Friday, December 02, 2005

The Review

I decided to write this review for the fun of it more than anything else. (Note-I had originally titled this review First Moscow Watch Factory Type One. An astute reader at the Watchuseek Russian Watch Forum noted that it was in fact made by the First State Watch Factory, a precurser to the First Moscow Watch Factory. I love knowing these little details. Many thanks.) The Type One, also variously referred to as K-43 and Kirova hasn't been made since the late 40's as far as I know. It is a very interesting watch, however, at least to collectors of Russian watches. This particular model was the first domestically produced watch in Russia. Prior to making the Type One, watch making in Russia was limited to assembling foreign made parts only. Brands such as Mozer and Pavel Bure were made this way. By the late 1920s though, the Russian government saw the need for a domestic watch industry. The story of how Russia acquired this industry is told in the book, "From Springfield to Moscow: The Complete Dueber-Hampden Story" by James Gibbs. (See also here and here as well) (This book is a must read for fans of Russian watches by the way. It even has a copy of the court order authorizing the sale of the company. I have posted the first few pages of the order. If you want the whole thing, let me know and I'll email it to you. ) The book tells the story, from start to finish, of the American Dueber-Hampden watch company. Dueber was bought by the Amtorg Trading Corporation, the foreign purchasing arm of the Soviet government, in 1928 after it had gone out of business in the United States (see here). The factory was then boxed up and shipped to Russia where it was re-assembled and gotten up and running with the help of the company's former employees from the United States. The Americans who went to Russia for this project were tasked not only with making the machinery work but also with training Russian workers in the art of watch making. It seems hard to believe at first that the U.S. and Russia would cooperate this way but it should be recalled that the cold war was decades away and the abuses of the Soviet government were not yet widely known. In any event, the undertaking was evidently successful as watches like the model pictured above were manufactured in quantity.


The Type One itself is really a pocket watch with a set of 14mm lugs welded on to the case to hold a trench watch style watchband. Remarkably, despite the passage of sixty or seventy years (and the very crude look of the movement), the mainspring is still strong and the watch keeps time well. The movement in this example has only seven jewels but there was a fifteen-jewel model made too. (It is my understanding that this Dueber-Hampden movement was used in the giant Zlatoust diver watch, and either is still being produced or was until recently.)


Physically, the Type One is huge for a wristwatch. It measures 45mm in width (49mm with the big onion crown) and 14mm in height. The narrow band makes the watch look and wear even bigger. Like many timepieces of this era, water resistance is non-existent. This particular example has obviously had its dial painted long after it was built. (The KGB did not exist until the mid nineteen-fifties and the watch is older than that. A member on the Poor Man's Watch Forum commented that this particular example is a KGB award watch so maybe it is supposed to look this way now. I'm personally not sure and will probably never be.)


The Type One never fails to draw comments. It has an old-fashioned and unique look to it that you just don't see these days. I can't imagine wearing this one on a daily basis at all but it does make for nice change of pace from time to time. It also makes me think about how strange the world can be. An American watch, manufactured in Russia with the consent of the U.S. and Soviet governments. Amazing.


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