Quality on different sides of the iron curtain

Thread: Quality on different sides of the iron curtain

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  1. #1
    Member gagarin's Avatar
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    Question Quality on different sides of the iron curtain

    I´ve encountered different opinions amongst watchmakers when it comes to my collection of soviet/russian wristwatches. Some say there okay utilitarian movements with sloppy made case and dial sometimes and other say that their movements are crap to be frank. On the russian forum, were I spend most of my time, the disscusion tends to lean at one direction obviously, but since I´m not experienced so much myself I don´t know what to think.

    It would be nice to hear what experts from this forum thinks since they are mabe more experienced in western watches aöls from, lets say, the 60´and 70´and maybe can compare.

    It would be nice to have some more input if possible since my next project is to find a Strela, cyrillic version. In international magazines the column wheel movements, one used in Strela, is written in bold letters, so it has to be something about that for instance.

    Regards
    ERik
    ps I have already seen a couple of friends from the russian forum here
    Gagarin

  2. #2
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Quality on different sides of the iron curtain

    Hi -

    What a can of worms to open...

    As I am sure you are well aware of, there are a lot of different Russian watches out there, ranging from extremely good to extremely poor quality.

    I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that basically the older the Soviet-era watch, generally the better the quality. However, given that cases weren't necessarily the strong point of vintage watches into the 1970s, it's hard to find really great examples of older Russian manufacturing ability, except, of course, what Ill-Phil finds.

    The Soviet watch industry was based on some of the best US and Swiss watchmakers, and this shows in their earlier watches. Later on, as the older equipment wore out and the older designs were replaced by Soviet designs, compromises were made based on non-commercial decisions. Some of these were good decisions, but others were not really good, and the quality began to decline over time.

    I've got several Pobedas from the 1950s, as well as others dating into the most recent past. My impressions are that the older ones compare very well to brands like Cyma, Roamer and the like, but do not compare to the top-level Swiss makers like Omega or the US makers like Hamilton. Finding great examples of these watches is getting harder and harder, as simply not that many survived.

    Later more and more compromises were made that cut into the quality of the movements. Watches made for the military (Okean, Shturmanskie) were then sold to the general public and remained strong contenders throughout the entire manufacturing period (watches made with the Poljot 3133 and its derivatives are great watches, performing very well indeed), but the purely civilian watches became increasingly of poor quality, following the general decline of the Soviet consumer goods industry in general in a political-economic system that carried the seeds of its own failure.

    Nowadays, the Russian watch industry is too fragmented to be easily described, and I think you can find out more about the current state of the industry on the Russian watches forum.

    Thinking of what you can collect nowadays, the Pobedas and similiar watches from the 1950s/1960s are probably of the highest quality; the older Vostoks are more comparable to the Seiko diver watches, i.e. inexpensive prices, robust but at the end of the day only moderate performers. Pretty much any military-issue watch will have been well-built and the civilian versions of these watches are highly collectible.

    But these latter don't compare to a good-quality Swiss chronograph of the same time period, as the manufacturing differences are apparent in finish and design: not that the Soviet watches were bad, but the Swiss of the same time period were at the pinnacle, in many ways, of their abilities and represent, to me, the peak of Swiss design and manufacturing expertise for everyday usage, in contrast to the very upscale luxury watches made in Switzerland today.

    JohnF
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  3. #3
    Member gagarin's Avatar
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    Re: Quality on different sides of the iron curtain

    Thanks John for your lenghty answer. Thing is that I already own an early production 3133 Sturmanskie, serial 1953, and a reissue of the Gagarin watch so I really want a Strela to have the three important aviation watches in Soviet cold war history.

    Thing is that fixing the 3133 with local watchmakers is a hassle since many wont even open it and a Strela for me would be something to use every now and then and not store in a box, therefore it has to be of good quality. Im already thinking about buying an tissot or longines chrono from the fifties instead because of this but I really like to finish my Russian collection, now a meager four pieces, with this historic timekeeper.

    I´m not planning on buying heaps of watches since I like to keep them in good condition and wear them, so I got three left before I get to my 10 piece limit,(mechanic watches, not my cheap timex and seiko stuff). Keeping them sharp is quite a job for me and I´d really like to have a handful of really nice ones, in my opinion, than to many.


    Regards
    Erik
    Gagarin

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  5. #4
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Quality on different sides of the iron curtain

    Hi -

    That's a very sensible plan for having some meaningful Russians.

    The problem with all older chronos is that they are fairly difficult for the average watchmaker to work on, since they are indeed complicated.

    JohnF
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  6. #5
    Member gagarin's Avatar
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    Re: Quality on different sides of the iron curtain

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnF View Post
    Hi -

    That's a very sensible plan for having some meaningful Russians.

    The problem with all older chronos is that they are fairly difficult for the average watchmaker to work on, since they are indeed complicated.

    JohnF
    Thanks your your opinion, I think I´ll have to go with the original plan and get a Strela. I will maybe be forced to send it for repairs and such to a well rennomated maker in Russia( should maybe be used to the caliber) but it´s perhaps worth it. My other watches are Omegas, an Oris and an Roamer and none of those are any problem to fix here at home.

    Regards
    Erik
    Gagarin

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