The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?
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  1. #1
    Member sergione's Avatar
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    Smile The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    I don't mean to start a public stoneing , but I'm only wondering what watch colletors find cool in Russian watches.I'm only starting my collection , I own swiss and japanese watches only . I live in Romania , finding Russian watches is not very hard .I 'm just wondering , is there anything really cool about them? In terms of design I haven't seen anything mind blowing yet. As far as accuracy ,I have no idea.I have heard though that they are quite realiable.

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    Member Seele's Avatar
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    Re: The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    Sergione,

    I heard a somewhat similar question like that, and the answer was: "if you have to ask, you won't get it!"

    Seriously, I feel that most of us cannot put it into words either. For me it's an area of collecting and study that is narrower than, say Swiss watches, but yet not as narrow as concentrate on one particular marque. Even if I did that, each marque would still present plenty of opportunities.

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    Member sebastienb's Avatar
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    Re: The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    First charm for me is that russian watches are the only affordable quality mechanical/automatic watches that are not made in Asia (AFAIK). Plus, some have interesting appearance and history.

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    Member Mark Gordon's Avatar
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    Re: The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    This is a copy of an answer I posted on an earlier thread. But it is an appropriate response to this question...

    I normally I don't get involved with threads about the personal reasons for collecting and the value of the items I collect. But you are asking questions that probably lots of others here are asking, at least in their heads. So I will try to answer them.

    Put simply, I love the history that the objects represent, not the objects themselves.

    The story of watch and clock making in Soviet Russia is totally unlike the history of horology in Switzerland, Germany or anywhere else in the world. In fact, for the first and just about the only time in history, a major industry was created in a Socialist society totally from scratch.

    Starting in 1930 with the purchase of a bankrupt American factory employing obsolete technology, by the mid-1960s the Soviet Union had become the second-largest manufacturer of mechanical clocks and watches in the world - second only to Switzerland - employing world-class technologies and incorporating state-of-the-art features seen only on much more expensive watches in the West.

    Soviet watches and clocks look and feet different. They are the product of a much more practical approach to engineering and manufacturing, and their case and dial designs reflect the unique utopian and populist aesthetics of a Communist government.

    As the Soviet industry grew and matured, it saw a parade of colorful and improbable characters, and also terrible tragedies, including Stalin’s purges and the Great War (World War Two).

    This history is why you should be fascinated with Russian watches and why you should be proud to wear them.

    Today, there are many serious collectors of Soviet-era clocks and watches scattered all around the world and this community is growing rapidly. Based on my experience, there are especially active ‘hotspots’ in the USA, in Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, Poland and the Ukraine, in Singapore and Australia, and of course in Russia itself.

    If you would like some documentation about the world’s growing fascination with Soviet-era Russian clocks and watches, visit my website and click on ‘In the Press’ on the home page. There are articles on collecting Russian watches in mass market plublications such as ‘Forbes Magazine’ and the ‘International Herald Tribune’, not to mention a variety of specialty watch magazines.

    Some collectors are very knowledgeable and are interested in very narrow sub-specialties such as chronographs, naval clocks, or aircraft clocks. These people often have amazing rarities in their collections, which they enthusiastically share with others who are interested. I even know a ‘collector’ who owns very few actual watches and clocks, but he has amassed an amazing collection of knowledge about Soviet-era movements and how to repair them.

    Often, my collector friends and I cooperate and collaborate on projects and searches. For example, the unearthing of the ca. 1960 transistorized chronometer I recently posted on the Forum was a result of a successful collaboration between collectors in 4 countries over a period of almost 3 years.

    Price really isn’t an issue in the sense that collectors should spend an amount they are comfortable with. If you are knowledgeable, you can find interesting and amazing things at all price levels.

    Some very rare Soviet pieces can be expensive, especially if they cross over into other collector fields. There are people who just collect rare chronometers, for example, and they are always eager to snag and to pay big money for the very scarce Soviet pieces. In those instances if you decide to make a purchase you just grit your teeth and do it.

    But many very rare Soviet pieces are surprisingly cheap. Price is determined by demand not scarcity, and relative to Rolex or Omega collectors, there are relatively few people collecting vintage Soviet pieces. I have pieces of which there are only a half dozen known in the world and they cost me only $50 or $85. All of my collector friends can tell stories about similar finds.

    Very few of my pieces cost more than a good 3-star dinner for two, and only one or two would cost more than a nice weekend in Paris.

    Lastly, I am often asked about the investment value of my collection. My answer is unequivocal. I collect for the knowledge and relaxation this hobby provides. If my heirs make any money from it after I am dead, that’s their luck.

    As anyone familiar with investing can tell you, there are plenty of safer places to put your money if you are looking for financial growth and security.

    In the end, everyone collects for their own personal reasons, but for me the fascination is not so much about acquiring the actual clocks and watches, as it is about discovering them and sharing my knowledge about them.

    -- Mark
    Last edited by Mark Gordon; October 27th, 2011 at 16:22.
    Gravit, williepete and CCCP like this.
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    a fully searchable photo-info database containing more than 1500 Soviet-era clocks & watches

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    Member janl's Avatar
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    Re: The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    Great answer Mark!
    I would learn it by heart, so I would have an answer ready when friends ask me about my watches. It's just a tad long ;)

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    Re: The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    Thanks for sharing Mark. I have thought about getting a russian, but I was only considering vintage anyway, for the history mostly, as you said.Where I live , the most common vintage pieces are Raketas and Pobedas.Dirt cheap, some in decent shape but I'm not sure about the working condition and the movements.I don't think I'd buy a post soviet watch. For some reasons , it's just not as appealing as a communist relic .

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    Re: The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    Thanks for the great post Mark.
    As a new comer, I find the insights you, and others at the forum are sharing so freely and openly are truly inspiring and very informative. Thank you.

    Personally, I was beginning to wonder if I had caught a strange virus. The urge to fully explore each and every nook and cranny of the Russian watch story is very strong. I can only equate it to the immensely strong childhood fascination I had collecting hockey cards and army men. This, however seems a much more rewarding journey for me at this point in life.

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    Re: The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    For me, it was a loose connection with my Slavic heritage - USA born with Ukrainian parents.

    Though the Soviets never had any factories in Ukraine. That's disappointing and a little puzzling. Were the Soviets afraid that if they put a watch factory in Ukraine then the Ukrainians would modify it to build a machine to escape the Soviet Union? Actually, they might have tried that ...

  10. #9
    Member sergione's Avatar
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    Re: The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    Quote Originally Posted by watch22 View Post
    For me, it was a loose connection with my Slavic heritage - USA born with Ukrainian parents.

    Though the Soviets never had any factories in Ukraine. That's disappointing and a little puzzling. Were the Soviets afraid that if they put a watch factory in Ukraine then the Ukrainians would modify it to build a machine to escape the Soviet Union? Actually, they might have tried that ...
    they had some pretty big camera factories in ukraine at the time. they made cameras like zorki and cmena. but that's a different story.

  11. #10
    phd
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    Re: The charm of Russian/Soviet watches?

    Well, I had to make a choice between Soviet watches and helicopters. In the end, it came down to a question of storage space.

    But seriously? For me, it's partly just a question of having decided to collect something. I expect I could enjoy collecting stamps or beer-mats. But with Soviet and Russian watches, there is the attraction of something which is idiosyncratic and shows the influences of a culture which is still a little mysterious to most Westerners. Finally, as [Seele] mentioned, there's the fact that Soviet watches are a small enough field to manage. I actually started collecting watches almost at random (including many vintage LED/LCD watches, and particularly calculator watches), then realized I needed to focus on one country, and eventually on one factory.

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