This $60 watch marked the beginning of my love for watches
From Russia, straight to my heart
I'd like to start this article off by saying I am not a watch expert in any way. My knowledge of horology is limited to what I've seen on YouTube and some things I've looked up of my own accord.
Now that that's out of the way, here is my first ever mechanical watch: a Vostok Komandirskie manual mechanical watch. The designation number of this watch is different depending on where I look it up. On Amazon, it's 431744 but on the official Vostok website, it's 436744. I'll go ahead and believe the official Vostok website.
For those of you unaware of Vostok, it is a Russian watchmaker based in Chistopol, Tatarstan, Russia. It was founded in 1942 when one of the Moscow watch-making plants of the First Moscow Watch Factory was evacuated to Chistopol. The company was renamed to Vostok in the 1960s, presumably after the Vostok space program that put cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in orbit. Vostok was named the official supplier of watches for the Ministry of Defence of the Soviet Union in 1965, which is also when they started producing the Komandirskie ("Commander's") line of watches.
Prior to owning this watch, I never had a watch that I would wear on a regular basis. I had a few cheap Chinese quartz watches but they weren't special. The fact that this one is mechanical makes it special enough that I've actually committed it to wearing it every day as an accessory.
Vostok's Komandirskie line of watches is powered by a 2414A movement with 17 jewels. The mechanism has a power reserve of at least 36 hours and in my experience can be fully wound with 25-30 winds of the crown. It's not the greatest watch mechanism and the official specs give it an accuracy of -20/+60 seconds per day. It also has a (supposed) 20 meters of water resistance but I'm not going to test that.
Coming in at around $61 with taxes, it's not the most expensive or luxurious watch but I have never loved an accessory as much as I love this watch. The "beating heart" I hear every time I put it up to my ear is akin to a classic car idling. If you love hearing and watching mechanical objects do their thing, you know the feeling I'm talking about. Observing all those parts work together to make the watch work is just marvelous and really gives the timepiece a soul. I don't think I could ever go back to quartz, it just wouldn't be the same.
I'm also a big fan of the spartan Soviet design of the watch face. That might have something to do with the fact that I'm Romanian and we were also Soviet at one point but I'm not 100% sure on that. What I am sure of, is that the red star at the top works in tandem with the red dot of the rotating bezel and that lovely typeface. The Komandirskie branding and the "Made in Russia" writing at the bottom, all in Cyrillic of course, only serve to contribute to the Soviet military style that draws inspiration from some of Vostok's classic watch designs.
Do I intend to buy more of these? Absolutely. Vostok has some fantastic designs that aren't elegant at all and I love each and every one of them. Even when I get a Rolex (notice I said when, not if), Vostoks will still hold a special place in my heart. There's something fascinating and unique about the utilitarian designs of the USSR that will never be matched by any other aesthetic. Everything made during that era looked like it was made to be simple, yet functional. I can't describe it but when you look at them you immediately know "Oh yeah, that's Russian." The same can be said about old Poljot and Raketa watches, especially the space-themed ones.
Do you have any experience with Soviet/Russian watches? I'd love to hear your story in the comments below!