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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello watchuseekers!

Today I’ll be reviewing a newly-purchased Russian Kirova 3133 chronograph reissue. This watch pays homage to the famous Tutima-Urofa copy produced in Moscow circa 1947.

kirova_front.JPG

Maktime ceased production of the 3133 used in all Russian-produced chronographs in 2011. There is some remaining stock so new watches are still to be readily found, but prices are increasing and very soon we will see the final disappearance of this Soviet-era chronograph movement from the market.

This watch is probably the best-value among brand new Russian chronographs remaining. At about sixty percent of the cost of a Strela it represents great value. While I would rate it as highly as my Strela and Okean reproductions, ultimately these watches have an unknown origin being produced by some anonymous person inside Russia and so at best they are a “grey market” item, that is, they have no manufacturer warranty only the warranty provided by the seller. They are being sold on eBay from a single seller in Russia as far as I can tell (search: “Kirova matte case”) for around $300. Registered shipping from Russia to the East Coast of the USA took four weeks for my watch.

Background

Everyone is familiar with the famous wartime Nav B-Uhr German flieger watches. The Luftwaffe commissioned these designs during the Second World War from three German manufacturers and the designs emphasized readability and legibility at a glance. For historical and aesthetic reasons these watches remain admired today, with homages and reproductions available from dozens of manufacturers.

Less well-known is that the Luftwaffe also commissioned an aviation chronograph by Tutima and Hanhart. The stopwatch function was particularly important for dive-bombers, who need precise timing for training of bombing runs. During the end of the war the Soviets captured the factory in Glashutte where the Tutima-Urofa was produced, and hauled the equipment back to Moscow as part of their massive relocation of German industry as war reparations. They then produced a near-exact copy except for minor changed details such as the logo and a new Russian case:

1158496d1374060142-arrived-christmas-eve-moscow-kirova-1535x.jpg

(source Mark Gordon, www.ussrtime.com)

The original 1МЧЗ Kirova was the most important military chronograph in the Soviet Union up until the production of the Strela began in the 1950’s. The logo 1МЧЗ is the Russian abbreviation for the “First Moscow Watch Factory.” This logo was also used, for instance, on the Shturmanskie worn by Yury Gagarin during his first historic spaceflight. After the first manned spaceflights, the First Moscow Watch Factory adopted the brand “Полет” or “flight” in honor of these great Soviet achievements. This became the most famous higher-end watch brand in the Soviet Union.

Manufacturer

Poljot produced a Kirova homage under the “Buran” brand in the late 1990’s, but that version had a polished case, date window at 6 o’clock, and the Buran branding and Soviet bomber forces logo. From my understanding, that version had a 38mm diameter case and flat crystal. This newer version has a 40mm case and domed crystal, so it is unlikely that the case or dial have a common heritage besides the overall design with the older Poljot model.

It’s unknown who is producing these, and I have no information to add. The state of the Russian watch industry is very complicated, and it’s possible Moscow Classic or Maktime could be involved with this project. It’s also possible it’s a single watchmaker who is ordering custom cases, dials, and hands from China and somehow has access to stocks of Russian 3133 movements. There is no known Chinese copy of the 3133, so these are genuine Russian movements, but the rest of the components are certainly not Russian in origin.

Dial, Case, Strap

The dial is jet black and as far as I can tell without a loupe, is perfectly crafted. The lume on the numerals is evenly applied, the dial is jet black, and the indices on the chrono subdials perfectly line up with the subdial hands (perhaps even better than my Strela).

kirova_dial.JPG

This version sticks relatively close to the original, with the biggest difference being slightly different proportions of the dial elements and hands that gives it a more “closed-in” look and the Russian text “хронограф, 23 камя” (chronograph, 23 jewels) above the numeral 6.

The watch lacks a date window and date wheel (I can feel no date advancement). This is to my mind a blessing, as one of the main criticisms of the 3133 among those on WUS is that it has no quick-set-date mechanism.

The watch hands are of the famous “poire squelette” or “skeleton pear” design. They are very legible, and for the version I purchased the metal skeleton is polished and nicely reflects the light at many angles. There is also an all-white handed version, that has undoubtedly superior legibility, but has less of a vintage look. I also felt a complex skeleton structure makes little sense if the hands are all-white — I would prefer simple hands in that case, as on the Omega Speedmaster.

The bezel is a coin-bezel type, with a red painted index to mark a specific time relative to the minute or hour hand. The elapsed time can then be calculated (as on a diver). The bezel rotates freely with no clicks, but is very tight, and is frankly a pain to rotate. Perhaps it will loosen with time. Fortunately, since these coin bezels have no numerals I can’t imagine myself using it very often to mark a time.

The included strap is a very thick leather. It’s likely from China, but the stitching is even and the strap passes the “smell test” — it’s not obviously synthetic leather to my nose. The flieger-style rivets are matte to match the case, whereas most straps like these have polished rivets. The overall look is very nice. I read in another post that the dark brown finish comes off easily over time where it is bent. That might be true, and so I added a cheap $15 matte deployant I bought off eBay:

kirova_deployant.JPG

This version has red chronograph hands, which is not true to the original from what I can tell, but instead is similar to the Hanhart chronographs (remember the Russian copy was based on Tutima’s model). Note that the red reset pusher is actually original to the Russian Tutima copy. On this model it's very well applied, obviously the pusher has been dipped in something before watch assembly (it's not painted on as an afterthought). There are other versions without the red hands, and some with orange lume as well for a more vintage look. I particularly like this version, with red chrono hands to match the red chrono pusher, and the green lume makes it look a little more modern.

I tested the lume against a Seiko SKX173 dive watch, and it was clearly outclassed as in this photo, but in reality both were legible 1 hour after sun exposure. It's not the best lume I've ever seen, but it's definitely not the worst either:

kirova_lume.JPG

There are also versions of this watch branded as Hanhart instead of 1МЧЗ and these are certainly illegal to sell abroad (perhaps even in Russia, too), so I do not condone purchasing one. In fact, many on here would probably frown on purchasing even this model as it might be supporting the fake Hanhart producer (although this is uncertain that they are one and the same). Still, the lack of affordable 3133s and the fact that this design was historically a copy of a German design anyways would still lead me to recommend this watch.

On watch.ru, the main Russian watch forum, it was noted that an earlier version of this model had a misspelling on the caseback of the Russian for "water resistant,” so they were ridiculed as being a cheap Chinese knockoff. That misspelling was corrected on subsequent models (including mine). Other details have been improved, such as the domed mineral crystal whereas the older versions had flat crystals:

kirova_crystal.JPG

Movement

This modern recreation is powered by the reliable Poljot 3133 mechanism which is based on the Valjoux 7734 with added Soviet improvements in the 1970’s. I haven’t cracked the caseback to determine if mine is a Poljot- or Maktime-produced mechanism, but it is certainly a genuine 3133.

The 3133 is a hand-wind movement, with a very long power reserve of around 60-65 hours in practice.

My watch has kept remarkable time. As I type this I set the time to atomic time exactly 5 days ago. The watch is now -10 seconds off atomic time. Of course on a daily basis some days it gained, some lost. I wore the watch for most of that time, as well as leaving it some nights crown up and some nights crown down. As I don’t have tools to measure it, the best I can say is that as the owner of five 3133-based watches, this is the most accurate out-of-the-box one I’ve seen so far.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this watch, with the caveat that it has an unknown provenance and warranty support will likely be unavailable. It's a real Russian 3133 movement, but the assembler is not known and the case+dial+hands are likely made in China. But then again, that's true of many Russian watches these days.

Although it is not exactly identical to the original historical design, it’s a very close homage and uses a much more rugged and modern (and Russian!) movement, the Pojot 3133. For these reasons I rate the watch very highly in terms of value and I think it gives the Tianjin Seagull 1963 reissue — a very popular model on WUS — a run for its money as an entry-level historically-inspired mechanical chronograph.

This watch is likely a black-market product, produced by some watch aficionado out there in Russia who wants to make a buck but is also trying their hardest to make a faithful reproduction of a historical model, which is more than I can say for many Russian producers. This watch encapsulates not only early Soviet horological history on the basis of foreign designs and equipment, but it also embodies the chaotic state of the Russian watch industry today.

I highly recommend it.

Overall grade: A-

kirova_wrist.JPG
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
I messaged the seller I bought this from on eBay letting him know I posted the review. I did ask him about the origin of these watches. He claims they were all made in a batch in 2011 by Volmax. Who knows?!

They weren't sold through normal distribution channels, as no authorized dealers either in Russia or abroad seem to have them. So they might be a kind of "fly by night" product, like how Chinese factories will fulfill orders and then also produce some extra on the side for profit.

If true that would make these even more of a bargain, as Volmax has very good QC.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
The watch was sold as 3133/6503275 on the Poljot 2002 Catalogue, with at least 5000 pieces produced:
Yes but notice the Poljot-produced version had a date window. Also I believe it was 38mm diameter, not 40mm as the current one, so the cases would not be the same.

I think what happened is Volmax produced some more, as they had the people/design who produced this one, but they don't own the 1МЧЗ brand, since they only bought Buran, Shturmanskie, and Aviator from Poljot.

EDIT: I take it back, that one says 40mm I think, interesting..
 

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I finally decided to get myself one of these watches. The price on them keeps going up and they stock of them will run out at some point.

Here's mine - I like this watch a lot, it's very well made!
 

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