This post is dedicated to all the watch collectors who don't know the world of the Russian watches. One of the most frequently asked question, is "Are Russian watches good?", so i will try to make a short guide.
Of course, this must be intended as the first thing that must be read by the newbies. For further questions, you can post in the main section of the Russian watch forum, but please USE THE SEARCH BUTTON, the answer that you are searching for, is probably already present in our huge archive.
Well, now i will try to give my personal opinion on the quality of Russian watches. First of all, in many cases don't expect a level of finish/construction higher than Swiss (or Swiss-branded) watches. Russian watches were built mainly to be cheap and simple.
For example, Vostok produced robust, simple and reliable timepieces (Komandirskie, Amphibia and others). After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a downfall of the quality - broken movements, loss of chrome on chrome-plated cases, etc. Now the situation seems to be better, owners of Amphibia watches are usually very happy and they use their watches under very hard conditions.
However, still being the construction of those watches almost totally manual, some defect of construction may happen sometime. Sellers know that, and usually they repair or replace the defected piece. Don't forget that Russian watch industry is still in a phase of rebuild. Anyway, Vostok watches are currently known for being simple, cheap and durable.
Vostok-Europe are built in Lithuania, with Vostok or Seiko movements. They are now in the price range of Japanese watches, and they are making big improvements - usually the watches are well-built, some problem here too (i.e. some defected crown on early N1 models), but today the QC control is excellent. They are excellent if you want something comparable to Japanese products about ruggedness and technical style.
Poljot is probably the most prestigious Russian brand, because it produced mechanical chronographs, the main desire of all the watch collectors. Soviet-made Poljot were simple but well built. After the fall of USSR, Poljot immediately launched new and attractive models, apparently with better materials, but often with unadjusted movements. This led, for example, to many watches with badly working chrono functions (early Aviator series). All easily fixable stuff anyway.
The companies born from the ashes of Poljot and/or those who produces watches with Poljot movements (Volmax, Denissov, Moscow Classic, etc.) produce very good timepieces, with a finish not very distant from good Western products. But, again, sometime some problem can happen, and again those problems are usually easy to solve. Anyway, nowadays they are all on the good way. For example, Volmax is making huge efforts in QC, style and design. Denissov are top-notch niche watches, Moscow Classic have a lower price but their quality is OK as well.
Poljot International and Pilot are two "semi-Russian" brands located in Germany. The first one makes high-end watches with Russian movements (but sometime also with non-Russian movements), with higher level of finish. They are very accurated, and the higher price is justified by a special accuracy in the finish (all the movements are polished and decorated) and construction. They are mostly well-adjusted too.
About "Pilot" watches, they are basically comparable to the Poljot watches of some years ago (i.e. the "Berkut" chronograph is very similar to the Poljot Aviator 1) - good quality and materials, but sometime they have assembling defects. They are mostly made in Germany.
Raketa watches were usually very cheap and reliable, albeit with a very basic (if not missing) finish. After the Soviet collapse, the factory went bankrupt. Then Raketa contnued again to produce watches, same movements, but the finish of the cases and dials was very rough and QC was very low.
Today Raketa instead launched a totally new series of watches, with perfect finish and with totally new components on the basis of the improved old caliber, following the "quality" way tracked by Volmax and others.
Slava is still existing, but it's working with an expiring stock of movements (whose production was stopped years ago). They are using some new style of cases, but they definitely lost the run to the quality (automatics give some problems sometime).
Maktime is a relatively new brand. That company produces many movements previously made by Poljot (using Poljot and Slava tools), it's the supplier of the legendary caliber 3133 used by lot of Russian brands. But it's a maker of complete watches too, always with in-house movements. Cases and styles are quite simple, sometime based on old Poljot designs, but still pleasant and witha competitive QC/price ratio.
Anyway, there are some common things between so many different Russian watches - sometime they may have some problem, but keep in mind that my cousin gave back a brand-new Hamilton chronograph (Valjoux 7750) because it was unadjusted...
I have NEVER seen a Russian watch impossible to fix. They are usually very reliable, and if something does not work, it's very easy to fix it, often for little or zero money.
Do you feel more informated about Russian watches? Now you can post further questions in the main forum: