Today Iíd like to write about my Komandirskie K-34 watch I bought in January. Firstly, Iím not an English native speaker, so please forgive me my language flaws :)
K-34 is a relatively new series of military-style watches from Vostok Watch-Makers. There are a few variants produced, with date or GMT functions, a Pilot-style watch and an interesting version with luminous dial as well. Some chronograph quartz watches are also available. Cases are made of stainless steel or titanium. Prices slightly over $150, as far as I know.
Komandirskie watches first appeared in 1970í as military watches made for Soviet Union Defense Ministry. As time passed, the series has become a souvenir for tourists rather than a true military watch to speak of, however Vostok probably still has some army orders. K-34 series takes us back to the very first Komandirskie watches due to itís similar dial design. The cases design is new, though, and itís exactly what youíd expect of a military watch.
This particular one has a stainless steel case in matt finishing, resembling titanium, grey dial and features a well known, prehistorical almost, Vostok 2416B movement. It is a 31-jewel automatic movement developed in the Soviet era with date function. It has both automatic and manual winding mechanisms. Like most Russian movements, it doesnít have a date quickset system, which can be really annoying sometimes, as the date has to be set by going back and forth between 8PM and 12AM (it takes a long time if you have to advance the date almost a month ahead and itís definitely painful for the cannon pinion).
Design and finish
The Komandirskie K-34 definitely has a military look. It has a simple military style case and dial. Originally, it has a black leather strap with red thread and a very nice butterfly buckle with Komandirskie series logo. Unfortunately it doesnít fit my thin wrist too well Ė it sticks out too much, so I had to replace it with a nice Morellato textile strap. Case is made of stainless steel, though the matt finishing gives it a titanium-like appearance. The back is finished the same way as the case. This version doesnít have glass on the back, some do. The crown is big and look nice with a big Vostok logo on. Itís not screw-down like in previous Komandirskie watches, but itís even better IMO, since I donít like screw-down crowns at all, and the 10ATM water resistance is just enough. The glass is mineral and dome-shaped, no flaws found.
The dial is grey with white luminous numbers and hands. The use of white red color on a grey dial is a fantastic idea and looks great. The paint quality could be better maybe, as my brother says it looks like plastic, but maybe that was the point Ė who knows. I like the look of this watch very much.
The downsides (as far as design and finish is concerned) of this watch are both price and origin-related. There arenít many of them though. If you take a closer look, you can see, that the dial is not centered perfectly, the hour hand doesnít point the exact hour and luminova is not too bright and the glow fades very quickly (much better in Aviator or Japanese watches, and even slightly better on cheap Amphibianís hands). They could have done a much better job here, but sadly, Vostok watches are known of low quality luminova.
As Iíve mentioned before, the watch uses a 2416B Vostok in-house automatic caliber, designed in Soviet era. Itís exactly the same as the one in Amphibian series, but itís better regulated and has polished screws. Definitely not a beauty, but itís not visible in this watch anyway. Currently the 2416B and derivates are the only soviet automatic still in production and unlike most other USSR automatics, it has a ball bearing for the rotor. The movement has a weird frequency of 19.800bph, so the sound is distinctive :). It keeps good time, gains a bit, but all in acceptable range. The winder is efficient, but has a tendency to jam a bit from time to time (shaking the wrist slightly harder helps, but it shouldnít jam at all). The date changes nicely almost exactly at midnight. The indirectly driven seconds is well regulated, so it doesnít have this irritating stutter like in some watches with this or Miyota 82xx and similar movements. It jumps a lot during time setting though. The cannon pinion also seems to be a bit too tight in this one.
The quality of the movement is the watches biggest downside, as quite a lot of them have annoying issues, such as loose rotor, badly lubricated automatic winder or badly lubricated mainspring barrel, just to name the common ones. They are less common in K-34 than in cheap Amphibians, but still it might be o problem (still nothing a good watchmaker wouldnít fix). The lubricants longevity seems to be a disaster, most of these watches need service much earlier then Japanese ones in the same price range. It is however said, that export series are better than domestic (Iíve got a Russian market issue).
Komandirskie K-34 is a good, nicely looking and well finished watch, with some history about it, that may be a bit annoying due to movementís quality issues and weak lume. Definitely not a watch for you if you want a truly reliable timekeeper, but if youíre looking for a nice, simple military style watch, you should consider buying this one. I love this watch very much, and I just canít live without one anymore :).