The 1960s saw a global cultural change, once the end of the Second World War began to fade in people’s memories. Cities were rebuilt and people felt like enjoying life again. In the Soviet Union, believe it or not, the mood was the same.
Many of us, when picturing the Soviet Union, think of people oppressed by a totalitarian state. While there was a lot of truth in this, day-to-day life had its charms. In the big cities, there were large shopping centres, people went on vacation regularly, practised sports, and embraced the ¨sexual revolution¨. For many, life was fun, and enjoyable.
As this feeling of hope for the future and a new thirst for adventure spread around the world, this changing mood began to heal the wounds of war. Why do I think this is so important? Because for me, this beautiful little watch epitomises the excitement ordinary Russians might have felt during this era.
Below, is a video depicting people’s daily lives in the Soviet Union in the early 1960s. While there is indeed an element of propaganda, the film depicts normal Russians from every walk of life, just like in any society.
Yes, there was extensive political repression in the USSR, and the regime was a willing participant in the Cold War. However, there is also clear evidence that Soviet society, just like elsewhere, was keen to enjoy the good things in life when the 1960s arrived, with the same passion for fashion, leisure, sports, and culture, alongside a growing desire for more openness.
The watch that takes me back to this era is the Sportivnie. It was manufactured in Moscow’s First State Watch Factory, from the mid-50s until the early 60s. It was just one of many product lines manufactured during that time, under different ¨brand¨ names, before they were all unified in 1964 when the Poljot brand emerged.
Sportivnie, which translates as ¨Sporty¨, reflects the growing desire for a newly healthy and well-fed society, with time on its hands, to enjoy sport and leisure, several decades before western societies adopted this cultural phenomenon, and which is now so prevalent.
Below, is a product catalogue for the Sportivnie line of watches.
The Sportivnie was produced with a range of different dials. One carried the image of a swimmer, another one a runner, and among collectors’ pieces that I have seen, there are versions adorned with a dove of peace or the logos of youth associations.
The Sportivnie was manufactured in two case sizes, 33 mm and 34 mm, with different case-backs and closure mechanisms. The piece in my collection is a Type 2, housed in a 33 mm case with double lid closure, with an inscription that reads ¨protected against dust and moisture and shockproof¨.
As a sports watch, it has a bulging rear, anti-shock protection and an O-ring closure system. These details can be appreciated in the image below.
It carries the caliber ChN-10M, with a hacking function. In the following link you can find its full specifications.
Unfortunately, it is likely to become increasingly difficult to find Sportivnies. Many are being cannibalised to build fake Sturmanskies, since the caliber is essentially the same (except for a small variance in the movement used in the late Sportivnies). The Sportivnie is, after all, a non-military version of the Sturmanskie, which never went on sale to the general public and was built for Soviet Air Force personnel.