, as well as the 24hours 2431 (quite a new concept as in Soviet times Vostok never produced a 24 h Amphibia, even if 24h watches were very popular for obvious reasons), the new case was named 670 keeping the tradition of the X70 octagonal case denomination.

    As soon as it appeared I couldn't resist and I grabbed one, as a I am traditionalist I chose the model more alike one of the most common Soviet types, the 370/470333 combination, that is a polished/starbrushed octagonal case with a 333 dial, that is a quartered one with an arrow at 12 o'clock, evidently inspired by the high legibility Western divers of the 70s (see Doxa sharkhunter), this is an original Soviet watch:



    Although I don't have this original Soviet combination I have other three Albatrosses so I think I can make a fair comparison between old an new.

    The watch arrived today in this new Vostok package:

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    Usually Vostok SEs came with a small case with a cushion, but I think they switched to the "stick box" because of the new rubber strap (also available separately in different colours).

    The watch in question according to the papers was born in Tatarstan the 22th of July 2016, it was sold the 4th of July for $115 and arrived today, the 26th of August, so it might considered the one of the last example of today's QC in the Vostok factory.

    The first thing you might noticed in comparison to the Soviet originals and other SE types is that the 333-22 dial has perfectly white numbers and writings, the original ones were pale green and had slightly thicker fonts. It is also interesting to notice that the 2015 420333 SE model did have the green graphic with luminous numbers as it can been seen in this mediocre pic that compares the two watches:

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    Both dials are branded Vostok like the original, but naturally the 420 doesn't have the antimagnetic script that in the new watch is written under the logo, while the original reported it at 6 o'clock. The new dial in this position has "antimagnetic,31 jewels, automatic, and 200m". It also has a date at 3 o'clock but thanks to the black calendar wheel it feels completely organic to the rest of the dial and not an afterthought, even if perhaps at 4h, 30" it would have looked even less invasive. The printing quality is very high but as written before the white colour is a little disconcerting because it makes the new Albatross look more like a Western military watch like the Benrus MkII diver of the 60s than the Soviet predecessor:

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    At least to my eyes... this sensation is emphasized by the sand blast finish of the case (actually very well done) than the traditional brushed finish of the 42033SE.

    As soon as you handle the watch you noticed that it is hefty, significantly bigger than the original Soviet watch: according to my caliper the new Albatross is 41 mm wide (without crown), 49 lug to lug (50mm total length of the case) for a total beefy thickness of 15.5mm, while the 470 measurements are 38mm, 43mm (47mm) and 12.5mm. The difference in thickness is noticeable, the Soviet Albatross is completely flush on the wrist because of the completely flat backplate, while the new one sits 5mm higher. The difference can be explained partially by the switch to an automatic movement, but the 2416 is just 2mm thicker than the 2409, so the extra 1mm can be assumed to be given for "wrist presence". The central scalloped band of the case is 1.5 mm thicker (4.5 instead of 3mm) so it's not just the domed backplate to make the difference.

    The crown is the same as the 420333SE, that means machined (not stamped like the standard Vostok one) and with the "b" engraved logo. The bezel is also the same for both watches and of good quality, but having a 38.5 mm while it perfectly fits the round Amphibia it results too small for the 41mm case, as you can see the flat surface where the bezel rotates is clearly visible, IMO a 40 or even 41mm bezel would fit more the bigger case: the old chromed bezel from Soviet Amphibians were 38mm wide for 38mm cases.

    As soon as I received it of course I opened the case to check if the watch was really antimagnetic (it wasn't advertised as such and I just noticed the writing on the dial) and yes, I can confirm the mild iron core press fit inside the backplate:

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    In the Soviet watches the antimagnetic shield was a separate cover inside the backplate, but the automatic antimagnetic watches of that era (ex. the 960 Scuba dude) had adopted the same solution. That definitely makes the Albatross, not many watches with an antimagnetic protection are available on the market today for a cheap price and this feature makes it unique. Regarding how many A/ms it can withstand before magnetisation I can't say, but it would be interesting to test it scientifically.

    The inspection of the movement reveals it has been very well put together, the brushing is clean and the rotor doesn't rattle as other Vostoks from few years ago, unfortunately I don't have a timing machine to measure amplitude and beat error but usually SEs are better regulated than your bread and butter Amphibia.

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    Once worn the watch feels...well big, it completely feels my tiny 6.5" wrist, but still feels comfortable to wear, more comfortable than a 090 case thanks to the compat octagonal design and the 20 mm (instead of 22mm) silicone strap, that is very high quality, soft but VERY thick.


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    The branded buckle is also IMO too big and shiny for both watch and strap:

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    While good quality. As already pointed out the strap is very comfortable, soft and supple.

    In conclusion the new Albatross is a welcome addiction to the current Vostok line: solidly built, with a good strap, antimagnetic and with a unique style it can be appreciated not just by Russian fanatics but also for those who are looking for an automatic diver at good price that doesn't want to spend money with mods and want a watch ready to be worn.

    What would I change? I would like a larger bezel for the larger case and a smaller and brushed buckle, I don't think that besides that it needs any other tweaks, perhaps later I would make a starburst brushing on the top and I hope that in the future more dials, even branded Albatross, will be available for this 670 line.
    Last edited by cuthbert; August 26th, 2016 at 17:02.

  2. #2
    Member Nokie's Avatar
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    Re: Vostok Amphibia SE 670333S: the return of the Albatross

    Nicely done. Good info.
    "Either he's dead or my watch has stopped"
    Groucho Marx

  3. #3
    Member cuthbert's Avatar
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    Re: Vostok Amphibia SE 670333S: the return of the Albatross

    Quote Originally Posted by Nokie View Post
    Nicely done. Good info.
    Sorry for the bad pics but I was in a hurry.

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    Re: Vostok Amphibia SE 670333S: the return of the Albatross

    Great info! Big fan of Russian watches!

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