In the watch industry, all the hype seems to be about Swiss watchmakers. However, it’s a big mistake to underestimate timepieces coming from less-advertised countries.
Russian watches might not be the most refined pieces on the market, but they offer unmatched value when you’re looking for something straightforward and sturdy.
In this review, you’ll find 6 iconic Russian watches that you need to get your hands on!
1. Vostok Amphibia
The Vostok Amphibia is probably the most popular Russian watch in the modern era. This one is absolutely legendary and is a pillar in Russia’s military history.
With most models priced between $60-$100, it might also be the most affordable way to own a piece of the Soviet Era’s Zeitgeist.
Indeed, the Amphibia is known for its peculiar way of reaching 200m of water resistance. This one uses parts such as a bayonet-style case back and sintered rubber gaskets to increase impermeability as pressure grows.
This is a great display of Russia’s ingenuity and ability to compete even with their rudimentary tools and equipment.
Shopping for a Vostok Amphibia can be confusing at first since this model is sold with an assortment of case shapes, dials, hands, etc… At first, this can be daunting, but in the end, it’s a great way to get a unique piece to your liking.
2. Raketa 24-Hour
Raketa is often the second brand to come up in the “Russian watches” conversation. Most often, people associate this brand with their iconic 24-hour watches.
Although the quality control seems to be hit-or-miss, it’s undeniable that Raketa probably has the richest history of all Russian watch brands.
Indeed, the Raketa factory started operating in 1721, initially focusing on stone-cutting. 240 years later, the factory started manufacturing the watches that you know.
As of today, the Petrodvorets factory (where Raketa watches are made) is considered the oldest Russian factory that’s still in operation.
With a Raketa watch, you’ll get an in-house movement that will usually be pretty robust and accurate. You’ll also enjoy distinctive dial layouts that will certainly raise a few eyebrows (in a good way).
3. Sturmanskie Gagarin
As you’ve probably noticed by now, the appeal of Russian watches mostly comes from their historical value.
While the Omega Speedmaster is incredibly famous for its appearance as the first watch on the moon, most people forget the first watch in space: the Sturmanskie Gagarin.
For older generations, this timepiece might be a painful reminder that the USA lost the space race. However, pragmatic people will certainly enjoy the richness of the Sturmanskie Gagarin’s story.
The Sturmanskie is manufactured by Poljot, which is one of the most well-established Russian watch brands. This means that your Sturmanskie will undoubtedly be reliable and decently accurate.
With its oversized numerals and straightforward pencil hands, this watch is amongst the most simple and highly-legible pieces on this list.
4. Luch One-Hand Watch
It can be a bit hard to compete against factories that have been in operation for hundreds of years. To make a dent in the market, you need a certain twist that makes your watch appealing to a broad audience.
For Luch, it’s their “one-hand” concept that became legendary and brought many new collectors to the brand. As of 2021, the most recent model is the Luch One-Hand 3.0.
This is a unisex watch with a 37.5mm case that builds upon the first two generations to offer an undeniably attractive package.
For instance, you get an uncluttered dial with basic Arabic numerals which goes perfectly with the one-hand layout of the watch. This single hand is powered by the 15 jewels 1801.1H mechanical movement.
With its domed mineral crystal, the Luch One-Hand 3.0 gives off a vintage vibe that is perfect for business-casual situations.
5. Poljot Chronograph Albatros
Russian watches are often associated with run-of-the-mill movements that only fill basic needs. However, Poljot has a wide offering of chronograph watches with plenty of useful features.
For instance, the Poljot Albatros is equipped with a 30-min stopwatch and a tachymeter, two functions very reminiscent of the much more expensive Omega Speedmaster.
The Poljot 3133 caliber powering it is known for its sturdiness and reliability over the years.
Additionally, the Albatros is sold in dozens of variations with color schemes that complement the chronograph layout. Also, you get the oversized Arabic numerals that seem to be a must-have for Russian watches.
With its 40mm case, the Albatros is a mid-sized aviator watch that will look good on a wide variety of wrists. The slightly domed crystal gives it just the right amount of vintage feel and the multiple Russian scripts make it quirky in a good way.
6. Vostok Komandirskie
Since it’s my favorite Russian watch brand, I might have a bias towards Vostok. However, I don’t think anyone will blame me for putting two of their iconic watches in this list.
The Komandirskie can be considered the Vostok Amphibia’s little brother, in the sense that it’s slightly less refined and water-resistant.
However, the lower price of the Komandirskie makes it one of the best bang-for-the-buck Russian watches available today.
With its 30m water resistance rating, the Komandirskie can be considered a land alternative to the diving-oriented Amphibia. Also, it used to only be sold with a manual movement, but the lines are blurred nowadays and both watches can share the same movement.
Also, most Komandirskies have a brass case instead of stainless steel like most other watches. This makes it a bit heavier and less scratch-resistant. However, it will develop patina a bit more easily, which is often sought-after for vintage watches.
In conclusion, I think Russian watches don’t get as much praise as they should in the community. If you’re a collector that wants to try everything the watch world has to offer, getting a Russian watch is a no-brainer decision.
I know the list is short considering the large amount of watches sold by Russian companies, but I had to keep it concise. If there’s a watch you think should absolutely be on this list, leave a comment below and I will try to add it!
The thumbnail picture was provided by Anthony at chronometercheck.com