Friday, May 06, 2005

Molnija Pocket Watch Review


Fine old things




On an old fashioned watch fob :)


Yet another Molnija. This one is new old stock from the late eighties. Below you can see the movement which appears more nicely made than the current version.

The Braille model on its belt chain
Braille Model




I wasn't planning to write this review. It isn't that I don't like the Molnija pocket watch, quite the contrary actually, I like it a lot. It is simply that I appreciate that pocket watches are just not that popular these days.

There was a time, not all that long ago really, when a pocket watch was considered an essential accessory for any gentleman. Wristwatches, by contrast, were considered somewhat dainty or effeminate when they were introduced and did not gain much market acceptance early on (for more on the emergence of wristwatches, see this article). This would, of course, change as we all know but there still remains a small market for pocket watches. What really prompted me to review the Molnija, however, was sort of a sense of historical irony that developed when I began to do some research into the history of Molnija and, in particular, its movement.

A little background first. The Molnija Clock and Watch Factory was founded in 1947 in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The name Molnija, I have read, means lightning. While the factory initially produced a combination of wristwatches, pocket watches, desk clocks and clocks for tanks and other military equipment, from the late 1950's to the present day their main products have been pocket watches. It is said that eighty percent of the manufacturing of these watches is done by hand and that the factory produces all of the parts involved entirely by itself, except for the jewels used in the mechanism. (It is not uncommon for watch manufacturers to subcontract to third parties a large portion of the parts that go into a watch these days) Molnija produces such an amazing variety of case styles and faces that I would find it hard to accept that someone could not find one they liked. The model being reviewed here is from their Religions collection.

Update-The top shots are new. The white faced model is a Braille Molnija. Notice the lack of the subdial and crystal to allow for a person to touch the hands of the watch. The watch hands, by the way, are reinforced to keep them from being deformed in normal use. Otherwise, it is very much like the other Molnija models. The other one with the red face is a new old stock (NOS) model from the late eighties that I found at the back of the counter at a local jewelery store. Odd thing is that I have been walking past this store for years and only just wandered in a few days ago. The owner had a nice assortment of mechanical watches including some Russian ones. Turns out the he was from Uzbekistan and brought the watches with him when he came to the U.S. One other thing. A good chain or fob is essential if you plan to carry a pocket watch. It will keep you from droping the watch when using it. After looking around for a while, I found an ebay seller, Paternosterny, who makes his own chains and fobs. His prices are very reasonable and the quality of his work appears exceptional. The top shot shows one of his whistle watch fobs.

Externally, the Molnija case measures forty-eight millimeters in diameter, not including the crown, and fourteen millimeters in thickness. The case appears to be built from chrome plated steel (I have encountered some claims that it is German silver. It could be true but I have no way of verifying it.) and has a spring-loaded cover over the crystal that is opened by pressing in the crown. The face of the watch has a subdial that measures seconds and both the back of the watch and the crystal are easilly removable. (The crystal is mounted in a chrome plated metal bezel that can be removed as a unit with a watch knife or similar tool. This is a useful feature to remove any dust that may have gotten on to the watch face.) The watch has no lume and is clearly not water resistant.

The Molnija is powered by a model 3602 movement, an 18 jewel hand-wound mechanical mechanism. Rated accuracy is nothing to write home about at -20 to +50 seconds a day although my example does considerably better coming in at approximately +20 seconds daily with good consistency. The movement does not hack for those of you who value that feature. What I personally found very interesting is that the 3602 movement is actually a copy of a Swiss Cortebert pocket watch movement that was originally made at least sixty years ago. While I am not sure exactly which of the old Cortebert movements the 3602 is based on, it bears strong visual resemblance to the model 592 and 620 Cortebert movements. Maybe its just me but find it interesting to consider that a twenty-first century Russian factory is still producing new mechanical pocket watches whose movement dates from the first half of the last century. While I appreciate that there are many currently produced wristwatch movements that have a long history as well (I occasionally wonder who is still producing the oldest designed movement out there-maybe the huge Zlatoust Diver watch that this one is in a pocket watch makes it even more of a curiosity in my mind. Every time I wind it up, set it, and clip its chain to my belt, it occurs to me that prior to World War I, everyone who had a watch did the same ritual every day. (Yeah I know, I'm a little odd) As an aside, a slightly modified version of this movement, the 3603, with better shock protection is used in a number of Poljot and Junkers (German) wristwatches.

The obvious question when it comes to a pocket watch these days is, of course, why bother? My answer is simply this...why not. It keeps time well enough, you won't see everyone else out there with one and it looks nice. To that you can add that, like many Russian watches, the price of admission is not high at all (see this ebay store, or here , there are many others too). Would I necessarilly carry my Molnija every day, probably not (not that it wouldn't work well in that role). But as for an occasional change of pace, and for those times when a wristwatch is a bad idea I think the Molnija is a terrific choice. (I play golf pretty regularly and, with the exception of Tag Heuer's newly released Tiger Woods golf watch which would set me back a fair amount, wearing a wristwatch is not a good idea. The vibrations from the swing would damage the watch and the weight on the wrist is annoying. I haven't thought about it much but there are probably other times when a wristwatch wouldn't work too. Maybe when operating machine tools and the like?) In the final analysis though, if you want to own a small piece of history and you like watches, (you probably wouldn't have read this far if you didn't) give a Molnija a try. They are inexpensive, nicely made and a decidedly different and old world way to measure the passage of time.

72 Comments:

Anonymous Scott Follmer said...

I purchased a Molnija pocket watch on E-bay about a year ago. Think I paid around $40. It is extremely reliable and keeps better time than my $1,700 Omega Seamaster. It also makes a great conversation piece.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

They are pretty good watches, especially for such a low price. I still carry mine once a week or so.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting review. My current fad is collecting the open faced Molnija with embossed case back, I have eight so far. Last year it was a pretty cheap hobby but prices are rising steadily. I find them to be robust, reliable and a bit of a conversation piece - not bad for $25 or less.

Regards

Julian L

9:43 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

They are still a good buy but with the dollar's weakness lately, rising prices are to be expected I guess. Lots of fun to collect though.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just picked up a Molnija for 20 bucks, near mint as you can expect. A so-called 'railway' model, that's what the red winged-wheel means (it denotes they actually checked it!) If you find one with the entire insides and movement gold-plated - go for it! - the fighter-pilots used them, THEY match anything Switzerland can make. The case was matt from never being polished - and I suspect, not used at all for years - and looks very close to stainless steel, so I suspect it's what is known as German Silver. It's about 20 seconds a day slow but if not used for years must need a servicing/oiling. I've heard the military used whale oil to lube them with, as nothing else worked at minus 60 degees centigrade! It's obvious the design is top-notch, the rim if the balance wheel is studded with the small weights you only see on very expensive designer watches we mere mortals can only drool over. Knowing Russians from my days in the shipyards I know they can match anything we do in the west when it's called for (the polit bureau merely cut the bread rations for the workers, to compensate). I needed accurate timing in my last job, quartz was needed, but now I've retired my Molnija windup will do me fine. And they're green' too, no batteries. I can thoroughly recommend buying one if you find one. I slip mine into a goats-leather sheath and drop it in my pocket, the chain snapped to my belt.

4:29 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Nice catch! I have seen some very finely finished Molnija movements before. Considering the accuracy of the examples I have, I'm not surprised to hear that their military used them. My Molnijas now serve golf duty as I managed to break a wristwatch during one game. Sounds like you got a winner.

Ed

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a very good blog here ed.. Those stuff are indeed worth collecting. You guys try to visit this directory about pocket watches.. There's plenty of information and websites about exquisite watches.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Thanks for the heads up. Looks interesting.

Ed

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one of these and like it a lot but now have a problem in that the second hand has come off and stops it working! I've go the back off and just wonder how to get the movement out of the case. I do not want to undo the wrong screws! Can anybody help please, thanks. Andy G

7:12 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I'm pretty sure that if you carefully poke the hole nearest the crown you will be able to remove the crown and then be able to extract the movement. However, if your Molnija looks like the ones above, the crystal is set into a removable ring on the front of the case. This assembly (crystal and metal ring together) can be removed with a very thin knife blade. You could then remount the hand and very carefully snap the crystal/ring back into plave.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks
I got the crystal off ok and have removed the second hand. I do not need it on this watch but will keep it for completeness.
Hope it keeps running now or I'll have to find out how to read Russian to read the book! We could do with a translation.
Mine is the Gagarin watch. I'm 57, live in Scotland and so like many other kids of my time he was a childhood hero, even if he did come from a crap system.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Good to hear. And I agree about Gagarin as well.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello. im zoran from bosnia. i have a OLD molnia 3602 18 jwl pocket watch,open face but i dont know how OLD is it. is there some methode to find how old my watch is?
thank You 4 your time.
happy hollydays :)

11:49 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Its hard to say because the Molnija movement has not changed very much through the years. If the movement is silver in color, it is probably at least pre-1980. From what I have seen, later built movements are brass in color.

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have the red pocket watch on the top can someone tell me what model it is and the price

4:23 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

The red one is a 3602 manufactured at some point before 1980. As for value, Molnijas aren't that pricey under any circumstances. Certainly not more than$70 at the upper limit.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

Thanks for really interesting comments. I have a Molnija pocket watch with Stalin picture. It is manufactured 1951. Do you have any idea, how I could get more information about this, how many of these watches (with Stalin picture)were manufactured, price etc.
There was a serial number inside the watch. Is there any database for Russian watches where I can try to find more information

All comment are more than welcome

Have a nice weekend for all

7:25 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

I am not aware of a movement database along the lines of the Swiss ones for Russian movements. That being said though, a 1951 Molnija would be a pretty early model as the Russians only got the design and tooling for that movement from the French firm LIP a little earlier. Additionally, that it was made when "Uncle Joe" was still around suggests that it is an original dial and not one of the many more modern such pieces. Sounds like a keeper.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just purchased a "Molnija" from the market and have been looking for days over the Internet to find the one that I have. I have come close, but have not found it. Their is no one in my aria who knows anything about Russian made watches. How can I authenticate this? If you can help email me at fey_struck@yahoo.com

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too have a few Molnija or Molnia or Marathon (as marketed in the US and Canada) they are easy to aquire, but the one drawback is the winding stems seem cheap and can break easily. I have one Molnija from 1968 that is an openface pendent set model 3602 that has a high grade regulator that is way different than all those pictured here. I buy mine from europe and not from North American sellers as over in Europe they go for 10 bucks and have CCCP and not USSR stamped on them. The USSR ones are for export to N/A.
If anyone is in need of a 3602 movement, I have one listed on eBay right now under my ID of littletoyboy98. Take it easy.

11:45 AM  
Blogger hamartolos said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:09 AM  
Blogger hamartolos said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:13 AM  
Blogger hamartolos said...

I purchased a Molnija pocket watch more than a dozen years ago. The Molnija is in the shop because the minute and second hands fell out though the mechanism is still working and the hour hand keeps time. Strange that this occurred because I am certain the watch was not dropped or otherwise traumatized.

Good to see so many of you out there who value pocket watches. As I sit here in my office I am wearing my grandfather's old Waltham ca. 1918. I wear a pocket watch when wearing a vest. In my prior life I was a prosecutor and when I knew the defense attorney was long winded I would try to wear a pocket watch that I could drag out of the best pocket and wind up. Invariably, at least one or two jurors would nod their heads and that told me at least I wasn't going to get an acquittal. A pocket watch is occasionally impractical in my present calling, Lutheran pastor. Can't access it when wearing liturgical vestments.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Those old Walthamns were very well done indeed. Here's hoping that Molnija of yours comes back ok.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous used rolex said...

These pocket watches are very nice. I like that red one much.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Many thanks. It's my favorite of them too.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just picked up a very early CCCP 15 jewel Molnija open face from 1949! Up until around 1960 the 3602 movements were actually date stamped with month and year. I also have a 1950 and 1951 early 15 jewel open face. All of these are in nice working condition and a deal at about 30 bucks each.

10:19 AM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

inni2078 08007rand which was founed in 1997 form California,

10:00 PM  
Blogger jay said...

Bought 2 Molnijas off fleabay, one was the 'standard' 3602 stamped SU, but then second one has 18(jewels) stamped next to 3602 and then, instead of SU, has a small stamp that looks like a small watch. Anybody seen this??

2:19 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Interesting. I haven't seen that mark. Any idea how old it is?

7:40 AM  
Blogger jay said...

unfortunately, no clue. the watch [with the stamp] looks like it was made yesterday, the loop for the chain is even still stiff.

2:07 AM  
Blogger graffixgirl said...

just purchased a molnija on ebay. model 3602 serial 004287. it came in the original box and original paperwork in Russian and I believe it is 18 jewel. the seller did not know much about the watch and could not get the back off. I got it off and it looks beautiful....as your posts have described...silvery mint like. the front has some writing on it....
CAENAHO B CCCP also Molnija is in russian, but at the 3o'clock mark it also has DeHBeP - 91. The face numbers 5 and 7 are partially cut off by the second hand dial but are not in the italic style, but more like the font Gill Sans and the numbers are huge in comparison to the watch samples I have seen.
I am new to watch collecting, so if anyone can enlighten me to the date range of this watch it would be a great help. Also this watch is openface but the back of the case says, MEMBER and encirlced, The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Inc. with an icon of a man standing next to a sundial.
PS this watch seems completely intact, jewels and all and keeps perfect time.
Thank you so much for any info.
Ed, I love your blogsite, nice job!

2:43 AM  
Blogger graffixgirl said...

Here are somegraet russian watch site links. PS pretty sure that my watch is 1979 pocket watch. considering I paid $17 for it I am pretty fortunate.

Links::

http://www.russianwatchguide.com/vintage-watches.htm

http://www.ussrtime.com/

http://www.ussrwatches.info/main.php

3:47 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Well, it is obviously Soviet built, before the wall came down. The serial number seems pretty low which suggests that it an older model, sixties or earlier maybe. The language about the The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Inc is interesting. The NAWCC is a western organization and is still around. I wonder if they bought a bunch of Molnijas at some point and awarded them to their members. Sounds like a cool watch there.

6:36 AM  
Blogger graffixgirl said...

Thank you Ed. again love the forum here.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howdy Ed!

My Molnija pocket watch is my every day watch. I was toatlly mystified when I first got it by the clay on both covers but was delighted to see what I got for a design when it finally wore away after about a week (3 ladies.) Mine is accurate within a minute a day.

My chief complaint these days is that the only trousers that have watch pockets are jeans!

Time for us pocket watch users of the world to unite in protest against the loss of the watch pocket!

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I purchased a Molnija pocket watch and really like it.It has the 3602 movement in it.The other numbers are 722104 what does this tell me?

9:05 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

That is just a serial number I believe. Can't really say much else without seeing it

10:00 AM  
Blogger Nikifor said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Price varies. Take a look on ebay for similar Molnijas. That will give you some realistic idea.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Nikifor said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Nikifor said...

I have Molnija 3602, sell it, how much cost?

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

Sadly my Gagarin watch I got three years back has begun to stop after a few seconds. I have been unable to find anybody to service it (in the UK). I have my Granddad's 1920's waltham doing the same and that is a lovely piece.

Are there any pointers how to service them?
Thanks

6:18 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Try contacting Kevin Jankoski at kevinsrussiantime.com . He may know of a watchmaker who can help you.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous vishal said...

very useful information sir.I have one with red face as in first photo.Now onward I will also carry it once a weak.today I gave it for servicing to an old watch maker.

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Molnija pocket watch that I bought at a estate sale in Louisiana. I don't know much about it and was wanting to sell it. But I have no idea how much it is worth. It has three ladies on the front and on the inside it has a baby angel and white flowers around the numbers. After taking off the back this was on the back:
024291, eighteen jewels, unadjusted, Russia, Molnija
Do you know about how much it is valued at?

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post ! I recently bought a German Junkers wristwatch equipped with a 3603 Molnija Movement. It is really one of the most beautiful movements I've ever seen, and very easy to see, thanks to the glasback. It has also a very nice Tic tac sound ! Accuracy is about + 25 seconds daily.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Rad said...

Hi Ed! I really enjoyed reading your review of the Molniya. Oh, and by the way, your hunch about the uncanny resemblance of the 3602 with the Cortebert cal. 620 seems to be right on the spot. I'll just leave this link that I found: http://forum.watch.ru/showthread.php?t=728

4:27 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Great info! I'm going to re-post this on the Watchuseek Russian forum. Many thanks

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Molnija stopwatch. Appears to be all silver. With chain. Three ladies on the cover, in a garden? They are holding a stretch of garland. The back is just floral. Inside, Roman numerals. It is in a small worn cardboard box with a long certificate (authentification?)in Russian. A reciept? It's pretty heavy. Anyhow, any thoughts on history and value? I have been googling for hours...no comparison or clue so far. Thank you!!!

5:55 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Hard to say the value. Depends on the condition. I see new old stock examples on ebay as high as $150 these days.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI Ed

I was at a boutique selling vintage stuff and I came across a Molnijia pocket watch and immediately fell in love with it. This is the first time I am buying a vintage pocket watch... the shop owner said that it is around 50 years old and came from a Russian sailor who stopover at Singapore ( quite common in the olden days). It has a cover and can only be wind up by hand. At the 6 'o' clock mark, there is a portion that tells time as well. ( not sure what is the term for it) . It is made in USSR. Is not polished and i would need to do that if i buy it. Any advice? Shop owner quoted me USD $ 78 dollars. Is this price reasonable ? I dun have to pay for shipping. thanks!

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have molnija pocket watch for sale

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daily use watch is a 1921 vintage Elgin 19j "BW Raymond" railroad-grade watch (I work in a machine shop, so a wristwatch is out of the question, not only due to the presence of running machinery, but also because metal chips under a wristband are NOT fun!). The other day, I accidentally broke the crystal on the Elgin, so until the crystal is replaced I have gotten out my backup watch - a 1970's vintage Molnija 3602 with the train on the back and the red-colored winged train wheel on the dial, marked CCCP, and with an 18 jewel movement and weight-compensated balance. Not as accurate as the Elgin (which, among other things, has a micro-adjustable regulator), but adequate for the time being.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just got my first pocketwatch at a Swap Meet (extremely large flea market) earlier today. The watch face LOOKS black with a bit of pink/violet near the middle. The pictures of the above watches are red, and I was curious to know if perhaps the face was just faded?

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently acquired a Molnija pocket watch what I believe to be a later 1990s production. The front has the white, red and blue Russian flag in the backround. Laurels surround a shield with sword positioned vertically . "МВД" inside shield and a Red Square scene and "ЗА ЗАСЛУГИ" on back. I was wondering how many twists/turns of the winding knob are necessary for it to run properly, or is there too much twisting that can be done to cause damage? I can't find any info anywhere about it!

1:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one of these with grouse and pine cone design stamped 3603 su 277510 any idea of age or value please

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops 3602

9:29 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Depends on the overall condition. Look around on ebay for similar examples. That should give you an idea of the going rate.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Ivica and i have two Molnia pocket watch. I drop them down and they are working only in one position if i change position in hand they stop working. Pleace help

9:23 AM  
Blogger Raymond Ashby said...

In reply to Jay: the watch symbol (also called the 9 O'clock symbol) shows the watch was made at the Chelyabinsk factory rather than factory number two

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one. And we all know its 2015 and i foun it at my school i really whant to know how much its worth

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just bought a moscow classic aeronavigator wrist watch with a 3602 movement...not shock resistant. how tough can a wrist watch be without that? it weighs 4 ozs. it loses maybe 3 or 4 seconds a day which is fantastic. it bothers me that is has no shock protection. makes no sense to me to make a wristwatch without it. anyone know why they make them w/o shock resist?

10:54 PM  
Blogger Eric Vosburg said...

WHERE DID YOU GET THAT FOB !!! i've been looking all over cant seem to find one ...

7:56 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

I got it on ebay but it looks like that seller isn't active any more. Maybe etsy has some like it?

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you've got Google translate on your phone, you can use it to see what the paper says. The site here: http://tuxgraphics.org/~guido/molnija-pocket-watch/ had some good information on dating Molnijas.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Thanks! Interesting site

11:05 AM  
Blogger KJR said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:13 PM  
Blogger KJR said...

Reply to Jay on the little clock stamped on the movement. I found another web site that referenced the mark. It is a tiny clock face with hands at 9:00. It is a mark that indicates the watch was manufactured after their second factory opened in the 1960s. According to what I have found, Molnija started using the mark to show the site of manufacture. The clock stamp indicates the watch was made in the original factory. The web site I reference was translated by Google so the clarity was a little rough but I believe the second factory was near Moscow.

3:19 PM  

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