Russian watches? Cheap and cheerful, that’s what you’re thinking. Well, you are right, but they’re also very reliable and built to last like a T34 tank or an AK47. Many of these watches make perfect starter collection material, and fantastic value daily watches you can wear and enjoy. Yes, they aren’t Swiss level COSC certified chrono models that are going to fetch thousands at auction, but let me give you three good reasons to buy a used Sekonda, Poljot, Bostok/Vostok or Molnija.
- Good Examples Start at £25
Yep, you can get a very nice Vostok Komandirskie model on ebay or Gumtree, often including the original box and leaflet for £25 or so. This watch is still being manufactured brand new today by the way, costing about £60 or so online.
It has a few interesting features, such as the `wobbly’ crown, which is designed to bend like a tree, rather than break under pressure from cack-handed attempts at screwing down the crown. You’ll also notice the crystal is dome shaped, this is for water resistance – yep, you can dive down to attach a small IED to your enemies submarine or ship, whilst wearing this watch. Handy for all you Putin sponsored freelance asssasins.
The Komandirskie also has an automatic movement inside its sturdy case, which I’ve tested over 24 hours and is accurate to within 30 seconds. Not Rolex standard, but hey, what do you want for £25 quid Comrade Corbyn?
2. Ultra reliable
Here is another factoid for you. First watch I ever fixed was a dead Sekonda – TV dial model similar to the Raketa – which was clogged with dirt and fully wound up. All that was needed was a basic clean with the back off, no movement removal, a drop of oil on the end of the balance staff and off it went. Still running OK today five years later, which just shows how you can abuse these watches with no proper servicing and they still work. That non-runner cost a mere fiver at a watch fair by the way.
3. Good Original Chronographs Are Set to Rocket in Value
Sturmanskie and Poljot made some excellent chronograph models, many of which have movements inside that closely resemble Valjoux or Glashutte originals. Glashutte watch factory was captured by the Russians in the late stages of WWII, so just as the Russians took the second division scientists from the V2/V3 rocket programme, materials and expertise was taken back to Moscow.
Gagarin apparently wore a Sturmanskie in space, and the Poljot Strela is another model with astronaut connections. If you can find a good example of a 50s/60s chronograph that hasn’t been movement-swapped, bodged up with non-original parts etc then that could be a good investment.
I say could because considering you can buy a 1960s Valjoux 7733 powered Swiss watch, running nicely, for about £300-£500, paying well over £1000 for a Russian chrono with essentially the SAME movement inside doesn’t seem like a bargain to me. Having said that people pay £1000 for Sicura models based on the Breitling connection, which is of course complete nonsense.
The upside with a Poljot chrono watch is that any decent watchmaker will be able to service your watch for years to come, as there are still plenty of Valjoux 7733 movements available as spares and the stripdown and re-assembly will be bread n butter work for your local watch fettler.