Poljot, like many other watch companies, has recently delved into its past in source of inspiration and has reissued updated versions of some classic models. This article compares five reissues with the original models, and also hopefully gives an insight into the history of the brand.
First up, is perhaps the most obscure reissue:
1. The 1940 single pusher chronograph
On the left is a single pusher wrist chronograph manufactured by the First State Watch Factory (åðâûé îñóäàðñòâåííûé àñîâîé àâîä - 1) in the first quarter of 1941. This name was used by the factory from its inception in 1930 until it relocated during WWII. The Kirova name was added in 1935 in memory of the Soviet politician Sergei Kirov, who was assassinated that year. It has a three-piece chrome-plated case with swing lugs and a slightly domed glass crystal. Hands and dial numerals are painted with (surely radium-based) luminous paint. It's 43mm across not including the crown, 12mm thick, and takes a 16mm strap.
On the right is the Poljot International limited edition reissue/homage, released in 2000. Like the original it is signed 1 under 12 but additionally has 1940-2000 above 6 (commemorating 60 years since this model was first produced?) and Poljot International below 6. It has a three piece all stainless steel case with a glass back, swing lugs and a domed mineral crystal. It's a similar size, 42mm across not including the crown and 13mm thick, but takes a 20mm strap. Unlike the original, only the hands, not the dial numerals, are luminous.
The original uses a Soviet assembled Valjoux 61 column wheel chronograph movement which has a 30 minute register at 3 and continuous seconds at 9. The single pusher in the crown starts, stops and resets the chronograph. The fully gilded movement has 17 jewels, runs at 18,000bph and is not shock-protected. It's actually a pocket watch movement, which explains why the watch is so large. Note also that although the movement is marked with the 1 logo it was actually manufactured in Switzerland (presumably by Valjoux) and shipped to Moscow as an ébauche.
There is one obvious difference between the reissue and the original, and it's the movement. The reissue uses the Poljot 31670 movement, which is not a chronograph. The 31670 is a variant of the 3105 (which itself is a variant of the 3133). The register at 3 is a 24-hour display, the register at 9 is the continuous seconds display. The movement is quite well finished but isn't that attractive in my opinion. It has 17 jewels, runs at 21,600bph, and is shock protected.
The caseback is signed 1 èì. (FSWF Kirova Anniversary Edition).
From just before WWII, we now change to just after WWII, and the source for perhaps one of Poljot's most popular designs:
2. The Kirova fliegerchronograph (Buran)
Before and during WWII the German Tutima company produced an excellent flyback chronograph for the German air force. After the war, the Tutima factory in Glashutte was in the Soviet controlled area (what would later become East Germany). The Russians were impressed by what they found in Glashutte, and promptly took the design, remaining parts, and manufacturing machinery for the fliegerchronograph (as well as some other designs) as war reparations. The assembly line was dismantled and shipped to Moscow, where it was reinstalled at the newly renamed First Moscow Watch Factory (åðâûé îñêîâñêèé àñîâîé àâîä - 1). Starting in 1947, FMWF produced the Tutima chronograph, but with a 1-signed dial using the parts they had taken from Glashutte. By 1949 the assembly line in Moscow was fully functional and watches produced since that date were entirely made in Moscow.
On the left is a FMWF fliegerchronograph produced in the first quarter of 1950. It has a nickel-plated brass case, screw down caseback, knurled rotating bezel and a domed acrylic crystal. It's 39mm across not including the crown, 13mm thick, and takes a 20mm strap.
On the right is the recent Poljot reissue, first released in 2000. Like the original it is signed 1 and has a knurled rotating bezel. The all stainless steel case has a matte finish, a screw down caseback and a flat mineral crystal. It's a similar size, 38mm across not including the crown, 13mm thick, and also takes a 20mm strap. Unlike the original, the chrono seconds hand has a luminous circle. This model is also available with a high polish finish, a 40mm case (both matte and high polish), and without the date window at 6.
The original uses the UROFA 59 column wheel chronograph movement with a 30 minute register at 3 and continuous seconds at 9. It has 17 jewels, runs at 18,000bph, and is not shock protected. This movement has a flyback complication meaning that while the chronograph is running, momentarily pressing the lower pusher will cause the chronograph to reset but otherwise continue running. This feature is very useful for traditional air navigation, which is based on speed/time/direction measurements.
The reissue uses the Poljot 3133 chronograph movement (derived from the Valjoux 7734), which has a 30 minute register at 3, continuous seconds at 9 and a date display at 6. It has 23 jewels, runs at 21,600bph and is shock protected. It doesn't have a flyback complication so you should not push the lower (reset) button while the chronograph is running.
The caseback is signed with the 1 diamond and the words (steel), E (I have difficulty translating this, it could be an error means waterproof) and (corrosion-proof), and the depth rating, 3atm (30 metres).
On the left is another version of the Kirova reissue, released in 2000 to commemorate the factory's 70th anniversary. It's mechanically identical to the one on the left but has 70 surrounded by a wreath (with the Poljot crown inside the zero) on the dial, and an engraving of the first factory building (previously a tobacco factory) on the caseback together with the text èì (First Moscow Watch Facory Kirova).
This model family are often referred to as Buran (Bypah) watches because of a similar chronograph first released in 1988 but signed Buran (the same name as the Soviet space shuttle which flew that year). For the purposes of this review, the Buran is not considered a reissue as such, but is certainly inspired by the fliegerchronograph above. Since 1988 a number of different Buran variants have been released, and the current version uses the same case as the Kirova reissue above, but with different dial and case markings.
Next up, we move forward a few years, to the early 50's, and the watch brought the Poljot name into being:
3. The Sturmanskie ()
On the left is a Sturmanskie (a transliteration of òóðìàíñêèå which actually means Navigator) wristwatch manufactured exclusively for the Soviet air force by FMWF in the third quarter of 1952. It has a three-piece chrome-plated brass case with a stainless steel caseback, and an acrylic crystal. The dial has the emblem of the Soviet air force bomber division. It's 33mm across not including the crown, 10mm thick, and takes a 16mm strap.
Juri Gagarin, who was a Major in the Soviet air force, wore a Sturmanskie during his historic first trip into space. Following the mission, the First Moscow Watch Factory was awarded the name (POLJOT) meaning "flight". Juri Gagarin was unfortunately killed in a plane crash in 1968 but he remains one of Russia's greatest heroes.
On the right is the Poljot Sturmanskie reissue, released in 2001 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Gagarin's flight. It has a polished stainless steel case with a screw down caseback and domed mineral crystal. Like the original it is quite small, 33mm across not including the crown and 12mm thick.
Three versions were released, white dial without luminous (the model above), white dial with luminous (not shown) and a
black dial with luminous all are supplied with a Bund-style strap (not shown). A similar (but quartz-powered!) reissue was released in 1991 commemorating the 30th anniversary of Gagarins flight.
The original uses a FMWF -10 movement, which has 15 jewels, runs at 18,000bph and is not shock protected. The movement has a hacking device, meaning that the watch stops when the crown is pulled out, as far as I know it is the first FMWF movement to have this feature. Note that it's generally agreed that Yuri Gagarin wore a later version than the one shown here, with a 17 jewel movement and a screwdown caseback.
The reissue uses the Poljot 2609 movement, which has 17 jewels, runs at 21,600bph and is shock protected. Unlike the original, it doesn't hack. The screw down caseback has the words - (Juri Gagarin - the first person in space) together with an image of a spaceship orbiting the earth with the word îåõàëè! (Gagarin's famous words while sitting on top of the rocket, "Let's go!
Staying with the space theme, we move forward four years to 1965, and the first watch really in space:
4. The Strela ()
First released in 1959, the Strela (a transliteration of , which actually means Arrow) is perhaps Poljots most famous watch, because it was the first watch to be really worn in space, by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov during the very first spacewalk in 1965.
On the left is a Poljot-signed Strela chronograph. It has a three-piece chrome-plated base metal case with a steel caseback, and an acrylic crystal. The black dial (silver-white dials were also manufactured) has both tachymetre and telemeter scales. It's 35mm across not including the crown, 12mm thick, and takes a 18mm strap.
On the right is the Poljot International reissue. It has a stainless steel case with a screw down glass caseback and a slightly domed mineral crystal. It also has tachymetre and telemeter scales, but Made in USSR is replaced by Moscow Russia and theres a date display at 4:30. Like the original, a white dial version is available. Its quite a bit larger than the original, but with the same overall proportions. Its 39mm across, not including the crown, 14mm thick and takes a 20mm strap.
Interestingly, the reissue is signed on the dial, although the original with this dial/hand combination never was. Only non-luminous dials for the Russian-speaking market were actually signed , but over time the Strela transliteration has expanded to cover all the different variations, irrespective of the actual dial signature.
The original uses a FMWF calibre 3017 column wheel chronograph movement (based on the Venus 150) which has a 45 minute register at 3 and continuous seconds at 9. It has 19 jewels, runs at 18,000bph and is not shock protected. Watches with Cyrillic dials should have movements signed in Cyrillic, watches with English dials, have movements signed in English.
The reissue uses the Poljot 3133 movement, which has only a 30 minute register. Apparently the first 100 watches produced were fitted with a decorated, gold-plated movement.
Still with the space theme, we move forward again, to 1976, and the last watch to be discussed:
5. The Ocean ()
Poljot produced the Ocean chronograph during the 70s for the Soviet navy, however it is most famous for having been worn by cosmonaut Rozhdestvensy during the ill-fated Soyuz-23 mission. Soyuz 23 was supposed to ferry supplies to the Salyut 3 space station but for technical reasons, was unable to dock. Then, during re-entry, mission control applied too little reverse thrust. This, and the unusually windy conditions resulted in the capsule landing 150km away from the expected landing zone, on a frozen lake, in the middle of a snowstorm! The capsule was heavy enough to break the ice covering the lake, and the parachute attached to the capsule quickly filled with water. The weight of the parachute caused the capsule to turn over, so that both the fresh air valve and the escape hatch were submerged. The cosmonauts managed to close/block the fresh air inlet but were now trapped. They turned off everything that they could in order to save power for the CO2 scrubber unit. This included the heating so it became extremely cold inside. Although many attempts were made, the capsule could not be turned over, and eventually the order was given to use a helicopter to drag (it was too heavy to lift) the capsule 6km to shore. The cosmonauts were eventually rescued after having been trapped for 24 hours.
On the left is an original Ocean chronograph; it has a stainless steel case with a flat stainless steel caseback secured by a screw down ring and an acrylic crystal. The dial has a telemeter scale, and the inner bezel can be rotated using the crown at 9. This watch was manufactured solely for the Soviet Navy and was never made available to the public. In fact, the Poljot 3133 was only made available to the public in 1983; seven years after it was first introduced for military use.
On the right is the recent reissue, like the original it has a stainless steel case but with a screw down caseback and a slightly domed mineral crystal.
Both watches use the Poljot 3133 movement. There are minor cosmetic differences between current movements (see the fliegerchronograph reissue above) and those produced over 20 years ago but they are mechanically identical.
Both casebacks have the emblem of the Navy and the words (Navy commander).
Originally written in Sept 2003, this document was last updated in Oct 2004. Thanks to Kevin for the images of the Ocean, all other images and text are by the author.