Sunday, December 18, 2005

A typical late model Zim Pobeda movement. Note the complete lack of finishing.

A pair of new new ZIM Pobedas

A First Moscow Watch Factory Pobeda. This one was an award watch with an inscribed dedication on the back.

The ZIM Pobeda on a bund strap Posted by Picasa

Movement of the Petrodvoretz Pobeda Posted by Picasa

The Petrodvoretz Pobeda Posted by Picasa

Another picture of The Petrodvoretz Pobeda Posted by Picasa

Movement shot from the ZIM Pobeda Posted by Picasa

The ZIM Pobeda Posted by Picasa

Pobeda Review

If a watch can be said to be the Timex of Russia, I think the Pobeda is it. In the years immediately following the Second World War, the Soviet government found itself in need of a more modern timepiece than the old Type One (reviewed below). With this in mind, some sort of deal was struck with the French watchmaker Lip for the production of a men's wristwatch based on the Lip r26 movement. (For more on Lip see) The result was named Pobeda, meaning victory in Russian (named for obvious reasons). In a curious bit of historical trivia, the name Pobeda was supposedly chosen by Stalin himself (see this page at


Initially, production of the Pobeda was only done at the First Moscow Watch Factory, but after a few years, the Second Moscow Watch Factory, the Petrodvoretz factory, the Maslennikov (ZIM) factory and the Vostok factory were producing the movement as well. The various factories made a number of modifications to the movement over the years including adding jewels, replacing the sub dial with a central second hand, and adding a hacking feature. The Pobeda has a reputation for being a very durable watch and the movement was still in production until recently by the ZIM factory. It should be noted that in terms of both quality and desirability, Pobedas made by the First Moscow Watch Factory are considered the best, while the ZIM examples are considered the least collectable. Indeed, the latter examples of ZIM movements have a crude, unfinished look about them, unlike the earlier models that had such touches as Geneva stripes and engine turned finishes.


Of the three examples shown here, the one with the engraved back was made by the First Moscow Watch Factory in 1955 and the other white-faced model was made in the mid-fifties by the Petrodvoretz factory outside St. Petersburg (later to be renamed the Raketa factory after the Sputnik launch). The black model is an early ZIM, also from the fifties I believe. All three are examples of the original style Pobedas with sub dial second hands. They use acrylic crystals and have no lume. The Pobeda movement is a 15 or 16-jewel hand wound type whose accuracy seems to be in the +/- 40-second range although that can be improved on with regulation. Most Pobedas are smaller, traditionally sized, watches of 33mm and 35mm sizes but prior to the bankruptcy of the ZIM factory in the early 2000's, some 38mm Pobedas were made with mineral crystals. Update-The second from the top picture is a newly acquired Pobeda made in 2004, shortly before the ZIM factory went into bankruptcy. The watch has 18mm lugs and a mineral glass crystal but is otherwise ver similar to the other Pobedas. The case measures 36mm including the crown and the movement is completely undecorated. Above that is another NOS model. It too has 18mm lugs but uses an acrylic crystal like the older Pobedas. Cost me all of $13.


I mentioned that I considered the Pobeda a Russian Timex. The reason I feel this way is entirely a matter of price. Whether the model you are looking at is new old stock or a vintage model from fifty or so years ago, you would be hard pressed to spend more than thirty dollars on a Pobeda. They are about the least expensive mechanical watches I have encountered. I can easily spend more cash on lunch then a Pobeda would run me. The black model pictured here cost me all of nine dollars while its white counterpart set me back a whopping twenty-two dollars. (Pobedas are widely available on ebay. One seller, Zenitar, has a good assortment of inexpensive new old stock models to choose from. Look under the catagory-Other watches. Older models are available from a variety of different sellers.) Now low price is all well and good of course, provided the watch is not a piece of junk. Fortunately, that is not the case with the Pobeda. While no one is about to confuse one with an Omega, a Pobeda does get the job done well without any fuss. The ZIM model here needed regulating when I got it (it clearly had led a pretty hard life) but now is accurate to about 20 seconds a day. The white-faced Petrodvoretz Pobeda needed nothing when I got it, running at about +15 seconds daily. For a pair of inexpensive 50+-year-old watches with little pretension between them, that's not a bad deal at all.

Note-No discussion of the Pobeda would be complete without mentioning Andrew Babanin's fine review over at Timezone.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Raketa Braille Watch Review

The Raketa Braille watch is, as its name implies, a watch that is primarily meant for the visually impaired. That being said, however, it can be used like any other watch as well. The watch was manufactured at the Petrodvoretz factory outside of St. Petersburg. Raketa itself has supposedly gone out of business but numerous examples of their watches, including this one, remain available via eBay. Now for the weird part. For a company that supposedly went under in 1995, they seem pretty lively, see: . The products page seems to have a whole lineup of watches available, including this Braille watch. (The pages loads exceedingly slowly, be patient). There is even a floating clock animation with 2005 in it and a picture of one of Raketa's calendar watches with a date scale running up to 2012. Another page on the site has a watch face with the year 2003 clearly visible on it. I have encountered some speculation that that Raketa never went bankrupt but instead has been trying to create the illusion that their products are scarce to boost prices (see The Raketa Conspiracy Theory). Irrespective, there seems to be a plentiful supply of Raketas available, which, given how nicely this Braille watch is made, is a good thing.


The Braille watch appears to use a chrome plated case with a snap-on stainless steel back. The case measures 38mm wide at its widest point (diagonally) and is 34mm directly across the face (37mm with the crown). Additionally, the lug width is 18mm. The movement is Raketa's 17 jewel hand wound 2601. The watch is not at all water resistant, a fairly common issue with Raketas. To use the Braille function, a button on the crown releases a spring loaded hinge holding the crystal. The watch hands are made of thick steel and can be handled without fear of bending them. For this reason, there is no second hand. Lastly, the watch face has raised markers to allow reading by touch. It takes a bit of getting used to but the whole thing works quite well. The watch has no lume however.


I personally find the Raketa to be an attractive and well built mechanical watch. I cannot comment on its precise accuracy as the watch lacks a second hand, but it seems to be good to about a minute or so per week which is really just fine. I particularly appreciate how this watch does not loudly advertise its specialized function. It really looks no different from most other watches and if you didn't already know that this was a watch for the blind, you probably would not guess it. That sort of elegance in design is something that seems sorely lacking to my eye when it comes to products meant for people with disabilities. The fact that the intended user of this watch might never be able to see it is no excuse for making it ugly. Fortunately, Raketa made no such mistake.

Friday, December 02, 2005

First State Watch Factory Type One Review

A newly acquired Type One. This one is from the First Moscow Watch Factory. It has 15 jewels and was made in 1938. The crown is not original but, otherwise, everything works well. The dial on this one was probably repainted in 1955 in commemoration of the first Soviet mission to the South Pole.

The watch Posted by Picasa

. Posted by Picasa

The 7 jewel movement Posted by Picasa

A good read Posted by Picasa

The court order authorizing the sale of Dueber-Hampden Posted by Picasa

p. 2 court order Posted by Picasa

Note the reference to Amtorg Posted by Picasa

The Review

I decided to write this review for the fun of it more than anything else. (Note-I had originally titled this review First Moscow Watch Factory Type One. An astute reader at the Watchuseek Russian Watch Forum noted that it was in fact made by the First State Watch Factory, a precurser to the First Moscow Watch Factory. I love knowing these little details. Many thanks.) The Type One, also variously referred to as K-43 and Kirova hasn't been made since the late 40's as far as I know. It is a very interesting watch, however, at least to collectors of Russian watches. This particular model was the first domestically produced watch in Russia. Prior to making the Type One, watch making in Russia was limited to assembling foreign made parts only. Brands such as Mozer and Pavel Bure were made this way. By the late 1920s though, the Russian government saw the need for a domestic watch industry. The story of how Russia acquired this industry is told in the book, "From Springfield to Moscow: The Complete Dueber-Hampden Story" by James Gibbs. (See also here and here as well) (This book is a must read for fans of Russian watches by the way. It even has a copy of the court order authorizing the sale of the company. I have posted the first few pages of the order. If you want the whole thing, let me know and I'll email it to you. ) The book tells the story, from start to finish, of the American Dueber-Hampden watch company. Dueber was bought by the Amtorg Trading Corporation, the foreign purchasing arm of the Soviet government, in 1928 after it had gone out of business in the United States (see here). The factory was then boxed up and shipped to Russia where it was re-assembled and gotten up and running with the help of the company's former employees from the United States. The Americans who went to Russia for this project were tasked not only with making the machinery work but also with training Russian workers in the art of watch making. It seems hard to believe at first that the U.S. and Russia would cooperate this way but it should be recalled that the cold war was decades away and the abuses of the Soviet government were not yet widely known. In any event, the undertaking was evidently successful as watches like the model pictured above were manufactured in quantity.


The Type One itself is really a pocket watch with a set of 14mm lugs welded on to the case to hold a trench watch style watchband. Remarkably, despite the passage of sixty or seventy years (and the very crude look of the movement), the mainspring is still strong and the watch keeps time well. The movement in this example has only seven jewels but there was a fifteen-jewel model made too. (It is my understanding that this Dueber-Hampden movement was used in the giant Zlatoust diver watch, and either is still being produced or was until recently.)


Physically, the Type One is huge for a wristwatch. It measures 45mm in width (49mm with the big onion crown) and 14mm in height. The narrow band makes the watch look and wear even bigger. Like many timepieces of this era, water resistance is non-existent. This particular example has obviously had its dial painted long after it was built. (The KGB did not exist until the mid nineteen-fifties and the watch is older than that. A member on the Poor Man's Watch Forum commented that this particular example is a KGB award watch so maybe it is supposed to look this way now. I'm personally not sure and will probably never be.)


The Type One never fails to draw comments. It has an old-fashioned and unique look to it that you just don't see these days. I can't imagine wearing this one on a daily basis at all but it does make for nice change of pace from time to time. It also makes me think about how strange the world can be. An American watch, manufactured in Russia with the consent of the U.S. and Soviet governments. Amazing.

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