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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
On Christmas Eve 1969, a particular watch made his debut on the market. A watch that would've permanently changed the market: it was the Seiko 35SQ "Astron", the first quartz watch ever produced. The impact that the Astron had on the market was devastating, since Seiko was able to produce a watch that was much more accurate than the most accurate electromechanicals, and above all, it would have been possible in future to make the quartz technology more and more affordable, and in a not too distant future, it would've permanently replaced mechanical movements.




The Seiko 35SQ "Quartz Astron", the first quartz watch ever made. With its debut in 1969, the "Quartz Revolution" began. (Source: Google).


So, with the debut of the Astron, the largest watch manufacturers in the world began to work on their response to a market segment that would've been very profitable: in Switzerland, before 1969 it was already operative the "CEH" consortium, that was developing the Beta 21, the first Swiss quartz caliber, in the United States Bulova made some modifications to the tuning-fork Accutron movement to add a quartz that would've adjusted the vibration of the tuning fork, thus creating the "Accuquartz", the West-German Junghans developed the Astro Quartz, the first quartz watch ever made in West Germany, and back in Switzerland, the solitary Girard-Perregaux developed its first quartz movement, the GP350 series, the first movement to be equipped with a crystal oscillating at a frequency of 32.768Hz. We also shouldn't forget the American Benrus, with its Techni-Quartz, the first quartz watch derived from a mechanical ETA movement, fitted with an electronic module produced by Motorola. And what about the exotic Roamer Micro-Quartz, with its anchor escapement or the Ronda 1377, the first low-cost quartz movement ever produced?

The watchmaking industry was in turmoil because of the Quartz Revolution, that was recording his first successes and claiming its first victims.

And in the Communist world? What was happening?

Beyond what Churchill called the "Iron Curtain", the situation was stale. Mechanical watches dominated the markets, and the few electromechanical ones produced by the Soviet Union (Slava 114ChN, Slava Transistor, NII-Chasprom Elektronno-Mekanicheskye, Luch 3045) didn't have a long life, because of the excessively high production costs. Only the East German UMF Ruhla managed to produce an electro-mechanical calibre that was economically viable, the UMF-26, inspired by the Hamilton 500 (and improved in many aspects) that had a good success both on the domestic and the international market, and it was exported to the United Kingdom with the "Services" brand, and the rest of Europe under the "Champion", "Europe", "Clipper" and "World Time" brands.

What about quartz movements? As I already said, during these years, in the Eastern Block quartz watches still didn't exist. Things, however, began to change in 1970, when the East German government, led by Walter Ulbricht, financed VEB Uhrenwerke Ruhla (formerly VEB Uhren und Maschinfabrik Ruhla, shortened as UMF Ruhla), to produce the first quartz movement of the Communist world. Indeed, the Ministry of Electronics, led by Otfried Steger, believed strongly that quartz technology would represent the future in the world of watchmaking, and the DDR shouldn't have stayed behind in this revolution: the first quartz watch ever made in a Socialist Country should not have been produced in the Soviet Union, but should've been East German.

So, with the investments made, the Ruhla engineers began to develop a quartz caliber that would've been robust, cheap to produce and would've been exported to Western markets, in order to get foreign currency, that the GDR had a compelling need, in order to survive in the long term.

Despite the opinion of Steger about quartz watches (according to the minister, the production of the mechanical watches would be doomed to an inexorable decline and it would've disappeared in the early '80s. So, according to his plans, Ruhla should have started a gradual discontinuation of the mechanical UMF-24 movement, in order to focus itself on the production of analog and digital quartz models), the investments made by the government were not enough to ensure the development of a quartz movement from scratch, so the Ruhla engineers were forced to start from the obsolete-yet-reliable UMF-24 calibre, and they were able to turn it into a quartz movement, leading to the creation of the UMF-28. However, Ruhla was never able to make digital movements from scratch, leading the company to adopt Pravetz (Buletronic) and Orient modules for its LCD models.

The "28" calibre was heavily derived from the UMF-24, which was a mechanical unjewelled pin-lever movement that worked at 18,000 BPH, and was designed to be modular. The "24" received numerous awards for being the first mechanical movement optimized for mass production. Made in numerous variants, the UMF-24 was adopted by all Ruhla watches since the early '60s (as well as being exported all over the world), and was produced with various complications, as well as being adopted on wristwatches, pocket watches and alarm clocks (such as the Sumatic and Midimatic series).

So, starting from the UMF-24, the Ruhla engineers were did only a few changes to the base plate and a few other components, the balance cock was replaced by an electronic module developed by VEB Kombinat Robotron of Dresden, the main manufacturer of computer and chips in East Germany, before the module production was moved to the VEB Kombinat Mikroelektronik "Karl Marx" of Erfurt (which in 1978 merged with the Ruhla and Karl-Zeiss Jena, leading to the birth of the "Ruhla Eurochron" brand).

The movement, is technically very simple in its construction. The majority of its mechanical parts are taken from the UMF-24, and like the Soviet CRP-3050, it has a large sized stepping motor. The electronic module, manufactured in Dresden, takes a lot of space, and has an exposed coil, a trimmer (to allow a fine adjustment of the oscillations of the quartz) and quartz crystal with tubular capsule (and on this the East Germans were the most advanced of the Soviets , since when the Chaika 3050-KR debuted in 1978, the quartz capsule used by the Soviet watch was the rectangular kind). The movement doesn't have rubies, like its mechanical counterpart, and features the day of the month.




The UMF-28, the first quartz movement ever produced by VEB Uhrenwerke Ruhla (Source: vendor from whom I bought the watch).





The UMF-24, the pin-lever movement that led to the creation of the UMF-28. (Picture Source: The Metatechnical Cabinet).


So, in 1972, the movement was completed, in its pre-series version. Unofficially, the German Democratic Republic had "beaten" the Soviet Union 1-0. Ruhla produced 3000 prototype watches, in order to verify the quality and robustness of the movement. The responses were positive, and so, in 1976, almost as a surprise, Ruhla put into production its first quartz watch, the Ruhla Quarz 32768, which also became the first quartz watch ever produced in the Eastern Block.

The Soviet Union had been "defeated": the first quartz watch product in Warsaw Pact country was born in the GDR, the first Socialist State on German soil.

With its debut, the Ruhla Quarz 32768 had a good success on the domestic market, due to its simple and robust caliber, and also thanks to its highly repairability, as it was derived from the UMF-24, which allowed an high interchangeability of parts. The watch was produced in many combinations of cases and dials, both with the crown at 4 o'clock or 3 o'clock, and was also distributed as a gift by the Central Committee of the SED (Unified Socialist Party of Germany, the Communist Party that ruled in the GDR) to the most deserving citizens. It was also exported to Western countries with Saxon, Meister Anker, Clipper and Karex brands, with a good success.

Before continuing, let's make a bit of atmosphere with a piece of East German electronic music made by Cantus Chor & Orchester Lothar Kehr in 1978, a special year for this watch:




The reputation of the Quarz 32768 reached its peak in 1978, when there was the space mission "Interkosmos", which was attended by the Soviet cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky and the East German Sigmund Jahn, who became the first "German" in space, an event that was praised by both the GDR and the FRG. For the mission, Ruhla created four commemorative models, which were placed in the space station Salut-6, and the fourth was given to Jahn himself, although it's not unlikely that other models were produced for the "civilian" market.








The East German cosmonaut Sigmund Jahn (first pic above and in the second picture on the right) was the first German man who went in space.
His mission was highly praised by both East and West Germany.
During the mission he wore a Ruhla Quarz 32768 with a commemorative dial of the "Interkosmos '78" mission,
a project aimed at bringing citizens from countries that had relations with Soviet Union in space. (Picture Source: The Free Dictionary and Sekondtime)



So, the Ruhla Quarz 32768 not only was the first quartz watch ever produced behind the Iron Curtain, but it was also the first quartz watch from the Iron Curtain to go in space, giving the model an aura of prestige. The life cycle of the UMF-28 ended in 1982, replaced by the second generation of "Made in GDR" quartz calibres, the UMF-14, which made its debut in 1979. Now, I can proceed with the presentation of my latest purchase, which is coming from East Berlin.








The Quarz 32768 that I purchased is one of the many variants of the watch that was produced from 1976 to 1982, and its particular feature is the crown positioned at 3 o'clock, instead of the more common 4 o'clock position. The case is made with chrome plated brass, as well as the crown. Technically, we could consider it quite similar to its Soviet counterpart, the Chaika 3050-KR, although this watch is actually much simpler than the Chaika, on a technical level. Unlike the other models of the East German company, this Ruhla has a screw back caseback, rather than a snap-on one. The glass is acrylic, and applied markers have tritium dots on them.

The clock is not "assigned" by the SED, but it is a civilian model, and its rectangular case makes it quite elegant IMHO. The second generation, fitted with the UMF-14, was also made with a very similar case.

It might seem an average early quartz watch, but the Ruhla Quarz 32768 has many merits: it's been the first Eastern quartz watch to go in space and the first quartz watch ever produced in the Communist world, and the first watch that has "beaten" the Soviet Union in development times, achieving an important result.

In short, in this friendly challenge, the GDR was able to beat the USSR on its biblical development times, despite the investments made by the East German government were far less than those made by the Soviets for the development of the CRP-3050 and Elektronika 3045 calibres.

I'll post more pictures and impressions when the watch will arrive. Thanks for your attention. ;-)
 

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Wowwwww - that is a brilliant article!
Paul
 
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Excellent Vpn. Thanks for posting this information.

I have a number of Ruhla quartz calibres in my collection with some slight variations. More of these are on my Ostalgieruhla website.

The following adapted from the Short History of Ruhla Watches from my website:

A decision was made in 1978 for further restructuring of the East German watch industry and Ruhla then became part of the Kombinat Mikroelektronik Erfurt (The Kombinat Mikroelektronik was very much like Elektronika in the USSR, developing and producing a whole range of electronic goods and devices) The East German government believed the future of watch making was in quartz watches. An electro-mechanical movement was developed , the caliber 25. This caliber was used not only in watches but also car dashboard clocks and alarm clocks. The technical developments made in the caliber 25 provided the East German watch industry with the prerequisites for developing quartz watches. The first quartz digital watches were put into production as the UMF 28-40 calibre.

Also, see my Ruhla and the Cosmos for pictures of the 1978 Interkosmos mission watch and a statement by Cosmonaut Sigmund Jähn about the watches that were especially developed together with pictures of the digital stop watch that was also produced for the mission.

The Interkosmos watch contained the Calibre 28. Here are pictures of my similar "civilian issue" watch.

RuhlaQuartzCh2.jpg

IMGP0022 compress.jpg



Sekondtime
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wonderful addition, Sekondtime! It enriches a lot the thread. The "civilian" version of the one wore by Sigmund Jahn looks very nice too. Someday I'd love to get the model with the crown at 4 'o clock, if I will find one in good conditions and in working order. :)
 

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After your hints yesterday, I was looking forward to this article :-! Thanks!
 
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Truly amazing post, a pleasure to read.

You have a great chance of being lucky, my personal experience is that great majority of them work, I have had some kal.28s arriving with 20 year old "AKA ELECTRIC DDR" batteries still installed that fired up instantly with a fresh battery!

One thing to pay some attention with these is the condition of the case, since the movement itself is very "die hard", many of the watches have seen years and years of sweaty arms of their proud owners. Some of them suffer from pitting near the crown area. Always see the photo from SIDES of the watch before bidding/buying.

I was not even aware of the existance of the 3'o clock stem version... I'll post a group shot of my 28s soon...

FILE0980.JPG
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Truly amazing post, a pleasure to read.
cut
That's a stunning model you own, Sr.Meducini. I look forward to see your other "'28s"! ;-)

Ruhla 28s are very good watches indeed, despite their "awkward" technical layout. Robust and reliable, like a sort of horological Trabant. I recently added another one to the collection, identical to the one owned by Sekondtime, compared to the Tonneau version seems that this other model might be older (so I guess that the Tonneau was from 1977 or '78), so I guess it might be from 1976. The Tonneau version was made for the export market (mostly the other Eastern Bloc Countries), hence the slight difference in the styling of the Ruhla logo.


Ruhla_Quarz_2_06_zpse18e83dd.jpg


It's also worth to notice that these watches tend to be quite accurate too, much more accurate than the Soviet quartzes of that era (especially the CRP-3050s), however, they are very sensitive to contact issues: if the screw of the battery contact plate isn't fully screwed in, the watch could slow down or stop suddenly. Changing the battery on these nice little beasts requires a firm hand and a lot of care, especially on the early models, that have the quartz crystal cap very close to the contact screw, so I'll rely on my watchmaker for the future battery changes.

Here's a small comparison between an early version of the UMF-28 (first picture) with a later iteration (second picture) (picture source: Crazywatches.pl and The Metatechnical Cabinet)


ruhlaquartz2.jpg

UMF_28-40.jpg


I recently discovered that there also was another variant with the crown at 3 'o clock. The case was quite similar to the one of my model but the lugs are hidden. There was one for sale on the German Ebay. I guess that there were six variants (cushion case with integrated bracelet, "Interkosmos" case, cushion case without the integrated bracelet, "Tonneau" case with 3 'o clock crown and exposed lugs, "Tonneau" case with 4 'o clock crown and "Tonneau" case with crown at 3 'o clock and hidden lugs), if we exclude the gold plated versions or the ones with different dial colours.

However, I wouldn't exclude that there might be some other variants that haven't still appeared on the web.
 

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WOW! I'm really glad this article made its way back up toward the top....what an awesome read! I've been spending a little time trying to go back and catch up on some of the posts I've missed, and I'm glad I didn't miss this one! Excellent article vpn!! Thanks for submitting it :)
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
WOW! I'm really glad this article made its way back up toward the top....what an awesome read! I've been spending a little time trying to go back and catch up on some of the posts I've missed, and I'm glad I didn't miss this one! Excellent article vpn!! Thanks for submitting it :)
Thank you very much to you for reading the article JRMTactical! ;-)
 

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Nice! Thanks for sharing! I'm not exactly a quartz lover, but the development of electric and quartz watches is an interesting subject indeed!
 

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Hello dear vpn and all the others reading this post. Now I have the pleasure to reveal the family portrait of my 28s.
I have also noted that some of the (probably the earliest) versions get their accuracy from Motorola quartz oscillators (!)
So the case was probably that the east-german watch industry was advancing faster than the incorporated electronic factories supplying it.
Temperary solution was to source a suitable oscillator from the rotten capitalists to give birth to a perfect socialist timepiece.
Curiously, the sample sporting the Motorola-quartz is lacking the typical "MADE IN GDR" from the dial, perhaps it did not exceed the east-german standards of "GDR MADE" because of the foreign part? :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Wonderful Ruhlas you've got there, Sr.Meducini! My secret wish is to collect them all, in order to make a sub-collection of 28s. What I noticed is that they are pretty accurate, even by today standards: it's as accurate as my old Swatch Chrono from 1995!
Today my 28 with the 4 'o clock crown is just 0.5 seconds faster than the NTP clock, and I haven't touched the crown it since the 30th of August.
My model with the crown at 4 'o clock has the more modern cylindrical quartz capsule, instead of the Motorola-made one, but the rest of the electronic module is identical to yours, and lacks the "Made in GDR" text.

I guess that it was an earlier version than the Tonneau one, which has a different looking module.
 

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Nice to see appreciation of Ruhlas. Here are a couple of my 32768s. Both identical except for the branding. Gillex seemed to take their watches from wherever they could find them. I have several Gillex branded Ruhlas mostly mechanical but I also have Gillex watches with Swiss, West German and Russian movements.

The background photo is The Fernsehturm or television tower in the city centre of Berlin close to Alexanderplatz. The tower was constructed between 1965 and 1969 by the administration of the GDR. Some photos show the very top of the tower looking down on the capital of the GDR.

Sekondtime

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