Lot of watch for very little money – that was the advertising slogan behind Sekonda back in the 1970s, when thousands of these cheap, reliable Russian watches made their way to the UK as communist Russia passed the begging bowl around the developed world, looking for hard currency. They traded crude oil for albums with Abba, they sold furs and skins from animals, culled on an industrial, Stalinist scale, and sold Jawa/CZ motorcycles that emitted more smoke than Casey Jones locomotive at full throttle.
But Sekonda watches, unlike a Jawa 350, were actually very good products. The reasons are simple; they took Swiss watch designs, copied them – sometimes improved them a little – but generally cut corners to make their watches simple to service, as well as mass produce. So a Poljot movement was based on a Valjoux 7731 for example.
In the 1930s the Soviets bought in Jaeger Le Coultre chronoflights for their aircraft and ended up copying the movements for watches, manufacturing chronographs based on this design until the 1950s.
The most common mechanical Sekonda you’ll find knocking about for £30-£50 is a 19 jewel Raketa movement model, or sometimes an automatic Slava 27/25 jewel movement. Both are usually still ticking away even after 40 years of hard knock life, but if you strat to strip them down to repair them you’ll soon discover your only parts source is the pool of other working watches on ebay, or at car boot sales – why spend a day fixing a broken balance and meticulously cleaning a £30 Sekonda when you can simply buy another one?
So I say enjoy them while they’re still going and when you find one like the model pictured above, complete with its original box from the early 80s – keep it as a reminder of the era when Soviet Russia passed the hat around the West, simply to earn a few roubles. Very different now under Tsar Vladimir isn’t it?