The Vostok Amphibia. A watch that hardly needs any introduction to collectors and enthusiasts, but if you’re new to the whole Horology thing then this might be an interesting piece for you.
I was initially interested in this watch after watching another YouTube dive watch recommendation video (and I can’t even recall which one it was). For me, what really peaked my interest was the fact that these watches are made in Russia and even include Cyrillic writing on the dial and case to remind you of this fact. After I did more reading and research into the Amphibia and after hearing a lot of glowing comments and praise about it I figured I’d check it out and see if it lived up to its hype.
I ended up buying an Amphibia with a Tonneau case and blue ‘Scuba Dude’ dial with a date complication. The watch set me back a dime short of $90 USD (about $125 AUD at the time). The watch specs. reveal the case width at 42mm (46mm with crown), case length is 50mm from end to end and lug width is 22mm. The watch and its accompanying bracelet weight 138 grams together. Turning the dials and date wheel is a 2415 automatic movement churning away at 19800 beats per hour.
What was so good about the watch?
So lets move onto the good points about this watch:
- The watch represents excellent value for money. At around $125 AUD you’re getting a solid divers watch with 200 metres of water resistance utilising an in-house automatic movement. The movement can be hand-wound but lacks hacking. For the price though that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
- The watch model has a unique horological history, having being made and produced in Russia since 1967.
- The watch case may feel a bit heavy but it also feels very sturdy and that it’ll live up to its expectations as a diver. This is also reinforced with its screw-down crown and unique water resistance design, where it becomes more resistant as water pressure increases. I can’t properly explain how this works but if you want to know more this other Watchuseek article (found courtesy of this Hodinkeepage) explains it in more detail.
- The hands are easy to read, with a small triangle at the end of the hour hand to distinguish it from the minutes, and the red seconds hand with a lollipop lume centre gives it enough contrast to be visible on the dial.
- So much variety. The Amphibia model range has a vast number of choices of dials, case shapes and bezels. Whether you prefer a specific colour or need a bigger or smaller case (the size of mine fits well but those with smaller wrists can get the more traditional round case at 40mm), Vostok’s got your covered.
- So much customisation. These watches have a lot of customisation options and while I haven’t been bothered (let alone game enough) to make any changes to mine, with the right instructions and equipment you can swap out the bezel, the hands, the dial and have your own…”Frankenstok”?
- Being a dive watch with 22mm lug width, you’re spoiled for choice with straps. The moment I unboxed my Vostok the first thing I did was remove the bracelet and put on a NATO strap, and most colours work well with it (although admittedly I wasn’t pushing the envelope with black and orange colours).
- I LOVE the dial on this model. I could talk about the blue/aqua colour that reinforces it amphibious theme or the subtle Cyrillic “Made in Russia” text at the bottom but to be honest I was a sucker for the Scuba Dude at the top. Call me simple or childish but in a world of diver watches that look and take themselves seriously, the Scuba Dude seemed to say “Yeah I’ll still get that job done for you, but lets have some fun too”. Gotta love that dude.
What are the cons of this watch?
- Remember when I said that I immediately replaced the bracelet with a NATO? That’s not entirely true. I did wear the bracelet for just under a minute. And while it does have a few small positives, such as its shiny finish and four adjustment holes for sizing, it felt cheap, it rattled like crazy, it’s a pain to get the clasp undone (especially if you don’t have decent fingernails) and it had a tendency to trap and yank at my arm hairs. Unless you’re desperate to wear a bracelet or want a free hair removal service, it needs to go.
- The bezel is bi-directional and turns a little too easily in either direction. I don’t imagine most people wearing this watch will use it as a serious diver but allowing it to spin in either direction would be worrying for those who did take it deep underwater. That, and it kind of cheapens the feel of the watch.
- Lume is present on this watch in the hands and as dots on the indices, and while it shines bright initially it really dulls down after around 5 minutes and can barely be seen after 20 minutes. The fact that the lume on the indices are just small dots doesn’t help this either.
- The acrylic crystal is one of the watch’s features that aids in its unique water resistance design but it also attracts a lot of scratches. Even my Amphibia has a small scratch near the seven o’clock indice and I have no idea how it got there, as I don’t treat this one too rough.
- My biggest peeve? The date complication. It’s fairly legible and it works the way it’s supposed to but there’s no quick change function for it and it only cycles forward in time. The method to reset the date is to wind the hands back to 8pm, then forward to 12pm to make the date skip over day. And you repeat this ad nauseum until you get the date you’re seeking. So if today was the 12th and the watch was stopped on the 9th, you’d have to repeat this process three times to get it to the desired date. But if today was the 22nd….you get the picture. Some people describe this feature as a “funny quirk” but it becomes a pain in the ass after you’ve done it several times. If you were to wear this watch as your regular timekeeper or don't care about date accuracy this is less of a problem but if you put it in circulation and forget to wind it then be prepared to give your thumb and forefinger a workout.
A few things to know about this watch:
- When setting the time/date the crown feels extremely wobbly like it’s about to break or fall off. Rest assured that this is (yet again) another design feature of the watch to protect the movement from accidental damage.
- Also bear in mind that the Vostok Amphibia won’t be available for purchase through most online watch retailers, let alone your local jewellery store. I bought mine through a reputable eBay seller (Zenitar) but it looks like they’re no longer stocking or selling the Amphibia. If you’re not willing to buy one via eBay or Amazon there are other online vendors recommended by other reviewers, such as Meranom, although I haven’t purchased directly from them myself.
Overall? Would I recommend this watch? Would I buy it again if given a do-over?
Yes. In a heartbeat. The watch may have some annoying features and it’s lume can’t compete with other major competitors (e.g. Seiko) but you’re paying so little money for an automatic divers watch with a unique and interesting horological history that is still very capable, very fun and very Russian. The only two things I would recommend would be to get one without a date complication if you’re not going to wear it often and swap out that bracelet with another strap.