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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
One of the greatest virtues of the human being, and what he has allowed the evolution, is the ability to take advantage of unfavorable situations.

This is what we have learned by studying our history, which led us within two millennia to become an incredibly advanced civilizations. But transcending a purely historical and evolutionary discourse linked to the mankind, we should try to understand how this concept, the concept of "Self Reliance" has been used in watchmaking, where sometimes this "art" has led to important results, albeit with mixed results.

In the Soviet Union, the watch industry -as we already know- was very particular. Mostly because of the poor attitude of the government to fund new projects that could risk being leaps in the dark, they preferred to focus themselves on sturdy and reliable mechanical timepieces.

On the other hand, the Soviets never stopped to experiment, to innovate, hoping to bring something new on the market, but most importantly, something that would allow the USSR to compete properly with the Capitalist West, to conquer a new source of incomes, something which the once-largest state in the world needed to ensure its survival.

Many of these experiments, as the first quartz clock ever made in the USSR (Chaika 3050-KR ) and the first digital watch (Elektronika 3045/3049 - Project B6-02), were actually developed and produced, despite a delay due to the chronic lack of receptivity by the Soviet government to invest in these new kind of watches, while others, even if developed, failed to have the expected success.

And it is about the development of products that saw the light for a very short time, the subject I want to discuss today.
But to tell the story of this watch, we have to do a lil' jump back in time, in the early '70s to be correct.

We'll begin to tell the story of the mysterious yet important Luch 3045.

The Luch 3045 was made during the short period in which the Soviet watch companies experimented in the field of electro-mechanical wristwatches, after the previous failed attempts during the '60s, because of the very high production costs and the inability to industrialize the movements due to the lack of government funds.

Despite repeated failures at making a Soviet electromechanical watch, the development of this kind of movement did not stop through the years, indeed, in the Byelorussian SSR, Luch was perfectly able to develop and produce their own electromechanical movement: the 3045.




The Luch 3045, the first electro-mechanical watch made by the Byelorussian company.
Few hundred specimen of this watch were made, due to the high production costs,
the lack of demand from customers and the lack of willingness by the Soviet government to fund the project. (Picture source: WUS)



The Luch 3045 was a very promising watch. Based on the movement of the Junghans 600 ATO-Chron (electromechanical movement with fixed coil and transistor switching), the management of the Byelorussian company had rather ambitious goals for this watch, that was supposed to be the latest entry of the Soviet Union in the field of electromechanical wristwatches. There were plans to export the 3045 in the West too, representing the "cutting edge" innovation of the Soviet mechanics and electronics industry.

In fact, the Luch 3045 was a quite special watch: it was fine-tuned in order to receive GOST chronometer certification and was the first Soviet high-frequency watch, which ran at 28.800 BPH.

But unlike the Luch management, the Soviet government did not consider the development of the watch a main priority, so, the additional funding required to expand the production lines of the 3045 and to allow a widespread distribution of the product, never arrived, and the amount of 3045s effectively produced didn't reach a couple hundred units. The watch was produced in two variants: 10k gold plated case , and a chrome-plated variant with a dark blue dial. During its short life, the 3045 was produced in two versions: the first generation had the bottom closed by an O-ring, while the second generation had an openable battery compartment, making the battery change process easier.

Despite the ambitious plans for the 3045, the project was "frozen", but it wasn't canned, as opposed to what happened to other models such as the NII-Chasprom electromechanical prototype, the Slava 114ChN, the Slava Transistor (this one aborted due to legal issues with Bulova), the NII-Chasprom Kvarz (prototype tuning-fork quartz watch) and the B6-01 project (prototype of the Soviet first LED watch, loosely based on the Pulsar P2, never got beyond the prototype stage. Part of its module was reused for the B6- 02).

Now, let's go to 1979. At the end of the 70s, the Soviet government had finally realized -very belatedly- that the watch market was undergoing a major and irreversible change due to the increasingly prominent weight of quartz watches, and it finally granted the necessary funds for the development of the first analog and digital Soviet quartz movements, leading to the birth of the Chaika 3050-KR, the Elektronika 3045/3049 and the Elektronika-1.

However, making a quartz movement from scratch, as it had happened in the Russian SFSR with the CRP-3050 project (an acronym for "Crystal Resonator Project", from Russian "Проект Кристалл резонатор"), wasn't easy at all, plus it was very expensive.

The Byelorussian company wasn't willing to ask the government for the allocation of other funds to make a movement that would hardly have been shared by other factories, since the CRP-3050 was already in production.

So, the Byelorussian engineers had a simple yet effective idea: they could give new life to the old 3045 movement, turning it into a quartz electromechanical one. Inspired by Timex Q-Quartz, the old 3045 movement was partially redesigned in order to accommodate a new electronic module developed by Chaika, with a quartz crystal and an oscillator, which would have adjusted the oscillation of the balance wheel, "correcting" the inaccuracies of the balance wheel.

An extra jewel was added, bringing the count to 18, and in 1981 the first analog quartz watch built in the Byelorussian SSR made its debut: the Luch 3055.

Produced in numerous combinations of dials and cases, the Luch 3055 was far more successful than its predecessor: the greater number of variants, the quartz accuracy and its lower price (although it was still an expensive watch), made the 3055 the first and only electromechanical quartz watch produced in the USSR .

But despite the greater success, which allowed the company to recover the development costs of the movement, the 3055 had its flaws: the balance wheel in the long run could cause wear of the pivot on which oscillates due to its heavy weight, the electronic module was quite fragile and easily susceptible to static electricity, the hacking lever tended to deform easily, making it difficult to correctly synchronize and restart the clock, the calendar mechanism was undersized and the gearing tended to wear out prematurely, and due to the poor quality of the quartz crystal commissioned to Chaika (in order to save money during the development) these specimens often tended to operate erratically.

During the short life of the watch, Luch never ceased to update and improve the caliber, partially resolving the flaws listed above, improving the adjustment process (adopting a micrometric regulation system) and the overall reliability of the movement, allowing us to identify two generations of Luch 3055 .

The first is easily recognizable by the smaller crown and the lack of the moveable positive battery contact (on the first gen 3055, the positive battery contact was screwed on the movement) , while the second generation, the crown was made bigger, the positive battery contact was made moveable, in order to make the battery change process easier, the electronic module was more integrated and simplified and some bridges were revised.

The movement of the 3055, despite was technically derived from the 3045, was a bit different from its predecessor: the most important addition was the new electronic module with the quartz crystal, that would've corrected the oscillations of the balance wheel, reducing the precision errors and ensuring an accuracy equal to or similar to the one of a traditional quartz watch with a stepping motor.

A calendar with day-date feature and quickset of the day of the month was introduced, and just like the CRP-3050 models, the Luch 3055 featured the instant date change at midnight.

In order to avoid a possible misalignment of the second hand, a jewelled pawl "indexed" the seconds hand, preventing backlashes.

In short, the Luch 3055 was not designed to be an inexpensive watch -although its price was slightly lower than the 3045- and like its predecessor, it was conceived to comply the GOST Chronometer Certification for quartz watches, a certification that like its predecessor, was never given, although the watch was considered the most accurate quartz timepiece ever made in the USSR, before its "supremacy" was inherited by the 2350 series.


Luch_3055_Movement_zps1a4c4597.jpg

The movement of the Luch 3055 . You can notice the screw for the micrometric regulation, coupled with the trimmer on the electronic module. As well as the movement of 3045, the 3055 was carefully regulated in order to receive the GOST chronometer certification, but for unknown reasons, the certification was never granted, despite being one of the most accurate quartz watches ever made in the USSR, competing against the Ruhla Quarz 32768 in accuracy. (Source: Ebay Seller)



The short and lively production period of what was one of the most peculiar quartz watches produced behind the Iron Curtain ended in 1983, when the 3055 calibre, already obsolete, was now uneconomic to produce, also because Luch had started to produce the 2350 movement, the first "modern" quartz movement ever made in the USSR .

Now, it's finally time to introduce my latest arrival, straight from Uzbekistan. A parcel that seems to be a time capsule from the Soviet Era.





When I got it, I immediately thought of a lost parcel sent from the USSR 30 years ago and mistakenly sent to me, until I've noticed that the address of the recipient was mine... :-d I've been galvanized by the wax seal, on the other side of the small package... I've never seen one in reality before yesterday!





Once removed the string and the wrapping paper, a small piece of folded cardboard, sealed with duct tape, appeared. The watch was inside, wrapped around a piece of sponge.





So, I've cut the tape and carefully pulled the watch out, which wasn't working because it didn't have a battery: it seems that in Uzbekistan is forbidden to ship watches with batteries, the good thing is that I already had a 357 ready to use on the watch. Then, I've opened it and as soon as I inserted the battery, the balance wheel began to oscillate. I've setted the time, synchronizing it with the NTP clock, and I've checked out the calendar and the hacking feature, which work very well.







The watch is heavy, although its weight is not so noticeable at the wrist. The bracelet is chrome-plated brass, made by Vympel, a cases and bracelets manufacturer based in Vitsebsk (Byelorussia). Most of the products made by Vympel are mainly made for Luch and Raketa, and unlike other Soviet bracelets, this one isn't excessively large on my wrist, but fits well without being too tight. The solid chrome-plated brass links are polished from the outside, while on the inner part are brushed heavily.

The glass is acrylic, and the case, just like the bracelet, is made of chrome-plated brass. On the "butterfly" part of the clasp you can read the original price of the bracelet, which was 3 rubles and 30 kopecks.

The caseback is screw-down one with a stainless steel O-Ring, and the "Electromechanical Quartz" text is written on it, along with the serial number. The dial is made in two-tones, blue and silver, with a few spots due to the age of the watch, which doesn't affect the overall look of the watch, which is still in very good for its age. The markers as well as the logos are chrome plated and applied on the dial, giving a pleasant three-dimensional effect. The crown is located at 4 o'clock, and it is not excessively worn, a sign that the watch still keeps good time .

I can say that this Luch is one of the most fascinating Soviet watches that I've added in my collection. An electromechanical quartz, conceived to repay the development costs of an older movement, that was shelved to the lack of foresight of the ruling class, a bit distracted from the real demands of the market.

But most of all, the 3055 is a watch that has exploited as much as possible the art of self-reliance: the Byelorussians worked the best way they could, in order to modernize their old movement and not wasting a precious amount of know-how, experience and technology, which later led to the the development of what ultimately became the first and only electromechanical quartz caliber made ​​in the USSR, or the 2350, whose project was funded thanks to sales of the 3055, as well as the central-planned funds.

But anyway, we can see how the 3055 was a watch with a lot of potential, from its refined movement to its electronic module, without forgetting that was going to receive the quartz chronometer certification (though never officially received).

All of this makes the Luch 3055, one of the most special and most original products of the Soviet watch industry, a must-have in a collection of watches from the "Iron Courtain".

Thank you for your attention. :)
 

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Interesting, I was also smitten with a quaint wrapped, tied, and wax sealed package from Uzbekistan last year when I got my Vostok Neptune. The watch was protected in the same manner as well. We must have purchased from the same seller.

It's a incredibly lovely Luch, both for its exterior, and interior. Thank you for the late-night read as well.

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Interesting, I was also smitten with a quaint wrapped, tied, and wax sealed package from Uzbekistan last year when I got my Vostok Neptune. The watch was protected in the same manner as well. We must have purchased from the same seller.

It's a incredibly lovely Luch, both for its exterior, and interior. Thank you for the late-night read as well.
Thank you for the appreciation Arizone! :)
I must say I find these packages very fascinating. They look like something that came out from a time capsule, due to their old fashioned way of packing things.
 

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Pleasant read vpn, thank you! |> May I ask where did you source your information?

[...] but for unknown reasons, the certification was never granted
As per GOST standards, there was little to comply with at the beginning of the 1980s.
The electric watch was so short-lived that no relevant GOST were ever issued, at least as far as I know.
The first standard I heard of which deals with battery powered watches is GOST 23350-83 (General Specifications for Electronic Wrist&Pocket Watches with Digital Display) issued in late 1984. However, it was only applicable to watches with a digital display, à la Pulsar.
On the quartz side, no GOST came into force until January 1986, when GOST 26272-84 "General Specification for Electro-Mechanical Quartz Wrist&Pocket Watches" was issued. Perhaps it was too late to certify GOST compliance, and I don't know if the 3055 ever qualified for the state quality mark, a.k.a. the GOST seal.

By the way, a GOST 26272 compliant watch shall keep its daily rate within +/-1 s/d (seconds per day) on average, peaking +/-0.5 s/d and not exceeding +/-3.0 sec per day – worst case. Not bad!
// ocram
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Pleasant read vpn, thank you! |> May I ask where did you source your information?


As per GOST standards, there was little to comply with at the beginning of the 1980s.
The electric watch was so short-lived that no relevant GOST were ever issued, at least as far as I know.
The first standard I heard of which deals with battery powered watches is GOST 23350-83 (General Specifications for Electronic Wrist&Pocket Watches with Digital Display) issued in late 1984. However, it was only applicable to watches with a digital display, à la Pulsar.
On the quartz side, no GOST came into force until January 1986, when GOST 26272-84 "General Specification for Electro-Mechanical Quartz Wrist&Pocket Watches" was issued. Perhaps it was too late to certify GOST compliance, and I don't know if the 3055 ever qualified for the state quality mark, a.k.a. the GOST seal.

By the way, a GOST 26272 compliant watch shall keep its daily rate within +/-1 s/d (seconds per day) on average, peaking +/-0.5 s/d and not exceeding +/-3.0 sec per day – worst case. Not bad!
// ocram
Grazie mille, Ocram! ;-)

I search for informations mostly on Russian sites and forums. Another important source is my current watchmaker, who used to have direct contacts with most of the Soviet watch companies (mostly Slava, Chaika and Luch). In the '70s and '80s he was one of the few who imported Soviet watches directly in my town, but he stopped to do that just before the fall of the USSR. He went there many times when he was young, since he speaks Russian, due to some relatives who live there.

I'm checking the timekeeping of the watch right now, it still hasn't lost a second. I'm amazed by its accuracy!

Very well written, thanks!

You're welcome Pmwas! ;-)
 

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that was interesting, thanks for the history lesson OP and pics of a really interesting and special watch..
 

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Hi comrades,

Here are some pictures of my latest acquisition. This 3045 Luch is really beautiful ! The dial is so nice… almost a NOS watch, although some micro sratches on the gold plated case and scratches on the case back.

Special thanks to our comrade vpn, who agreed that I translate in French some parts of his post for members of the French forum FMR ! It’s very kind of you.

Now, the pictures















(picture from the seller)



(picture from the seller)






 
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