Soviet watchmakers were masters in the art of efficiency. Applying the same utilitarian principles to watchmaking as it did to conducting its other affairs, the USSR became famous for borrowing designs from other countries, improving them, and adding their own innovative touches. Discover 7 reasons to collect Russian vintage watches.
To help you navigate the world of USSR watches, we have put together a list of major Soviet watch factories and their iconic brands below.
First Moscow Watch Factory: the birth of Soviet watches
The story of large-scale production of Soviet watches began with the First Moscow Watch Factory, also sometimes known as the “First State Watch Factory” (its initial name). Joseph Stalin ordered the creation of this factory in 1930, as the existing State Trust of Precision Mechanics workshops could no longer keep pace with the needs of the Soviet government and the industries beneath it.
The Soviet practice of “borrowing” for watchmaking was evident from the start. The USSR needed to get its equipment, parts, patents, and personnel from somewhere. So instead of starting entirely from scratch, the government looked abroad to the bankrupt Dueber-Hampden Watch Factory of Canton, Ohio, in the United States. Relocating all of these resources (including the American workers) to the USSR, the state set about building its own domestic watchmaking industry.
Interested to learn more about 1MWF? Here is the full story about Poljot / First Moscow Watch Factory.
First Moscow Watch Factory: Brands
Here are some of the iconic brands manufactured at the First Moscow Watch Factory:
- Sputnik: These striking watches commemorated the launch of the Sputnik satellite.
- Sturmanskie: These watches were produced exclusively for the Soviet air force.
- Poljot: Main brand of the factory. Included both dress watches and chronographs.
Some other watch brands which the First Moscow Watch Factory produced include Kirovskie, Kosmos, Mayak, Moskva, Pobeda, Rodina, Signal, Sportivnie, Stolichnie, and Vimpel.
Second Moscow Watch Factory
As you are aware, watches such as Sturmanskie were manufactured by the First Moscow Watch Factory for military use. But the Soviet Union also established the Second Moscow Watch Factory to create watches for civilians. Later, this watch factory was renamed as the “Slava Factory,” since “Slava” was the brand it produced. The name “Slava” translates to “Glory.”
It is important to note that there are “Slava Sozvezdie” watches on the market which are cheaply made and which are not authentic Slava watches. If you see the word “Russia” on a “Slava” watch, you can be sure that it is not a genuine Slava watch, which would be marked with “USSR” or “CCCP.”
Chistopol Watch Factory: the home of Russian military timepieces
The Chistopol Watch Factory was founded in 1941 as a result of a wartime evacuation of the Moscow Second Watch Factory. German forces were encroaching, and watch factories at the time were producing timers and fuses. The watchmakers from the Moscow Second Watch Factory were sent to work in Chistopol, where they were joined by local talent.
During the war, the factory was known as “Factory 835,” but later it would be called the “Chistopol Watch Factory.” The focus at the factory during WWII remained munitions and other military devices, but after the war, the workers went back to making watches, which they have continued to do ever since.
Chistopol Watch Factory: Brands
Following are some of the most iconic brands manufactured at the Chistopol Watch Factory:
- Pobeda: Stalin named this watch brand. Production started in 1945 at the Penza Watch Factory, after which a number of other factories manufactured Pobeda watches, including the First Moscow Watch Factory, Second Moscow Watch Factory, Chistopol Watch Factory (1949-1950), and others.
- Kama: These watches were built to be water-resistant and shock-resistant.
- Vostok: This is by far the most famous brand name manufactured at Chistopol. As Chistopol was the Ministry of Defence’s official watchmaker beginning in 1965, Vostok watches were built for harsh field conditions. Every watch the factory has turned out since 1969 is branded a Vostok watch, so these days the company and the factory also are called “Vostok.”
Vostok Watches Reference and Buying Guides
Petrodvorets Watch Factory
The Petrodvorets Watch Factory in Saint Petersburg first came into existence clear back in 1721, when it was created by Peter the Great. But in the olden days, it was called the Imperial Lapidary Factory. In fact, it wasn’t devoted to watchmaking at all. It produced gemstone work for architectural projects.
During the early days of the USSR, the focus of the factory shifted a bit, but remained involved with stonework. But from 1949 onwards, the factory began making Soviet watches, starting with Pobeda timepieces. A few years later in 1954, the factory became known as the Petrodvorets Watch Factory, and in 1961, the Raketa brand was introduced.
To learn more about the Petrodvorets Watch Factory and Raketa in particular, see this article.
Petrodvorets Watch Factory: Brands
Here are some of the brands which the Petrodvorets Watch Factory is known for:
- Raketa: The factory introduced this iconic brand in honor of Yuri Gagarin; the word “Raketa” translates to “Rocket.” It is among the best-known USSR watch brands. Raketa watches were made both for military and civilian customers, and millions of them were produced annually during the 70s and 80s.
- Pobeda: Like some of the other factories on this list, Petrodvorets produced Pobeda watches.
Other watch brands that came out of the Petrodvorets Watch Factory include Zvezda, Mayak, Seconda, Neva, Svet, Leningrad, and Cornavin.
Raketa Watches Reference and Buying Guides
ZIM Maslennikov Watch Factory
The ZIM (ЗИМ) Watch Factory is more properly known by its full name, “Завод имени Масленникова,” or “Maslennikov.” Originally, this factory actually was billed as the “Second Pipe Factory” when it opened in 1911. Its workers manufactured artillery shell fuses. It shut down in 1918, then opened again as Maslennikov in 1923.
ZIM remained in munitions through the Second World War. But through the latter half of the 20th century, the factory manufactured a wide variety of appliances: everything from watches to sewing machines. On top of that, ZIM went into construction, erecting schools, restaurants, homes and more. Alas, the factory struggled after the USSR dissolved, and finally closed completely in 2006.
ZIM manufactured Pobeda brand watches from 1951 through 2004. Most other factories that produced Pobeda watches ceased to do so after the 50s or 60s (some even earlier). Only ZIM and the Petrodvorets Watch Factory continued. Being as ZIM is now closed, only Petrodvorets continues to produce Pobeda watches in Russia.
Zlatoust Watch Factory
Just as the Chistopol Watch Factory was founded when the Moscow Second Watch Factory was evacuated in 1941, so too the Zlatoust Watch Factory formed after the First State Watch Factory was likewise evacuated. Like the factory in Chistopol, the new factory in Zlatoust manufactured timers and watch movements by the millions. During the war years, it was called “Factory 384.”
The most famous brand associated with the Zlatoust Watch Factory is Agat, which was the name given to the factory’s stopwatches. As Agat stopwatches became a huge export success, the factory was renamed, “Agat Watch Factory.” It remained successful long after the war years, enduring even into the present (even though, according to the latest reports, the factory is slowly dying).
Now you are familiar with the basic history and brands of some of the USSR’s most notable watch factories. Explore the guides we have linked to if you would like to learn about these factories and brands in greater depth.