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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My recent interest in the Vympel family naturally led me to look into the Poljot automatic movements, and I am a bit out of my depth in this respect. Here is what I know:

The 22-jewel "Rodina" came first, basically an auto-wind module bolted on a hand-wound 17-jewel movement, not the 41M, but the same as the one fitted to the late version of the Moskva. It is rather thick for obvious reasons, I do not know if it hand-winds as I do not have one.

The 29-jewel 2415 "Orbita" followed in 1962 and is a totally ground-up new design, followed by the 29-jewel 2416 "Kosmos" of 1963, with date complication. The Kosmos might share a lot of parts with the Orbita, I do not think they would be so dumb as to design two totally different movements from scratch concurrently with the date mechanism as the only difference. I just missed out on an Orbita - forgot to put in a bid - and it went for a song. o|

As our learned colleague Chascomm pointed out, the 30-jewel 2616.1N (or 2616.1H in Cyrillic), probably from 1972, is less rugged, but I found it a very nice movement to live with; Storyteller found it to be remarkably accurate. I suspect it is totally differet from the Kosmos design but based on the hand-wound movement with angular bridges. Christoph Lorenz noted that the jewels are functional and no fewer than 12 of them are employed in the auto-wind module alone. It can hand-wind very nicely without overwind protection, so I can tell how much juice is left in the main spring. Also, the auto-wind mechanism is very efficient, and can make a full wind very quickly, I can hardly feel the rotor moving either. Mine needs a long-overdue service as it has never been serviced since new.

I am not sure when the 23-jewel 2616.2N (or 2616.2H in Cyrillic) replaced the 30-jewel. Again Chascomm noted that it is an improvement in sturdiness. It is obviously based on the very common 2614.2N, in fact I suspect both movements were designed concurrently. This auto-wind movement appears to be thicker than the 30-jewel, and when hand-wound it has overwind protection. Mine is in the shops now, but overall the watch feels much lumpier than the 30-jewel.

It would be an idea to have our fellow members' inputs to give a comprehensive overview of the Poljot automatics, which would be of some benefit to all.
 

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Regarding Rodina - it can be wound by hand. I have only one 2616 1H and I think it has some protection against overwinding, at least I can turn the crown as long as I wish without feeling any resistance. But this could be due to a broken mainspring. Still, the watch is recently serviced, so maybe we have different versions of the 30 jewels 2616 1H. This is my favorite Russian automatic. The earlier 29-jewels is smaller, but more fragile and less accurate (at least the ones that I have), these 4 mm of difference in their diameter obviously count. The latter 23 jewels is sturdier but somehow less ambitious. Well, I would say clumsier. The 30 jewels version is just right for me, but unfortunately it usually goes with some of the dullest cases ever produced by 1st MWF, maybe this is the reason why it is less popular.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Storyteller,

That sounds very interesting indeed, and I hope my timeline sounds about right to you too.

I understand that most automatic movements have overwind protection, but for my 30-jewel 2616.1N, I can hand wind it as if a regular hand-wind watch, when the main spring is fully charged I can feel the crown not turning anymore. Even when pottering around in the house, a fully run-down watch can fully charge itself in a few hours, as I cannot turn the crown anymore afterwards. The number 4829 is marked on the movement above the movement type marking, it may or may not indicate whether it is older or newer than yours, assuming that there's been an undocumented revision regarding this aspect.

If the 2616.1N indeed came out in 1972, which was ten years after the Orbita and nine years after the Kosmos, it suggests that Poljot took about as much time to put together the 2616.1N as replacement. That is not a short time at all: if Poljot noticed the Orbita/Kosmos had some inherent technical issues, they would have been replaced sooner than that.

Another intriguing point: the most iconic Kosmos has pointer date, but most of the 29-jewel Poljots with date from the same era have regular date disc under the dial. This makes me wonder if some slight modifications were made to the movement to allow the difference, and if such modifications were made, would the date-window type movement still be considered a Kosmos?

See... I am still terribly green!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I also noticed something about the 29-jewel date movement. While I have not seen too many of them to be sure, the pointer date "Kosmos" has a balance with screws along the rim, the one with date wheel has glucydur balance. The 30-jewel certainly has glucydur.
 

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The 2616 1H is newer, so it is logical for it to have the newer type of balance. The Kosmos with pointer date is slightly thinner than the one with date disc, which could explain why the pointer date was initially introduced (the aim was to make a super slim auto).

One thing that puzzles me is the rotor construction - even the early Rodina have sometimes jeweled rotors, so obviously the standard construction could bear some improvements. Kharitonchuk mentions in his book a 2615 with ball-bearing rotor. I think I have seen a ball-bearing 2615 on watch.ru - or was it 2616? its happy owner was James from St. Pb, I think - but its rotor looked really strange.
Anyway, I was always wondering why the Soviets did not adopt massively ball-bearing rotors. Kharitonchuk claims that such construction is superior to the older one and I tend to believe him, such watches were designed and produced, even if in small batches, as early as the 1970s, so why?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Storyteller,

Thank you again for your information, as interesting as always!

Poljot must have had a very good reason to make changes to turn the 29-jewel date movement from pointer date to date wheel, but then I wonder about two issues here.

1. The overall thickness of the watch would not change significantly: if the date wheel adds thickness to the movement, then it would not be much better than a pointer date as the pointer hand would take up the same thickness, just on the hands side of the dial.

2. The amount of changes made to the movement might not be very extensive to allow for a date wheel. This can only be verified by a side-by-side strip-down of both movements. And also, was the movement code changed too?

Both Lorenz and Ranfft did not show the reverse sides of the rotors, so I do not know much about their bearings. Lorenz, however, mentioned that the 30-jewel 2616.1N employs 12 jewels in the auto-wind mechanism, but no mention of the rotor bearings.

Another thing came to mind: Ranfft mentioned that the 2616.1N came out in 1972, but our Chascomm believes that it came out a few years before that, and the 23-jewel 2616.2N came out in 1972. It would be interesting if the timeline can be verified. In any case, I might have to acquire more samples to study!

P.S. I am also tracking the use of one particular round case style as well, so I am more or less focussed on examples housed in that.
 

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Well, I am really interested only in Vostok 2809 and never paid much attention to the rest, so you should check my info. What I know is from a short discussion on watch.ru, where James wrote the following (POLJOT de luxe automatic 71

1 MWF started producing Orbita 2415 movement in 1962, Kosmos 2416 - in 1963, first with pointer, latter with data disc. In 1966 1st MWF introduced the 26xx caliber, including 2614 and 2615 / 2616 1H automatics. In 1972 they were replaced by 26xx 2H manual wind and autos. The 2415 Orbita was 3,9 mm high, the 2416 Kosmos with pointer was 4,5 mm high, the 2416 Kosmos with disc date was 4,85 mm high.
Dixit James again - Poljot 2616 1H was 5,1 mm high - only 0,25 mm difference with Kosmos - while 2616 2H - 6,65 mm. (http://forum.watch.ru/showthread.php?t=19997&page=8)

This means - if I understand him correctly - that between 1966 and 1972 both 26xx 1H and 24xx autos were produced. But James does not mention his sources and I never tried to cross-check the info.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Storyteller,

Thanks for the lead; what James said basically tallied well with what I read. It is interesting to note that he said the 2416 Kosmos did not change appellation with the switch from pointer date to date wheel, the date wheel might account for the 0.35mm difference.

The chronology also tallied with Chascomm's thoughts but refuted Roland's. However James did not make it clear if the 1966 line of 26xx was made concurrently with the 24xx, although the .2H line was made since the 1972. If the 24xx Orbita and Kosmos were phased out in 1966 then they had to be two of the most short-lived designs, lasting only four and three years respectively; and if they were made concurrently with the 1966 line of the 26xx, then they would have been made in tiny quantities at high production cost: it would be very costly to preserve a production line for the 24xx when the 26xx production was already in full swing, even though this 1966 line of 26xx only lasted between 1966 and 1972.

Whether the Orbita/Kosmos carried on being built after 1966 or not, the chronology suggests the designers were indeed learning. The Rodina was the first "have a go" design, in the Kosmos they were working on making a slim automatic movement. The 30-jewel 2616.1H saw that they were prepared to increase the size of the movement to improve sturdiness, and the 23-jewel 2616.2H shows that they had given up the idea of making a slim movement altogether and go for sturdiness.
 

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Storyteller,

Thanks for the lead; what James said basically tallied well with what I read. It is interesting to note that he said the 2416 Kosmos did not change appellation with the switch from pointer date to date wheel, the date wheel might account for the 0.35mm difference.

The chronology also tallied with Chascomm's thoughts but refuted Roland's. However James did not make it clear if the 1966 line of 26xx was made concurrently with the 24xx, although the .2H line was made since the 1972. If the 24xx Orbita and Kosmos were phased out in 1966 then they had to be two of the most short-lived designs, lasting only four and three years respectively; and if they were made concurrently with the 1966 line of the 26xx, then they would have been made in tiny quantities at high production cost: it would be very costly to preserve a production line for the 24xx when the 26xx production was already in full swing, even though this 1966 line of 26xx only lasted between 1966 and 1972.

Whether the Orbita/Kosmos carried on being built after 1966 or not, the chronology suggests the designers were indeed learning. The Rodina was the first "have a go" design, in the Kosmos they were working on making a slim automatic movement. The 30-jewel 2616.1H saw that they were prepared to increase the size of the movement to improve sturdiness, and the 23-jewel 2616.2H shows that they had given up the idea of making a slim movement altogether and go for sturdiness.
For what it is worth, my 2416 is branded 'Sekonda', a brand that was first used in 1966. While Sekonda-branded 2415/2416 watches are somewhat rare, my impression (and this is purely subjective) is that they have been sufficiently plentiful on ebay over the years to discount the possibility that watches using these movements stopped being made in 1966. Two provisos to that:
1. My impression of surviving quantities may be incorrect
2. Soviet manufacturing methods may lead to a situation whereby surplus movements continue to be finished and cased-up for years after the ebauche manufacturing lines have been reassigned to a new movement design.
 

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The 2616 1H is newer, so it is logical for it to have the newer type of balance. The Kosmos with pointer date is slightly thinner than the one with date disc, which could explain why the pointer date was initially introduced (the aim was to make a super slim auto).

One thing that puzzles me is the rotor construction - even the early Rodina have sometimes jeweled rotors, so obviously the standard construction could bear some improvements. Kharitonchuk mentions in his book a 2615 with ball-bearing rotor. I think I have seen a ball-bearing 2615 on watch.ru - or was it 2616? its happy owner was James from St. Pb, I think - but its rotor looked really strange.
Anyway, I was always wondering why the Soviets did not adopt massively ball-bearing rotors. Kharitonchuk claims that such construction is superior to the older one and I tend to believe him, such watches were designed and produced, even if in small batches, as early as the 1970s, so why?
On the question of rotor bearing design, the Orbita design imposes some limits on design possibilities. Andrew Babinin's excellent overview of Soviet movement designs has a couple of useful photos:

Movement sans rotor: narrow post on a tiny platform, very thin to accomodate the 3rd wheel and seconds pinion beneath.


Rotor carries the reverser arm (modified Felsa system) pivoting around the centre bearing, leaving no room for jewel or ball bearings


The article is a must-read for any Russian watch enthusiast:
Soviet movements (Part 1)

"Another one is my favourite. Caliber Poljot 2415 -"Orbita"(Orbit) and 2416 - "Cosmos"(Space) with date. You can meet it only in De Luxe series. First one started produced from 1962, the second one - from 1963.Pretty nice slim automatic (about 3,9 mm) with hand winding ability. Nice brushed bridges, Cotes de Geneve on oscillating weight, 29 jewels. Because of small height it also have flat hairspring. Besides a pallet fork has an unordinary shape - at side-view its tail is higher than jewels. Original reverse device is made as a fork. I put pics of reversed weight so you can inspect this fork. under pivot of the weight there's a pinion of central seconds. The last two movements were designed fully by Poljot engineers. It was quite expensive in producing and that's why Poljot had to refuse from this caliber."
 

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Whether the Orbita/Kosmos carried on being built after 1966 or not, the chronology suggests the designers were indeed learning. The Rodina was the first "have a go" design, in the Kosmos they were working on making a slim automatic movement. The 30-jewel 2616.1H saw that they were prepared to increase the size of the movement to improve sturdiness, and the 23-jewel 2616.2H shows that they had given up the idea of making a slim movement altogether and go for sturdiness.
It is useful to look at these automatic movements in the context of the hand-winding movements being made concurrently.

The Rodina was a first attempt so it was built on an existing base calibre. The available choices were the Kirovskie and the Pobeda/Sportivnie. The thinner Kirovskie was the sensible choice.

The more ambitious Orbita introduced bi-direction winding and world-class thinness. Even the Vympel 2209 was not thin enough, so a unique design was required in which the train and auto-winding were built in the same plane with only the rotor rising above the top plates. However from a manufacturing perspective, the undesirable result was a proliferation of base calibres: the tough workhorse 2408/09/14, the ultrathin 2209, and the superthin auto 2415/16.

So the purpose of the .1H series was, I think, to produce a single caibre family (i.e. common tooling) that delivered the best compromise between the attributes of the existing movements. It was thin (as a hand-winder it was very thin) with option for date and auto-winding, with the timekeeping stability of a bigger balance than any of the previous movements. However in typical Soviet fashion, the existing movements continued to be manufactured so long as the tooling was good. o|

The major compromise of the .1H was the wafer-thin auto-winding module partially submerged into the alredy thin top plate. This movement takes the art of plate-shaving to its practical limits (unlike the ill-fated 2200 which carried plate-shaving beyond the practical limits o| o|).


The Metatechnical Cabinet - Poljot 2616.1H

Lorenz's photo really doesn't capture how tiny and how thin the auto-winding is. Seen in the metal, it is quite startling.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Chascomm,

Thanks for your input, that's as helpful as ever.

It is general practice for a manufacturer to make more parts than needed for building complete products, the question is what they do with them after the product is discontinued. Some might carry on assembling them until they ran out, some might hold on to them for a little while and then drop them in the dumpster, some might even mothball them for ages. An interesting - extreme -example was Kodak's camera plant in Germany (formerly Nagel) where they built the Retina series of 35mm cameras. The most desirable one they built was the Type 028 IIIC (Three-Big-C, as opposed to the IIIc as in Three-Small-C) which was phased out in 1960. However they held on to the parts, and used them to build a limited edition of 120 units as late as 1977. Therefore, if the Orbita/Kosmos production ceased in 1966, they might elect to carry on assembling the parts on hand until they ran out.

The rotor design does sound intriguing, and the pictures you showed us certainly help. This sure shows the designers were definitely learning. It's the scatty Poljotery in the board room regarding production that caused my confusion!

If nothing throws a spanner in my schedule, I will get my 2616.1N serviced and done up this weekend, it feels bone dry inside and sounds a bit "clangy", and runs a bit fast; fingers crossed!
 

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My question about the ball-bearing rotor was more about 26xx 1H, where it was maybe one of the earliest versions (I don't want to repost James' picture, but it looks really interesting) and the 26xx 2H.
Regarding the production of Orbita, Kosmos, and thin 2616 1H movements - they apparently were produced simultaneously. The end of production of Orbita was 1971 and of Kosmos 1972, wrote Andrej Krukovich and since his source of information are the official pricelists of 1 MWF (https://www.watchuseek.com/f10/one-last-poljot-2414-a-388736.html), it is as reliable as one can get on the web.
Maybe the 2616 1H were produced for some years after 1972 - the thin version of 2609 was available till 1976, and since it was the basis of 2616 1H, who knows...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Storyteller,

Thanks for the lead on Andrej's list; duly noted!

You are right in saying that price lists are as good as it gets for us students of industrial history, it is just that the presence of an item on a price list does not necessarily means it was in production at the time it was published, the most we can say for certain is that it was available from the manufacturer at the time. Slow-selling items might stay on a manufacturer's price list for years after they stopped making it: they might still have cratefuls of them in the storerooms but the "new and improved" products might render them very difficult to sell.

But for most of us it is not terribly important, I guess my nerdiness just reached a new high - or is it a new low?
 

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The Soviet-type economies of Brezhnev era were a bit peculiar, the term is 'economies of deficit' which basically means that there were more free money than goods. Imagine the Soviet customers like gang of Russian watch collectors who want to buy some watches and have the money - in a capitalist economy, this would drive up the prices. Not in the USSR, where the prices were fixed by the state. Imagine yourself willing to buy a Radio Room or a Strela, and knowing that they will cost exactly 30 and 60 USD respectively (a random guess), and waiting when the 1st MWF will push the next batches to the market, knowing perfectly that there will not be enough for everybody, and you will understand the frustration of the Soviet customers. Quite different from the frustration of the Western customers who are usually prevented by the price to get the watch of their dreams.
So I think that for the more desirable models - an Poljot autos certainly were such - 'out of the price list' is close to 'end of production'.
 

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On the other hand, the watch factories were not particularly interested if their movements sell well or not - they had to follow their yearly and 5-yearly plans - so if nobody wanted a less-desirable movement, the factory kept producing it anyway and the state kept paying. This led to huge overstocks of less-desirable movements.
Another tricky point with the state-fixed prices of watches and movements, was that the factories could be less motivated to produce bigger quantities of a bestseller, because the fixed price was too low and the work on it too much - I read something in that sense on Raketa autos, I think. Or hypothetically they could push a less desirable movement because the fixed price was higher - even if the customers were not thrilled by the good, what mattered was the fixed price and the state paying it.
 
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