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Background and Origins

In the late 1950s, the Soviet Union sought to jump start its expanding watchmaking industry, through the acquisition of modern watch manufacturing capabilities. While it had already achieved the ability to mass-produce mechanical movements, mostly through the First Moscow Watch Factory (later Poljot), and Vostok (the military contractor), it lacked the ability to manufacture high-end precision movements.

In particular, one of the most sought after technologies was the ability to manufacture chronometer-grade wristwatch movements, which were capable of being adjusted to within COSC specifications. It is to be noted that almost all of the COSC capable watches of the era were Swiss in origin, (which added to the credentials of the formidable Swiss-watch-manufacturing sector).

In the mid 1950s, Zenith (a Swiss manufacturer) introduced the caliber 135 movement, which was of their indigenous design and manufacture. This was a fully-adjustable 19-jewel movement. Of particular interest is the distinctive arrangement of the gear train, with the offset minute wheel, which allows for an exceptionally large balance wheel of 14mm (higher rotational intertia can allow more consistent performance, without increasing weight or beat rate). In addition, it sports a fine regulator mechanism, which was capable of very precise adjustments. In all, Zenith produced approximately 11,000 of these movements during a run of over 15 years, spanning from the mid-1950s to the end of the 1960s. More information on the Zenith cal. 135 can be found here:

In the late 1950s, in a tale that is worthy of Cold War intrigue, the Soviet Union “acquired” the Zenith’s technology, and started to manufacture their own “version” of the same movement, albeit with some significant changes. While it retained the exceptionally large balance wheel, and the overall layout of the movement, it sought to improve the Swiss design, by adding 3 additional jewels, to arrive at the current 22-jewel movement. Additional, the placement of the second-hand was moved from the sub-dial position, to the central pinion.

Typical of Russian manufacturing, the highly-decorated nature of the movement was toned-down, thereby reducing the cost and complexity of the manufacturing process.

The 22-jewel movement was manufactured by a division of Vostok (or “Boctok” in Cyrillic), and used exclusively for the “Vostok Precision” line and the “Wolna” (Wave) series of watches. To date, these were the ONLY chronometer-capable mechanical wristwatch movements ever manufactured in the Soviet Union.

The Soviet movement retained all of the key features and characteristics of the Zenith cal. 135 movement. For further review, you can compared the picture of the movement below with that of the Zenith movement, upon which it is based:

What is most evident from a comparison of the two, is that the Soviet movement is less decorated, and has a generally rougher finish than that of the Zenith. In my opinion, this has always been the hallmark of Soviet manufacturing – technically excellent, but finished in a rougher form.
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