The RUHLA NVA-Kampfschwimmer Re-Make (Limited Edition)
Review by Mike Stuffler
With the end of WW II, stocks of Glashütte made watches, together with tools and machines and the testing appliances of Gesundbrunnen near Dresden, were sent to the Soviet Union as 'repair' payments.
Under the Russian military government most private companies were taken from their owners and made into “Volkseigene Betriebe (VEB) “publicly owned facilities”.
So Lange, Assmann, Muehle (later), UFAG, UROFA and many other small manufacturers were concentrated into the “Glashütter Uhren-Betriebe VEB” which became famous and known as the GUB.
In the years to follow the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) as well as the Zentralkommitee (ZK) der SED mostly used the GUB as a supplier.
The ZK and subordinate party penals used GUB watches to celebrate their anniversaries and for honouring its members which could easily be described as the communist nomenclatura of the GDR.
Konrad Knirim for example mentiones the GUB automatic wristwatch with cal. 75 to be used for gifts in the military and in political circles.
A subsidiary of the GUB was located in Ruhla/Thuringia (Kombinat Mikro-Elektronik).
This subsidiary historically dates back to 1862 when Georg and Christian THIEL founded a metal ware company. In 1892 the Thiel brothers started to produce watches.
THIEL was expropriated in 1952 and integrated into the VEB in 1952.
The “Ruhla” was always known for developping simple mechanical wristwatches / movements and later precision quartz movements for divers watches and for pocket watches.
In the late 80ties however the “Ruhla” started to produce a huge diver´s watch to be issued to GDR armed forces and among them to the NVA-Kampfschwimmer (National People’s Army Combat Swimmers and Divers). Before that time the Kampfschwimmer used diver’s watches made in Russia and the Glashütte Spezichron diver’s watch.
After the re-unification Ruhla was split up into several private companies, one of them became the “Gardé Uhren und Feinmechanik Ruhla GmbH”.
Gardé is known for manufacturing Junkers and Zeppelin watches.
If you are interested in the watchmaking history of RUHLA please click here: http://www.garde.de/html/history.shtml
There is not much known about the Ruhla NVA-Kampfschmimmer. A lot of data is missing or uncomplete such as quantities, producing time, versions etc.
The new watch is said to be re-constructed accordingly to the old drafts of 1983 which is a least a hint.
However there is a great source with additional but still fragmentary information : http://ephemerol.de/ruhla/index.htm
Konrad Knirim (“German Military Timepieces”) displays a Ruhla NVA Kampfschwimmer with a warranty paper which was obviously issued in 1987.
In September 2006 a NVA Ruhla Kampfschwimmer with its individual no. 000829 on the back was sold on ebay. This watch came with a warranty tag stamped 1. August 1988.
In 2008 two Ruhla NVA Kampfschwinner appeared on ebay, to know no. 001432 and 000914 (warranty stamped 1. August 1988 too).
According to a time witness working at the Ruhla Museum the following time table was made:
Ruhla designs the Kampfschwimmer in cooperation with NVA officials
The first bunch of watches is delivered
annual production is about 100 – 150 pieces
Production is stopped
In 2009 Gardé launched a replica of the NVA-Kampfschwimmer which is produced in a limited run of 999 pieces (00101 – 01099).
The watch – reference “Sonderuhr 5.5” – comes with a tin can, similar to those you get with a Fortis watch. You will find some imprinting on the cap:
• Made in Germany
• Waterresistant 20 ATM
• Limited Edition
The Ruhla NVA Kampfschwimmer is a beast, a very huge watch, all my other watches look tiny compared to the Ruhla NVA.
Weight: Rolex Submariner with bracelet: 135 gr
Seiko Black Monster with bracelet: 175 gr
Kampfschwimmer with strap: 137 gr
And due to its dimensions I would not classify this watch to be a daily wearer.
Mine got no. 00197 / 01099.
The Ruhla NVA was fitted with a Ruhla 13-32 quartz movement of low quality compared to swiss made quartz movements of that time Time keeping sometimes was a problem. According to sources on the www several movements have beem reported to have a tendency to "run slow".
The current re-issue is also equipped with the Ruhla 13 movement.
Up to now the movement worked flawless compared to my radio Junghans watch.
The case of the original Ruhla NVA was made out of brass or an alloy of brass with a chrome coating.
The current model however is made out of 316L stainless steel. The case is drilled out of one piece of steel.
lug to lug: 55 mm
diameter w/o canteen cap 47,5 mm
diameter with canteen cap: 52 mm
diameter of dial and bezel: 43 mm
lug width: 24mm
Back of an original watch:
The original watch was rated wr to 60 meters, the current model will withstand 20 atm (according to DIN 8310).
Back of the re-make:
With the watch you will get a small leaflet “Instruction for use of waterproof watches” which is a useful help for those not knowing about the ratings.
The NVA Ruhla features a heavy bezel in a standard 60-min-divers-layout with numbers on 10, 20, 30 40, 50 and a triangle to indicate 0/60. On early Ruhlas an additional luminous dot appeared on the 0/60-triangle [the latest I have seen beared the number 000228]. The re-make Kampfschwimmer does feature that dot too.
Both, the old and the new bezel is bi-directional and turns freely without any clicks.
It is easy and smooth to operate because of its “teeth” which are quite impressive.
However a clicking bezel would be more fun and more secure.
The original NVA Kampfschmimmer featured a "canteen crown" system. What on a first sight looks like a "crown" is in fact a protectional cap that is screwed over the actual setting crown.
After unscrewing the “Canteen crown” you will get to the “real thing” which is a very tiny crown. It will need some time to get used to that tiny thing.However pulling out the crown just a few mm the watch is ready for setting.
Hands and Indicies
Hands and indicies of the current model are coated with Superluminova, the old watches have been coated with Tritium.
Strap and buckle
The Sonderuhr 5-5 comes with a rubber strap, lug width is 24mm. The trustworthy looking and solid buckle is made out of stainless steel and meassures 24 mm too.
Lugs and buckle are screwed.
299 Euro (19% tax included).