Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Vostok Watches: The AK47 in the World of Timepieces

I have always had a bit of a passion for wrist watches and really any kind of time keeping devices you can think of. Recently, I purchased my second Vostok dive watch and I feel that these watches are worth a mention here because, in my opinion, they are the best deal on a quality mechanical wrist watch out there.

Vostok watches are all "mechanical" watches. The term "mechanical" means that all the workings of the watch's movement are purely mechanical using nothing more than springs, wheels, tiny gears, etc. There are no electronics in the watch whatsoever. These types are either simply wind up watches which need to be hand wound every day or they are "automatic" meaning that there is a mechanism that uses your body's movements to automatically wind the watch. All Vostoks are of the automatic variety.

Vostok is a Russian watch maker located in Chistopol, Tatarstan, Russia. In 1965 they became the official watchmaker for the defence department of The Soviet Union. Also in this year they created the Komandirskie or "commander's" watch. From experience gained from manufacturing the Komandirskie watch they then developed the Amphibia series of dive watches. During the Cold War these were highly sought after timepieces for military personnel. Which watches you could buy was dependant on what your position was in the Soviet military. Special paperwork was needed to purchase them from stores which catered to the Soviet military.

Vostok watches were even worn into space. 
This is a picture of cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko wearing a Vostok timepiece.

The Cold War has been over since 1991 but the Vostok factory has still been manufacturing these rugged and unique watches to the current day. In fact, many folks and myself included consider these the AK-47 of the watch world. They're inexpensive to manufacture, rugged, and extremely reliable. In the event of nuclear attack, they were designed to be impervious to EMP which stands for Electromagnetic Pulse which is a burst of energy that is released from a nuclear blast that will damage electronics and other hardware.

The key distinction between the Komanderskie and Amphibia lines is the Komanderskie watches are not designed to be submerged in water but can withstand an accidental dunking and the Amphibia watches are designed to be taken into the water. I'm not going to get into the details of the various movements used for the different designs in the Komandirskie and Amphibia lines but most are either 17 jewel or 31 jewel movements. Some have the date on the face and some do not. They all use artificially manufactured rubies which act as highly durable bearings for the moving parts so the watches maintain their accuracy over time.

Both watch lines have organic crystals that, if scratched, can be easily buffed out with metal polish or even tooth paste. In the case of the Amphibia series of watches, the water pressure created by depth actually pushes the crystal tighter into the seal which renders it more water resistant the deeper you go. There is a YouTube video where a gentleman tested his to 17 bar pressure which is equivalent to 170 meters which can be viewed here. Most Amphibias are rated to 200 meters depth.

There is a plethora of different face and case designs out there in both lines of watches so there is sure to be something to suit just about anyone. At the time of this writing, the only place to buy these watches is on eBay, at least that I know of. That is where I purchased both of the Amphibias I own. If anyone knows of an online retailer that sells them, please let me know and I will modify this post.

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it informative. I really love these watches and I feel they are a tremendous bargain. Beware though, they can become addicting!

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