06/06/2020

Unique Soviet Watches In The Italian Market: The Beginning

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@timebehindtheironcurtain

Hello comrades.

Today, I would like to write about Soviet watches imported into the Italian market in the late 1980s. It was highly fashionable to be seen wearing a “Soviet style” piece, as is evident from this article.

The watches were imported by two main companies, Time Trend and Mirabilia.

You can normally differentiate these Italian-market versions from their Russian counterparts by two distinctive features. They came in special packaging, and they were fitted with leather straps bearing the brand and the inscription CCCP on them.

Many of these watches were intended exclusively for the Italian market. We show examples of some of these in the images below. These remain relatively easy to find on Italian watch forums and websites, but are rare, or unheard of, in the Eastern European markets.

Hence my conclusion that many of these watches, in particular the Raketa ones, were designed, and in many instances made exclusively, for the Italian market. I would even venture the opinion that some of the most iconic Soviet watch dials were actually designed by Italians, for the Italian market, such as the famous range of Komandirskies: the Tankist, the Paratrooper, the Submariner, and the Rising Star.

Compared with older Komandirskies, it is evident that there was a big change in design at this time, most probably due to the influence of Italian designers.

We will examine this further in future posts.

Now, I want to take a look at chronographs. Apparently, the first Soviet chronographs to arrive to Italy in the 1980s were the classical civilian models, the Poljot “Shturmanskie” 3133s in a brass case, albeit specially packaged in wonderful tin boxes. There were four different versions. Unfortunately, I do not own any of them.

Even so, the brand that won the hearts and minds of Italian watch aficionados, most likely guided by its brilliant marketing team, was Vostok, in particular after the introduction of a unique Vostok chronograph.

The Vostok Chronograph came in two distinct dial versions, “Aviation” and “Maritime”. They were presented in these charming wooden boxes.

These watches are particularly interesting. They are probably the only chronograph examples produced in the Soviet Union by one factory, but marketed under another factory’s brand. These Vostok chronographs are essentially Poljot 3133s inside, but even the movements are inscribed with “Vostok, C.C.C.P.”.

The calibers were produced at the First Moscow Watch Factory (1MWF), and they include a standard signed crown with the Poljot logo. Therefore, the suspicion is that the Vostok inscription was made after the movement left the 1MWF. If so, where were these additional markings inscribed. Did Poljot do it? Or did it happen at Vostok’s Chistopol factory? Or could it possibly have happened in Italy?

My research into the matter leads me to believe that these Vostok chronographs were sent as “assembly kits” from the Soviet Union, where the movement, case, dial, and hands were produced in close cooperation with Italian designers. Probably, the watch arrived either unassembled, or more likely in “Soviet style”, i.e. without a strap and in a simple box. Once in Italy, I believe that they were fitted with the themed straps and put into the specially designed packaging.

The case is clearly inspired by the case of regular Vostok Komandirskies. It appears more robust and is slightly larger than the Poljot 3133s of the period. Additional information on the model can be found here.

This Vostok chronograph is among my favourite Soviet watches. It incorporates many of the elements that we traditionally associate with a Soviet watch, such as the red star, the chunky, uncompromising case, and a workhorse movement powering it. I was rather fortunate to add one very early on in my collecting, and I unashamedly recommend the purchase of a piece like this if you ever encounter one in good condition and at a reasonable price.

In future posts I plan to cover other models. Here is a taster, such as the Slava shown below.

To be continued…

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