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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
By coincidence, I was re-photographing a very early Pensa-produced ZIF watch in my collection yesterday when amil started a thread about Zvesda watches that among other things posed a question about a gold-colored brass version of a Zvesda movement that he owns.

The caliber 1802 Zvesda (aka T18) played a very interesting and important role, not only in Soviet watchmaking, but also outside of Russia.

In 1936, Fred Lipmann, head of the French watchmaker LIP, signed agreements with the Soviet Government to export LIP technology and parts to Russia as part of an effort to modernize and diversify its watch industry. At that time, the Soviets were almost completely reliant on the Deuber Hampden designed Type-1 pocket-watch movement.

The agreement allowed Russia to buy movements and watch parts, and to receive Lip’s technology. As a result, Lip got cash it desperately needed to solve financial problems that were caused by the company's rapid expansion in France.

One of the major elements in this deal involved setting up a factory at Pensa to produce what LIP called the T18 movement, which the Soviet's would eventually call caliber 1802.

The T18 was designed by Andre Donat, and produced at LIP in France from 1933 to 1949. It was one of LIP's most successful movements.

LIP engineers and technicians were sent to Pensa to supervise the installation of a modern factory and train Russian engineers. This factory was literally revolutionary. It was the first anywhere in the world to use moving assembly lines to manufacture movements and watches. Yes, the Soviets (with the help of LIP) out-innovated the Swiss!

As part of the agreement, LIP also sold a large quantity of T18 movements and movement parts to feed the factories while they were getting up to speed.

The factory began production in November 1938. The first batch of 1,012 Soviet-assembled T18 watches were produced from LIP parts between November and December. The dials on these watches were signed ZIF.

I have a watch from this first production run in my collection. It is number number 0656 on my website. The movement is gold colored brass and the beautifully etched dial (which, based on the tarnish, may be sterling silver) has a red colored '12'. The serial number on this movement is 183. A couple of photos are posted below. Visit my site for additional photos and information.

Apparently, just the first 1,200 Pensa-produced signed watches were signed 'ZIF'. The more than 9.000 remaining LIP-made movements procured in the trade agreement were subsequently used to make similar watches signed 'ZIF' and perhaps 'Zvesda', as well. The barrel gear on some of these Zvesdas are signed LIP while others are unsigned. These movements are mostly made from white-metal, although a few unnumbered brass movements fall into this lot, as well.

Eventually, production of T18 movements expanded to the Uglich factory, and finished Zvesda watches were assembled with Pensa movements at Petrodworzowy (later known as Raketa) and the 2nd Moscow Watch Factory (later known as Slava).

Early Pensa movements are easy to date and identify. Up to the end of 1949 these movements had two small screw holes on either side that were used by LIP to fasten a movement cover. After 1950 the Russian factory eliminated these holes.

In the interest of clarity, I want to mention that this posting is the result of my own research, and research findings from Nick Downes and from the late Dieter Brunow.

All together, my collection contains more than 70 examples of ZIF and Zvesda watches, including many rare and unusual case and bracelet variants. To see them, go to my search page and click on 'Zvesda' under the 'Dial IDs' category. There is also a beautiful little toy Zvesda produced in Moscow in the 1950s by the 'All-Union Society of the Blind' (number 1296).

-- Mark
 

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Thank you Mark for this (as usual) excellent article about the early days of Soviet watchmaking.

...but...

...once again I'm going to quibble over the '1802' designation. The only references to a designation for this movement that I have seen are 'K-18' prior to the introduction of the standard codes in the 1960s, and '2602' subsequent to that.

The size part of the code (the first two digits) should indicate the diameter of a circular movement with equivalent main plate area as the movement referred to. The Zvezda movement is a tonneau measuring 18x28.55mm giving an approximate equivalent area to a 26mm round movement, hence 2602. (discussion here where I make a wrong assumption and get set straight).

That's the theory, but I might be wrong. Mark, do you have any Soviet-era doco showing the use of '1802' to describe the Zvezda movement?
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
To tell you the truth, Michael, I've never seen this movement formally designated as anything in Soviet literature from the time of production.

Here is the movement description from a vintage catalog page (see attached image).

Часы наручные женские «Звезда» изготовляют по ГОСТ 6519—58 с часовой, минутной и секундной стрелками.
Часовой механизм калибра 18X28,5 мм со
стальным анкерным ходом на 15 рубиновых камнях.
Продолжительность хода от одной полной заводки пружины не менее 34 ч. Средний суточный ход ± 45 сек.

This roughly translates as:

Ladies watch "Star" [i.e, Zvesda] is manufactured [to] GOST 6519-58 with the hour, minute and second hands.
Local caliber 18X28.5 mm
steel lever escapement with 15 rubies.
The duration of one full winding is at least 34 hours. Average daily rate ± 45 sec.

As you can see, the description doesn't actually designate the movement at all, it just provides the dimensions. The next paragraph goes on to describe the various model numbers, some of which are called K18 and some not.

And, here is a page from a 2nd catalog that even more plainly shows that K18 is the designation for a case type, not a movement type. See attached.

(I can post both complete multi-page catalogs sections if you would like, but they just show the various case and dial variations.)

Maybe we should refer to to this movement as a Soviet T18? That's what LIP called it.

-- Mark
 

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And, here is a page from a 2nd catalog that even more plainly shows that K18 is the designation for a case type, not a movement type. See attached.
Yes, that's definitely a case designation.

Maybe we should refer to to this movement as a Soviet T18? That's what LIP called it.
That's probably the safest approach.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
By the way, Michael, I use the designation 1802 on the basis of what Dieter Brunow communicated to me before he died. He used 1802 so often when we communicated, in such a confident and matter-of-fact way, it never occurred to me it could be wrong. But now that I think about it, you are correct that I have never seen this designation in a Soviet source.
-- Mark
 

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I think that this is not the Soviet machine. Yellow Soviet mechanisms are not labeled. I think it is LIP .....я думаю что это не советский механизм . желтые советские механизмы не имеют маркировку . я думаю это lip.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Precisely, amil. It is assembled from LIP made parts in Pensa. The 1012 watches in the first production batch were stamped with serial numbers.
 

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Thank you for the detailed explanation! In addition to the serial number, the watch from the initial batch of 1012 you show, Mark, has the regulator scale marked A/F and R/S - sensible for LIP's Western European market. Amil's - which if I read you correctly, should be from the 9000 subsequent movements that were part of the agreement - is marked +/-. Does that also distinguish between these first and second batches, or is it just random?
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Thank you for your opinion, amil. But I believe you are not in possession of all the facts and as a result your views about these watches are a bit simplistic.

If you look on my website, you will see that I have 5 ZIF watches, including one in a tank case with a dial just like like the one in your post (No. 0372), which is complete and in working condition. But this watch is not from the first T-18 production at Pensa.

Additionally, I have another T-18 with an unmarked dial and a LIP movement that was probably a production prototype or trial piece for ZIF and Zvesda production at the factory (number 0731), and I have a very complete series of more than 70 Zvesda watches form Pensa and Uglich, including many with dials that indicate final casing at other factories. You can see all of these watches by going to the search page on my website Welcome to USSR Time! and clicking on 'ZIF' and 'Zvesda' under the 'Dial IDs' category.

The original ZIF production in November and December 1938 was a very big event in Soviet industrial history. The T-18 was the first 'modern' movement produced in the Soviet Union, which up to then was producing only Type-1 pocket-watch movements. It also involved the building of a world-class factory with a moving assembly line that redefined the state-of-the-art for the world in watch production.

The first 1020 pieces to come off the this production line in November and December, which were assembled from French-made LIP parts and complete movements, were very important symbols of a new era in Soviet industrial prowess. For this reason, they were given high-quality dials and they were given to high-ranking Moscow and local party officials and politicians, and to factory managers and to important LIP people. The piece I illustrated (number 0656) is from this group.

The factory then went on, from January 1939 through May 1940, to assemble more than 9,000 additional ZIF watches from complete LIP movements and LIP-made parts that came to Russia as part of the agreement with LIP. Some of these were cased in Tank cases like the one you have shown. These pieces were considered routine production and they were more plainly dialed for distribution across the Soviet Union. After May 1940, production at the factory shifted to watches assembled from Russian-made parts. These were signed 'Zvesda', the Russian word for 'Star'.

I hope this clarifies ZIF and Zvesda history for you.

-- Mark
 

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I have a watch from this first production run in my collection. It is number number 0656 on my website. The movement is gold colored brass and the beautifully etched dial (which, based on the tarnish, may be sterling silver) has a red colored '12'. The serial number on this movement is 183.
That's not a serial number, I've came across few yellow colored Zvezda movements and all of them had '183' stamped on the bridge.

While we're talking about rare soviet T18 watches here is something you don't see often - Zvezda movement with shock-resistant balance.
 

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I had a shockproof Zvezda from 1954, but this one looks even older. Very early for an incabloc. Great, scarce version :)
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Thanks for this information, Shadow_ru.

So now another mystery. If '183' is not a serial number, then what can it be? It is not a caliber designation for either the LIP or the Soviet side. Not a jewel count. Not a date.

-- Mark
 

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Thanks for this information, Shadow_ru.

So now another mystery. If '183' is not a serial number, then what can it be? It is not a caliber designation for either the LIP or the Soviet side. Not a jewel count. Not a date.

-- Mark
Unfortunately I don't have answer to this question :-( Probably 18 means movement caliber which is quite sensible considering that it's called T18, but 3 stands for something else then.

here is a link to the old thread about LIP watches, the french example shown there also has the same number.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Ha! Ha! I'd completely forgotten about this thread... and I contributed to it!
 
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