We continue our journey focusing on Soviet watches manufactured for the Italian market, which we started here and continued with a chapter dedicated to Raketa. Today, we shall examine Komandirskies, one of the most famous lines of watches from the USSR. Perhaps the most characteristic feature of the line is the large number of dial types and cases that can be found under the label.
The first thing worthy of mention is that the Komandirskie design was conventional for a military watch, at least until the late 1980s.
It is not completely clear who designed the first three Komandirskie models for the Italian market: the “Submariner”, the “Tankist” and the “Paratrooper”. These are very well-known watches, yet it is near impossible to ascertain how the designs came about.
We do know that these three watches were also sold in the USSR at the same time as they were presented to the Italian market, together with other famous dials that appeared in Italy first. Examples would be the “Rising Sun” dial, those with the logos of the branches of the military, others with embossed dials, elaborate pieces with commemorative themes relating to the war, and even the “KGB” ones. (It should go without saying that no-one in the USSR would have, or would today wear, a watch with KGB markings on it. If you are part of an intelligence agency, it kind of defeats the object to advertise who you are.)
This plethora of models were part of an aggressive marketing campaign that associated Komandirskies with the military world. This led to an increasing number of dials being marked as “Zakaz Mo CCCP”, which means “By order of the Minister of Defence of the USSR”. It is worth noting that the watches without this designation had the same specifications, i.e., it was a marking added merely for marketing purposes.
From what we have been able to gather from my research, mostly focused on online resources, it is likely that all these designs were created in response to marketing feedback provided by the Italians.
This also led to demand for different cases, like the Type 33, a cushion-type case with the crown at 2 o’clock. Similarly, a new watch type was introduced with a different bezel with numbered indexes as well as a crown guard, known as the Type 34. According to Dmitri Buyalov, Type 34 watches are “the best Komandirskies ever made.” You can see some examples below.
Although not Komandirskies per se, we have also opted to include in this section the “Buran” line, which are reproductions of the Kirovskie “Sputnik” that were made by Vostok. They are very faithful to the original, recreating the dial and even the “crab” case, but replacing the marking “Sputnik” with “Buran”. In the late 1980s, these watches were associated with the launch of the Soviet space shuttle programme, the “Buran”. We can venture that this is the reason why the marking “Buran” was added, instead of “Sputnik”, as it represented the next milestone in the Soviet space programme. These watches came in white and black dials, like the original “Sputniks”. So far, we have only been able to trace them to sellers in Italy and it is likely this was a design requested by the distributor Mirabilia.
There are two other interesting pieces, both Vostok-made watches branded as “Buran” on the dial and related to Arctic exploration. The first of them is clearly inspired by Poljot and after the Raketa Polarnie, with a polar bear shown in the top (the north) and a penguin in the bottom (the south) of the dial. Very faithful to polar zoology! The second one is more kitsch, with a bear too, but three penguins as well as the Aeroflot logo. We believe it to be a homage to Aeroflot’s polar aviation. It could have been yours for 98,000 liras in 1990.
While some of the models we have reviewed in this series are fanciful, it is undeniable that the close collaboration between the Italian design teams and Vostok influenced the latter’s future designs. We would even venture to say that the famous “Amphibia Dude” variant, or even the development of the Neptune case and the Neptune dials, stem precisely from this era of collaboration.
To end this article, we would like to share a little gem with you. We have obtained a publicity document from Time Trend (one of the Italian distributors) in which Vostok watches are introduced in depth to the Italian market. We show a couple of pages from this document below.
It is a striking and detailed document, so we plan a fourth article in this series devoted to the watches cited in this publication. Stay tuned!