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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
It seems that were just a few days ago when I wrote the introduction of the ZIM 3049, coming from Samara (which hasn't arrived yet), but despite this, the search for quartz watches made in the USSR kept going on.

And so, the research has led to another fruit, the Chaika 3056A, the successor to the "old" 3050-KR. Unlike its predecessor, the watch is equipped with the third generation of Soviet quartz movements, the 3056A, evolution of 3056, which adopts a single coil instead of four, a stepper motor and a smaller electronic module which is technically more efficient than the previous one.

The 3056 movement derives heavily from the old CRP-3050, but thanks to the reduction of production costs,
it was produced in greater numbers by the Soviet watchmakers, allowing mass distribution of quartz watches in the USSR, unlike what happened with the previous 3050 series. Plus, the 3056 series, with its evolution, 3056A, had a rather long productive life: from 1981/82 until the early '90s, although it was never exported to Western markets.

The 3056/3056A mainly retain the mechanical structure of the old CRP-3050 movement, while adopt a new type of battery contact, a new electronic module, a new stepping motor and some mechanical changes.

The 3056 and 3056A movements were only available without calendar, since during its debut there still was the CRP-3050 that had the calendar feature, and then it was replaced by the more conventional Luch 2350 and Poljot 2450, which were regularly exported to Western markets, unlike the 3056/3056A, that was mainly reserved to the USSR and the Eastern Bloc countries.

The 3056/3056A series was used by Chaika, Raketa (that made a lot models with this movement, including a diver) and Slava, that produced during the mid/late 80s many models with this movement, usually with a "diver" design (but we can't also forget the Slava "Pulse" watch, that allowed to calculate cardiac pulsations). Some specimen also featured special dials dedicated to important events in the history of the USSR, such as the summit of Malta 1989 -the event that finally put an end to the Cold War-.

(Top) Movement 3056 (Bottom) Movement 3056A.
You can see the differences between the two generations of the series 3056: the stepper motor was resized,
the four coils were replaced by a single full-length, the trimmer was repositioned and the electronic form was redesigned. Source of pictures: Ebay, WUS

Like the previous CRP-3050, the electronic module was made in Belarus, in the Integral, Angstrem and Transistor factories, while the quartz crystal was made in Uglich, the stepper motor was produced by Slava, and the movement was produced in various factories. Unlike the previous generations, logistics was reorganized, allowing each factory to produce the basic components of the movement, perform final assembly and quality control on site, rather than having to rely on the Poljot for production and for Chaika final assembly and quality control, allowing a number of savings on production and allowing the Soviet engineers to be able to further reduce costs by simplifying the mechanical components (and thus giving rise to the series 3056A).

But now let's see the Chaika-branded version, the one I purchased yesterday, in the pictures below taken by the seller from whom I purchased it. The model, called Chaika 3056A, probably dates to the mid-80s, since it features the 3056A instead of the 3056. Chaika did very few changes on this model, limiting itself only to small aesthetic changes during its production life: it was produced with two types of chapter ring, one white and one black, as you see in the picture below. Small changes were also made to the dial, which saw the elimination of the seconds scale, leaving only the minutes one.

In the picture below you can see the 3056A movement exposed, and you may also notice the peculiarity of the caseback: The inner part was putting a woodgrain sheet that acts as an insulator to prevent a short-circuit of the movement. Since the original gasket tends to melt with time, it has been removed, but it's not a big issue, since I never let water get closer to my watches (since none of my watches are water resistant).

The caseback, unlike its ancestor, is no longer protunding the obsolete words "Kvarzevi rezonator" are a far memory of the past, featuring only the serial number. The case, as well as the crown, are chrome plated, and have some brassing due to daily use, although it's not excessively worn.

Plus, this Chaika, in the version with the white chapter ring, was also the protagonist of the first television advertising made by Chaika, dating back to the early '80s, and was not advertised as a quartz watch, but watch as "electromechanical" watch. You can see the "reklama" below:

In the second video you can see the watch "in action". Despite the differences compared to the old CRP-3050, the technical approach of the movement remained the same, still continuing to be technically very similar to a miniaturized wall clock, with its particular tschok, tschok, tschok noise and the fluid movement of the second hand, that has a light backlash, similar to the one of a wall clock:

Unlike the previous purchases, this Chaika comes from France, which makes me think that it won't take a long time before its arrival. More photos and additional impressions, of course, will be published as soon as it'll arrive. |>

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Thank you for yet another great history and analysis of a Soviet quartz pioneer.

Regarding the 'electromechanical' description, I've noticed that this persists even in modern times and may simply reflect a difference in language. In English, we tend to split watches into 'quartz' and 'mechanical'. Pre-quartz electrically-powered watches (and even quartz watches using a balance-wheel or tuning-fork drive) are called 'electromechanical'. But anything with either a stepper-motor or an LED or LCD screen are called 'quartz'. In Russian the natural dichotomy seems to be 'electronic' and 'mechanical' thus all electrically-powered watches with a mechanically-driven display (i.e. analogue) including quartz are described as 'electromechanical', leaving only those with an electronic display as 'electronic'.

Another possible reflection in the difference of mindset is that the alternative designation of the ZIM 3049 is B6-02 which (as I understand it) is of a form of designation applied to electronic consumer devices. In other words, under Soviet planning the quartz digital wristwatch was considered closer to a transistor radio than to other kinds of wristwatch.

That's just my understanding so native Russian speakers might like to correct me if needs be.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you Chascomm :)

It's interesting to see that the Russian definition of quartz watches. This makes them even more fascinating.
Although the Russian definition of quartz watches as electromechanical isn't wrong, after all quartz watches, in addition to electronic parts, still have mechanical parts into their movement, hence the nomenclature is correct. A curious -yet fascinating thing- I've seen on some Elektronika 3045 and 3049 is that on their caseback was written "Elektronnie", "Electronic", to specify the kind of movement that powered the watch. These little things are a small part that make Soviet watches so fascinating. :)

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
I could say that the shipping of this watch has been one of the fastest I've ever seen so far: It took only two days!
Indeed, I was very surprised when the postman told me that he was going to give me a parcel from France!

And so, here it is, our Chaika 3056A, protected in its envelope. Let's take the scissors and open it!

After opening the first envelope, another one pops out the first one. I thought that the watch must be inside the second envelope, so with my scissors I open it, but...

What!? Is it a Matryoshka envelope? Oh I forgot: a Russian watch (or better to say, Soviet), follows the local traditions, so the envelope-matryoshka mustn't be so surprising. So I've opened the third envelope, to find a fourth, smaller one, made of sponge, which I promptly open.

And finally, after I've opened not one but four envelopes like a Matryoshka, the watch pops out in all its charm! The watch is in very good condition. It does have some light scratches due to everyday usage, but they are visible especially on the rear, where there's some brassing around the caseback, probably due to inappropriate tools used to open the watch.

The acrylic glass has some light scratches, but it seems to has been polished, since the scratch aren't so deep, however I'll polish it further in the future.

So, I replaced the NATO strap with a temporary steel bracelet, which allows me to wear it until I'll put something that looks better. What I've immediately noticed was the movement of the second hand: unlike CRP-3050 and 3056, due to the smaller stepping motor, the second hand "snaps" like on the more "modern" quartz watches, instead of having that light backlash that characterized the previous generations of Soviet quartz movements (in addition to its particular ticking noise).

The luminous hands do not light up in darkness anymore, since the tritium decayed.

After that, I proceeded to disassemble and clean the watch. Armed with a cotton swab, a small screwdriver and a pair of scissors, I unscrewed the caseback, and once I opened it, I noticed that the original gasket, which is usually known to melt with the years, it was petrified, and was broken in some parts. So I scrapped the gasket, and I replaced it with another one borrowed from the broken Chaika 3050-KR, which I keep for parts for the new one I currently wear on rotation. The diameter isn't identical to the one of the old gasket, but it's fine as a temporary solution, as this watch will never see the water, like all my other vintage watches.

I then removed all the dust on the dial and the acrylic glass, and then I reassembled everything. After I've reassembled the watch, I looked at the movement, the 3056A. IMHO it's very fascinating, with its primordial electronics. Yes, it's more evolved than the old CRP-3050, but its large printed circuit board, its jeweled mechanics, the large coil that occupies a lot of space in the movement, makes it quite fascinating.

Then, I noticed something rather curious: on the main bridge, we can see the Chaika logo, but instead of being written 3056A, it says 3056. Maybe the original 3056A-signed bridge has been replaced with the one of a 3056? After all many parts of the 3056 and 3056A are interchangeable.

Another thing worth to notice is the coil. It seems to be covered by a thin layer of sylicone, to protect it from dust and other damages, but the thing that makes me a bit surprised is its proximity to the battery contact: someone with a not-so-firm hand might damage the coil quite easily. So I will ask the watchmaker to replace the battery for me, to avoid potential risks... :-x

On the printed circuit board, also, we can see the Integral logo, the factory where the module was produced. The quartz crystal instead, produced by Chaika, is located at the bottom left, under the PCB. Something interesting is the way the crown is installed: instead of using the classic button to pull out the crown must pry the plate with a small screwdriver, to remove the crown. It might be a little difficult at the beginning, but once you learn the correct procedure, its extraction becomes quite simple.

Very interesting is also the hacking feature. Unlike the previous CRP-3050, where the hacking is only electrical (on first gen of the CRP-3050, the electrical pulse of the stepping motor is reduced, but not cut completely, so the wheel of the motor "tries" to move, but due to the unsufficient electric pulse, it remains still. There's a lever tha blocks the wheel, but the movement stops due to the reduction of the electric pulse rather than by the lever itself. On the post '77 CRP-3050, however, the electric hacking was removed, leaving only the lever to physically block the stepping motor wheel, without interrupting nor reducing the electric pulse) in this watch the feature is designed differently:

when the crown is pulled, a lever physically blocks the train of the time (you can see the hacking lever in the small slot that is on the main deck), plus the electrical impulse, instead of being reduced considerably, it is temporarily disabled , completely stopping the movement, until the crown returns to the neutral position.

And here it is, after I've cleaned it and reassembled. I can feel its weight on the wrist, it's more or less similar to the one of the Chaika 3050-KR. However, it's slightly thinner, primarily due to the lack of the protunding caseback, which IMHO has a little drawback since it allowed the case to not directly touch the wrist, preserving the chrome plating. So, whenever the wrist is sweaty, it is important to clean the rear part of the case to avoid that in the long run the sweat corrodes the plating.

So, I've set the watch using the INRIM atomic clock as a reference. And I must say that since I've set it two days ago, the watch is keeping excellent time, without losing a second!

Now, with this model, I have two important symbols that have allowed the Soviet watch industry to do several steps forward. From the 3050-KR until 3056/3056A, then the 2350/2450, the Soviet Union has continued to evolve its quartz movements, although its total production was lower than the Japanese, who were and still are the undisputed leader of the market.

But surely, the charm of those Soviet watches, entirely developed in-house, is extremely high.

I believe that those who collect Soviet-era watches, shouldn't ignore the quartz models, since they were an important part of the industrial history of the USSR, and represented an attempt by the Soviets to compete on a market that was growing, which represented the future of watchmaking, an opportunity that the USSR unfortunately missed, but that attempt left precious and important evidence about how its industry worked to give the Soviet response to a kind of technology that was supposed to permanently replace the mechanical watchmaking.

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Thanks for the lengthy and interesting descriptions, vpn. Next to a fascinating watch story they offer an interesting insight into Sovjet history and the way a planned economy works. I must admit, that I never considered that the USSR also had "reklamas".

Why do you consider that the USSR "missed" the quartz era ? You establish that they had several fine working models and that finally the prive was OK, right ?

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Thank you Dixit :)

Domestically, the situation was quite good. The Soviet quartz watches had a good success on the domestic and Warsaw Pact market, since it was mostly dominated by them (together with a little competition from East Germany with the Ruhla and Glashutte quartz calibers and Bulgaria with the Pravetz/Buletronic digital watches), but outside the Eastern Bloc, the situation was quite different.

The reason behind the "missed" opportunity of the USSR to compete properly on the international quartz market was mostly due to two factors: excessively long development times (that led to the debut of outdated technologies) and lack of production capacity.

The USSR released the Chaika 3050-KR only in 1977/'78 (after they reduced the costs of the movement, which was too expensive to produce as it was), while in Japan (which was the country that produced the highest amount of quartz movements) and Switzerland there was already a growing market and production in the quartz watch market.

This prevented a proper competition of the USSR outside the Eastern Block, because the CRP-3050 and the later 3056/3056A movements were not as advanced as the ones produced by the "Western" competitors. They still were too complex, too much labour-intensive and not cheap enough to produce (although the Soviet engineers worked intensively to reduce the production costs of those movements, something that was nearly achieved with the 3056A, after the "rushed" job done on the CRP-3050). Yes, the production costs were significantly lowered compared to the first years of production, but they still weren't low enough.

The amount of quartz watches (both analog and digital models, including quartz electromechanical ones such as the Luch 3055) produced in the Soviet Union was made by 680k pieces in 1981*, and the year later the production was increased to 1,2 million pieces. Way below the numbers that the foreign competition (mainly the Japanese one) was able to reach.

Plus, the factories weren't able to increase their production due to the lack of resources: the government didn't invest enough on the domestic watchmaking industry, so they were forced to "temporarily" sacrifice the international competition, to focus only on the domestic market and the Warsaw Pact one. A little attempt to get a little piece of the "Capitalist" quartz watches market was done with the export of the Elektronika 3049 and the Elektronika 5.202 with the Sekonda brand, but the success was quite limited. At those times only mechanical watches were the ones that gave a good source of incomes to the USSR on the "Western" market.

This changed only when Luch and Poljot introduced the cheaper and more conventional 2350 and 2450 calibers, that allowed the USSR to finally produce movements that were able to compete on Western markets. The production capacity was also increased, but it was already too late for them to compete properly, and they occupied only a small niche of the Western market.

That's the reason why the only Soviet quartz watches that were exported to the West were the ones fitted with the 2350/2450 series.

*: Many thanks to Mchap for providing these data, thanks to his enormous collection of catalogues from the Soviet era.

About the accuracy, I've checked the INRIM clock again, the watch is going +3 seconds faster than the atomic clock. ;-)
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