Nota: Esta es la entrada original. La versión en castellano la encontraréis en este vínculo.
Today, we proudly share with you an interview with a very special person in the world of Russian watches: Dmitry Yuryevich Buyalov. You might already know of him as the mastermind behind the website and the designs of meranom.com, of which he is the co-owner, as well as being the design director at Buyalov Watches.
I first met Dmitry back in the summer of 2016. As a devoted Russian watch enthusiast, I planned a short pilgrimage to the places where Russian watches are made. I therefore contacted Dmitry to arrange a visit to the little town of Chistopol, in the Kazan Oblast, and he kindly agreed to assist. Ever since, I have stayed in touch with Dmitry and in 2017 he even returned the visit, spending some time discovering the wonderful island of Mallorca.
I hope to publish a separate post centred on my original 2016 trip to Chistopol. In this post, however, I want to share an interview with Dmitry that took place towards the end of last year (apologies for the late publication, but work has got in the way). I got the opportunity to ask him some questions that I believe many enthusiasts have probably wondered about at some stage, focused on Dmitry’s career and his involvement with Vostok.
Dmitry, tell us a little bit about yourself: how long have you been involved with the Vostok factory?
I started to work at the factory after leaving school, in 1989, in the watch assembly department, as an apprentice.
I held many positions after this, but in 2005, I became Vostok’s chief designer.
What have been the best times for the factory?
I would say the beginning of the 1990s. Although it was a pretty bad time for the Russian economy overall, in terms of profit, I believe that Vostok had the best times in its history, thanks to its sizeable export markets. The factory’s 50th anniversary, in 1992, was a memorable, and high-level, celebration.
Have you studied or worked anywhere else apart from Vostok? Where did you study watch design?
I spent a few years in the late 1990s working for a local TV station, as well as taking some computer graphics and marketing courses in Kazan and in Moscow. Following this, I focused on web-design and other online stuff. In 2008, I took an Art and Design course at the University of the Arts London.
If the USSR hadn’t collapsed, what would have happened to the factory/brand?
I don’t think that I can answer this with confidence. Right before the USSR collapsed, a huge building was being erected on the factory’s land, with all the materials imported from Finland. I recall it was intended for the production of micro-electronic devices. It was rumoured at the time that these were for equipment for the so-called “Star Wars1”. It wasn’t completely built and it was later totally dismantled. As far as I know, it was considered an opportunity to have up-to-date production facilities for watch manufacturing. Having said this, I did not know the details of the plans drafted by the factory authorities at that time.
Was the factory reluctant to move forward with new models? Is this the reason you had to create meranom.com?
Initially, meranom.com was set up as an online sales outlet so that I could earn a living in 2009, as I was about to leave the factory. After the 2008 economic crisis and the resulting factory “reorganisation”, it was decided that they would not embark on new projects and that there would be no need for a designer at my level. A couple of years later, Meranom was just selling Vostok watches, until I realised that we could provide our customers with something more interesting than just the common Vostok collection. We set about the first bespoke projects, and these confirmed that there was demand for such models.
How is your relation nowadays with the factory?
I work with Vostok as an authorised distributor and do some designs for them as a freelancer. They assemble the Special Edition and Limited Edition watches for us, and they use our development work in their current collections.
You are the mastermind behind new models from Vostok as well as the exclusive ones that they release via Meranom. Can you tell us a little bit about the creative process? How many people are involved in the creation of a new watch?
It is not a secret that all of the exclusive models are based on my designs. Some of them are mine, some even a decade old, while others are design work made for the factory. There are also Meranom Special Edition models, which I designed, but which subsequently became part of the Vostok Collection.
Usually, there is only one other person who helps me with new watch design – an engineer. We prepare all the CAD and technical drawings (blue prints) for the suppliers. If needed, I ask for assistance from professional artists with graphics for the case backs or custom numerals for the dials.
Elsewhere, you have been working with watch forums on “custom watches”. You are behind the Compressor, the Baikal, the Rising Star… How do you work with the forums? What do you learn from the ideas they put in front of you? What was the craziest thing they have requested, and was it possible to achieve it?
We like to fulfil the orders that come from forums or other watch enthusiast communities. It is not only about the profits. It is a pleasure to realise that there are so many people all over the world that know and love Vostok watches. I like most of the ideas that come our way. I am always impressed with the colour schemes for the dials, the bezels, the hands… I don’t recall any “crazy” orders that we were unable to accept. Maybe the request to make a Komandirskie Chronograph with the 3133 movement. Unfortunately, there is no stock left of these movements.
As well as spearheading the creation of a new breed of Russian watches that depart somewhat from “Soviet heritage”, you are also involved with Buyalov Watches. What made you decide to take such a huge step? I believe that the RR01 has been a great success; could you give us some insight about future models?
I don’t want to stop making “Soviet heritage”. I like it, I think I understand it, and I hope we shall be able to make many more such models under the Vostok brand name in the future. Buyalov Watches is just an idea to offer our current (and new) customers other movements. RR01 sales are pretty good. This is why after it was initially presented in September 2018 we quickly moved on to design the Type-B Bronze Airship Italia, which has been on sale since November 2019. For this year, we are preparing the release of a re-styled RR02 and another “heritage” model.
Would you like to add anything else?
I would like to thank all Vostok fans (not just our customers) who love Russian watches and support their sellers and manufacturers. We are happy that we are part of this international movement.
We would like thank Dmitry again for offering us the time for this interview, in particular given how busy he is with his new projects. We hope that everyone enjoyed the interview. For those interested, Dmitry will be at Baselworld 2020 (from 30th April to 5th May) to promote the Buyalov designs and watches.
We would like to finish by sharing a link to this site with some of the very nice designs that Dmitry has crafted over the years: https://www.coroflot.com/dmitry_buyalov/Watches.
1 From WikiPedia: The Strategic Defence Initiative was a proposed missile defence system intended to protect the United States from attack by ballistic strategic nuclear weapons. The concept was first announced publicly by President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983.