Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR
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  1. #1
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    Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    The most recent addition to my collection: A 1958/59 "Ruhla" watch. Definitely not one of the better known manufacturers (the vast majority of search results are of the "what the hell is this watch" variety), Ruhla was East Germany's primary state-owned ("Volkseigener Betrieb") watch manufacturer from the early 1950s through the dissolution of the DDR. The watches were produced in massive quantities for use domestically, throughout the iron curtain, and also exported to many western countries.

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    The vast majority of Ruhlas used the Calibre 24 movement. This was an in-house movement utilizing an entirely mechanized, highly efficient manufacturing process. The downside of this being that the Cal. 24 is a very low-grade pin pallet movement without shock protection. Not much to look at, either:

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    Fortunately, the early models utilized a variety of higher-grade, more conventionally manufactured movements. This particular watch has the UMF M 2c movement. A simple manual-winding 16-jewel movement with shock protection. Ruhla movements generally have a reputation of being reliable and relatively accurate (even the cal. 24 pin pallets, surprisingly).

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    Overall it's just a simple, attractive dress watch in excellent condition. It keeps time to within about 8-10 seconds a day. According to my geiger counter, the dial has radium paint on the hands and markers, but it's fortunately far less radioactive than my grandfather's Tudor of the same period. The dial is marked "UMF Ruhla", or "Uhren Maschinenfabrik Ruhla" (Ruhla Watchworks.) Later models drop the UMF and simply say "Ruhla."

    It's interesting to note that the dial markings on the early models say simply "Made in Germany", while later models say "Made in GDR." The Berlin Wall was not yet built in 1959, and hopes of a near-term German reunification had not yet been thoroughly dashed, so I'm guessing the DDR did not feel the need to specifically indicate East German origin at this time.

    Ruhla watches seem to have essentially zero value to any collectors. The upside to this is that they're dirt-cheap, and there are tons of them available (Although all examples after 1963 will use the Cal. 24, or one of their later electric or quartz movements).
    Last edited by gordon9999; November 30th, 2015 at 18:12.

  2. #2
    Member Border-Reiver's Avatar
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    Re: Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    Interesting, just one correction: 'Ruhla' is not a brand name, but the name of a city in the former East Germany. The brand is 'UMF' Uhren- und Maschinenfabrik, Ruhla (watches and machinery, Ruhla). UMF became a VEB - Volkseigener Betrieb (nationalized company), although, as you have correctly mentioned, some later watches show just 'Ruhla' on the dial. UMF is the successor of Gebrueder Thiel GmbH, Ruhla (Thiel Brothers Ltd., Ruhla). Besides the watches formely produced by Thiel, like Start, Hektor, Norma, Regular, Saturn etc., they produced watches developped by the Russian Автовело SAG, as a subsidiary of this company.

    And yes, they do not have the highest respect amongst collectors. This is not due to the fact, that they were not able to produce good watches in Ruhla (they are not so bad after all), but due to the circumstances of being under Russian control in a socialistic country. On one hand, they had to continue making old models without major modifications, on the other hand, they were manufacturing Russian watches, with slightly better craftsmanship. After the reunification, the world has seen many companies from the old centers of watchmaking in Germany in the Eastern part, such as Glashütte, who have shown what they are able to come up with in a free economy. 'Glashütte Original' and others have made it back in the top league.

    Watchmakers keep a bucket full of watches made in Ruhla (not by Ruhla!) to throw after customes not closing the shop door behind them (sorry, just joking!)

    Today, elder watchmakers residing in the former East Germany, are still a good source to have a antique or vintage clock or watch fixed, as they still understand their trade and were forced to make a lot of repair jobs, whilst their colleagues in the West mostly suggested to throw the watch away. He, who can do more than changing batteries is already called a 'restorer' in the West, whilst these things we daily routine in an economy of scarcity.

    Nevertheless, enjoy you watch!
    Last edited by Border-Reiver; November 30th, 2015 at 14:36.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    A beautiful watch in a really great condition. The 1950s UMF Ruhla watches with jewelled movements are something that I'd definitely wear. The later pin-lever, no-jewels watches were rubbish- and I'd prefer tuberculosis over such a Ruhla. Yes, I know that the Ruhla pin-levers have their fans, and Ruhla watches are an important thing in the so-called Ostalgia. Having met enough former Ruhla wearers, I could summarize their opinions into one: a pin-lever UMF shows the right time only two times a day.
    If I wouldn't be able to find a jewelled one, I'd hunt for a good GUB Glashutte.
    Which reminds me, that a few months ago I've actually seen a jewelled UMF at a flea market. Now I regret, that I didn't buy it.
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  5. #4
    Mod. Russian, China Mech. Chascomm's Avatar
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    Re: Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    This post over on the Russian forum may be of interest to Ruhla enthusiasts:

    https://forums.watchuseek.com/f10/ruh...s-2623002.html
    Chascomm
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  6. #5
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    Re: Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    Hi there,

    don't underestimate these sheet metal punchers. It is easy to create and produce a high grade watch for consumers with well filled wallet, but it is difficult to combine sheet metal shreds to a running watch. So you'll never meet a Patek Philippe pinlever, while some of the sheet metal punchers well designed high grade movements now and then.

    The Thiel brothers, predecessors of UMF produced e.g. this movement in the 20s:



    And Ebauches Bettlach (EB), one of the biggest pin-lever makers realized this one:



    And guess what the later is made of: Punched sheet metal, except the cocks for balance and pallet-lever.

    Regards, Roland Ranfft

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    Re: Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    What do You know, pinlevers with microregulators :)
    Chaos is my focus

  8. #7
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    Re: Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    Speaking of Ruhla/Thiel: Someone found 10,000 (in words: ten thousand) of these movements in a barn. They are/were offered at good discounts, if you buy lots of 100 or 1000 (I just bought tree of them out of curiosity, without discount).

    They were made between 1937 and 1945, which immediately suggests (in connection with the technical features), that they must be part of the World War II machinery, perhaps time fuses (although it’s construction would not suggest the use with explosives). Nevertheless, people were a bit worried to see these things on the market in large quantities.

    In reality, these Thiel Regular III movements were foreseen for a usage in weather balloons (not just because they were found wrapped into a balloon material).

    They are very rudimentary, all components needed to indicate the time are missing. The winding is effected, like on old pocket watches, via a square shaft, whereby the short spring is fully wound up after about 1 1/2 turns. Running time is very short.

    The spring is in a double layer, giving a lot of power, more than needed to move watch hands around the dial, intended to be the driving force for a barograph or other recording devices in a weather balloon.

    Speculations about other uses dealt with a function of relasing certain loads (f.i. recording devices on a parachute, or ‘flyers’ in the true sense of the word) from the balloon after a certain period of time, but reliable sources indicate a sole use as a drive for the barograph.

    As these movements are basically identical with some movements of Thiel, they can very well serve as a source for parts.

    Over Christmas, I use one of them to turn a candleholder with a Navity scene...
    Attached Images Attached Images

    Last edited by Border-Reiver; November 30th, 2015 at 16:25.
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  9. #8
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    Re: Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    Quote Originally Posted by Border-Reiver View Post
    Speaking of Ruhla/Thiel: Someone found 10,000 (in words: ten thousand) of these movements in a barn. They are/were offered at good discounts, if you buy lots of 100 or 1000 (I just bought tree of them out of curiosity, without discount).

    They were made between 1937 and 1945, which immediately suggests (in connection with the technical features), that they must be part of the World War II machinery, perhaps time fuses (although it’s construction would not suggest the use with explosives). Nevertheless, people were a bit worried to see these things on the market in large quantities.

    In reality, these Thiel Regular III movements were foreseen for a usage in weather balloons (not just because they were found wrapped into a balloon material).

    They are very rudimentary, all components needed to indicate the time are missing. The winding is effected, like on old pocket watches, via a square shaft, whereby the short spring is fully wound up after about 1 1/2 turns. Running time is very short.

    The spring is in a double layer, giving a lot of power, more than needed to move watch hands around the dial, intended to be the driving force for a barograph or other recording devices in a weather balloon.

    Speculations about other uses dealt with a function of relasing certain loads (f.i. recording devices on a parachute, or ‘flyers’ in the true sense of the word) from the balloon after a certain period of time, but reliable sources indicate a sole use as a drive for the barograph.

    As these movements are basically identical with some movements of Thiel, they can very well serve as a source for parts.

    Over Christmas, I use one of them to turn a candleholder with a Navity scene...
    Very cool. I think any watch story that starts with "found in a barn" is going to be good :)
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  10. #9
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    Re: Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    1960s 34mm Ruhla in brass case, UMF 24. From Bulgaria to my wrist, Ebay affordable purchase. Wound it 11 times. Ran for 13 hrs. About -30 sec. No quick set date obviously. When you push in the crown the minute hand can jiggle ahead a couple of minutes requiring it to be re-set. Other than that this interesting piece, made in East Germany, seems AOK.
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    Last edited by priamo; March 3rd, 2018 at 07:45.
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    Re: Something different: 1950s Ruhla from the DDR

    Quote Originally Posted by priamo View Post
    1960s 34mm Ruhla in brass case, UMF 24. From Bulgaria to my wrist, Ebay affordable purchase. Wound it 11 times. Ran for 13 hrs. About -30 sec. No quick set date obviously. When you push in the crown the minute hand can jiggle ahead a couple of minutes requiring it to be re-set. Other than that this interesting piece, made in East Germany, seems AOK.
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    The UMF Ruhla caliber 24 mainspring will power the watch for approximately 28 hours continuous running- sometimes longer. There is more about the calibre 24 on my Ostalgieruhla website: https://ostalgieruhla.wordpress.com/...r-24-movement/

    I am pleased you like your Ruhla.

    Ruhla Rules!

    Sekondtime

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