Friday, May 19, 2006

Zlatoust Diver's Watch



The awful stock strap








Screw-pin detail







Crown detail










A Type One Movement. It is a Russian made copy of an old American Dueber-Hampden pocketwatch movement,




About three inches from end to end.



Weight lifting :)



According to watch industry buzz, big watches are "in" these days. I regularly hear folks discount 38mm watches as being far too small while the old 34mm standard man's size watch is barely considered large enough for ladies now. Well, if big watches are your cup of tea, I've got the thing for you. The Zlatoust diver's watch is big, really big. I've owned alarm clocks that weren't this big. How big, well its 58mm in diameter (not including the huge canteen crown which brings the overall width to 74mm!), 24mm in thickness (which is thicker than the width of many a ladies watch), the lugs are 24mm wide, lug to lug the watch measures 73mm and the it weighs 10oz. (For those of you who are curious, my wrist measures 7 1/2" around. The watch, as you can see, completely covers it and actually sticks out a bit) Needless to say, this is not the most comfortable watch out there. Frankly, it’s at best clumsy and at worst (on the stock band) downright painful to wear.

The watch itself is undeniably fascinating. I wore it around my law firm one day and at least a dozen people commented about it. No one had ever seen a watch like it and a number of folks actually tried it on. Even people who probably were not all that interested in watches were amazed. The Zlatoust uses a one piece case design (the movement is installed through the front) with an unusual screw-down bezel to hold the thick acrylic crystal tight against a rubber gasket. The watch ships with a sort of rubberized canvas band (complete with CCCP logo) that is possibly the least comfortable watch band I have ever encountered. It is stiff, sticky and does not breathe at all. I suppose the band would make sense if worn over a wetsuit but otherwise, it’s more like a handcuff than a watchband. I currently have my Zlatoust on an old Rhino band I had lying around. It’s still not remotely comfortable but it is wearable. In addition to the odd band, the bezel unscrews completely to allow the wearer to remove the protective grill and place a thicker (included) gasket in its place. The lug pins are of a screwed in type and can be removed with the small screwdriver that also came with the watch. The huge canteen style crown screws down and has a rubber gasket to protect the movement from water. An attached chain keeps the crown from getting lost. The numerals and hands on the watch face are luminous and, in a pleasant surprise, the lume is pretty good. The movement on this model is the same one used in the old First State Watch Factory Type One (reviewed below). It is a 15 jewel hand wound mechanism that must be wound once daily by unscrewing and partially removing the canteen crown cover. I have not actually opened the case to see the movement since this type of case design is tricky to extract a movement from, but the frequency sounds exactly the same as the low-beat tick of my Type One models. The one curious bit of data that I don't have is water resistance. I have fully immersed my watch with no damage but I don't know how deep it can go. I read a post over at watchuseek.com that stated that this watch is not really meant for very deep water at all but is instead meant for prolonged use in shallow water along the lines of a diving bell. I honestly don't know for sure.

The Zlatoust watch factory has an interesting history. During WWII, the one of the Moscow watch factories (I believe it was First State Watch Factory) was evacuated east to Zlatoust in the Chelyabinsk region to avoid being captured or destroyed by the advancing Nazi army. (many other Russian factories were moved this way as well) There, watch and clock production was quickly brought back online. According to the factory, (be patient, the page loads very slowly) over 90 percent of the clocks installed in Soviet tanks and aircraft were made at Zlatoust. After the war, the factory continued to produce all sorts of clocks and watches including stopwatches and this huge diver watch. (As an aside, they don’t just make watches in Zlatoust. This place was also the center of the old Soviet nuclear weapons industry. See: Zlatoust . It is also reputed to be one of the most contaminated places in the world as well. Scary stuff. (Additionally-If you are interested in modern Russian history I recommend reading Andrew Meier's book Black Earth. It is a collection of stories consisting of recent reporting by the author as he traveled throughout Russia. A real eye opener.)

It bears noting that watches like this one appear on frequently ebay and other Russian watch seller’s web pages these days. Many of them are clearly modern reproductions of the Zlatoust diver. Models with the text “700 Meters” on the face or with a centrally located second hand or a subdial are not, to my knowledge, real military diver’s watches. They may be made at the Zlatoust factory, however, but their movements are probably not the old low-beat Type One variety. Additionally, I have heard that modern examples have chrome plated brass cases instead of the solid stainless steel cases the originals used. If you are going to suffer owning one of these, try to get one that is as historically correct as possible. (Mine isn’t perfect either, it doesn’t have the plain back that the real issued ones have). Watches like this are available from a number of Russian watch sellers. I got mine here.

I think it should be obvious from this review that the Zlatoust diver is clearly never going to be anyone’s daily wear watch (That is unless your wrist is over eleven or so inches around. Then it might work for you). Still, I’m very happy to have this beast. It is, without question, the most unusual watch I own and may be the biggest wrist watch ever made. It is also an interesting piece of history. The one thing it is not is boring.

P.S.-Another great review of this watch can be found here

48 Comments:

Anonymous Eli said...

Hi Ed, I was wondering, where did you get the information about the ones with the plain back being the most historically correct? I would like to read more about this watch, and might buy one myself. Thanks!

9:32 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

I got most of my information about this model over time from posts on the Russian watch forum at watchuseek.com. Additionally, Mark Gordon's Russian watch website has a lot of information about this and other models. The prevailing consus is that models with stylized backs were probably made for the civilian market. The same goes for the ones with subdials and second hands

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Eli said...

Hi Ed, thanks for your reaction, I've bought one myself today. There are 2 retailers here in the Netherlands where i live, and both of them only sell ones with the 700 metpob (metres) on the dial. Not with subdial or second hand though. I saw a lot of pictures showing the watch with the plain back, but most people told me those are old pictures, and I wasn't able to find a seller who sold these plain backs. I must say that the seller who I bought it from, told me (and also stated on his website) that this is a Zlatoust reproduction, so I never had the idea of this being real military watches! What do you think of the age of these watches? I got mine with a paper dating it to 1976, and it seems pretty authentic.. I do think theyre old stock. And one more question, hope you don't mind, what do you mean by "low beat tick"? I'm sorry my english isn't that good!

8:24 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I'm pretty sure that the models without subdials or second hands are new old stock from the seventies. The ones with either type of second hand I've heard were made in the ninties. These are not reproductions though, they are genuine Zlatoust models made by the Zlatoust factory just like the military versions that Russian military divers used in the sixties. The only difference was the decoration ob the caseback that was added for the civilian market. As for "low beat", the movement in these monsters is a very slow moving pocket-watch movement that was probably designed in the ninteenth century. The Russian watch industry got its start in the late twenties when they bought the bankrupt American watch maker Dueber-Hampton. The movement in the Zlatoust is that ancient movement. It ticks very slowly, in comparison to a regular watch movement.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed,

I also own this monsterwatch....
and I like it very much.
You get lots of questions from
people who have never seen it
before.
I have a replica and an original
with plain back.
(compared to my IWC Big Pilot which
looks like a childrens watch as you
put them next to each other...)
say..is this giant easy to repair ?
thanks,
Sander

7:44 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Because of the one-piece case, the movement in this one comes out through the front. That makes things tricky right there. Additionally, the movement design is very old and hard to get parts for outside of Russia. Ordinary servicing (cleaning, oiling, etc) should be doable by a competant jeweler but beyond that, major repairs would probably be an iffy proposition.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed, not long ago I got a Zlatoust for my birthday, it’s probably a replica. My question to you is, how many turns should I give the knob on the side of the watch for optimum performance(the promised 30 hours) ?

Thanks for helping me out and I love your review.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

My example is fully wound at about 20 turns. Assuming that you have the same movement in yours, that should be good.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Rob said...

Hi Ed: I own 5 Zlatoust Divers Watches and I am in need of some new Crystals for some of them they are 53mm in diameter by 4mm in thickness and I was wondering if you new where I could get these my mail is rob@solarsea.ca

11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Ed:
How to remove watch strap by screwdriver??Because when I turn 1 side of screw another side also move...That is difficult to remove it??i hope u know what i mean??thanx

5:21 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

The pin is really just a long thin screw. The whole thing should come loose when unscrewed.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Ed butis it hard to loose it?? and you must fit 1 side screw and turn another side screw to lost pin??thanx for help...bcz i have problem to loose it.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure, yours is also chromed brass.. maybe the one with the flat back is stainless steel.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Possibly. It was advertised as stainless but, who knows.

11:48 PM  
Blogger LikeTheReindeer said...

Just wondering if you know what size band the watch uses.

Thanks!

12:49 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

My example has 24mm lugs

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,

When you say plain back do you mean absolutely nothing on the back? I have seen some that have double anchors or a scuba diver both in high relief. But I have seen one that is plain except it has a small 4 digit number stamp below a small anchor stamp. Can this still be considered one of the "originals"?

12:30 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

I'm not sure about the anchor stamp. The serial number, yes, that is correct. Search around on the watchuseek.com Russian forum. I believe that someone there has posted a pic of an original.

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed,

Thanks for the quick response. I did some checking on the site you suggested. But could not readily find a picture of the "original". Is it possible to post a picture here or email you a photo or two? Im interested in purchasing this particular watch, but would prefer the non-civilian version.
BTW, thanks to your great blog, you saved me from purchasing one of those reproductions.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed where did you get your nato band for this watch? I've been looking all over for one just like the one pictured. Thanks

10:34 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I'm afraid this is an old Rhino band. I'm pretty sure they aren't made anymore. The store over at the military watch resource forum has some zulu bands that are similar though.

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed,
I got one of these from amazon. I have trouble with it, it starts to "lose" minutes within an hour and it stops completely after a while. Do I need to have it on in order for it to operate accurately? Are there any tricks about winding it? Is it possible that I have got a faulty or fake one? Never happened before with amazon.
Thanks

8:33 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Sounds like a bad movement there. It's not an auto so it makes no difference if you wear it. It winds in the usual way. Not good at all.

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not familiar with mechanical watches at all. I have wound it all the way. It is fully wound, but still might go slow after a while. Can this be fixed?

9:07 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

It can certainly be serviced but your jeweler needs to know what he's doing. The movement in this one comes out through the front which makes things tricky.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi ed, good job...am a big fan of this watch....and this might intrest you...with regards to the crappy strap that comes with the watch...i found a solution...

i found leather straps for it...

you can email me at donny78ph@yahoo.com...id be glad to show you some pics

6:42 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Sounds interesting. Certainly would make it easier to wear.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HELLO ED THIS IS ARJUN FROM INDIA,CAN YOU TELL ME FROM WHOM DID YOU PURCHASE THIS WATCH ? COZ I'M ALSO INTERESTED IN GETTING 1 FOR ME PLEASE GIVE ME DETAILS AND SAFE PAYMENT MODES.
YOU CAN MAIL ME porusarjun@yahoo.com

5:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I saw the same watch on eBay and nearly bought it - but I've been reading bad reviews about the reproductions. So I'm very skeptical now. Did you buy this watch?
http://cgi.ebay.com.au/RUSSIAN-MILITARY-NAVY-DIVER-WATCH-SOVIET-DIVING-USSR-/120671840021?pt=AU_Watches&hash=item1c189a2715
And (if so) are you satisfied with it?

9:42 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

that looks like mine. I would up selling it. It was just too large to be worn

11:01 AM  
Blogger Yau-ming's blog!! said...

Haha, well, it is a Diver's watch. I own a proper UWATEC dive watch and its also massive. Have you read this article which insinuates that its actually a Chinese copy?
http://forums.watchuseek.com/f10/inside-zlatoust-50-mm-diver-75583.html

I think I'll still get it.

5:13 PM  
Blogger SPAZ said...

Does anyone know where i can buy a real Zlatoust Diver "191-ЧС" or "192" A.K.A "343 191 yC dive watch"

I missed out on one from the 40's on ebay. Does anyone have one for sale and or know where i can buy a real one from the 40's and or the 60-70's?

spazticx@hotmail.com

Cheers,
-Thom

7:53 PM  
Blogger SPAZ said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Short of being sharp eyed on eBay, I'm afraid not. They don't come up often nowadays

7:55 PM  
Blogger SPAZ said...

Do you have one I can buy Ed?

Cheers,
-Thom
Composer

www.spazticproductions.com

7:56 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Nyet. I've been trying to find a reasonably priced example for ages now. The few that I see typically close at very steep prices.

7:58 PM  
Blogger SPAZ said...

yea i just missed out on one that I could have got for $450 USD.

The last one I had offered was at $670 and I didnt act soon enough and it when to original offer of $655.

Sucks!

-Thom

8:03 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

$450 was a good deal indeed

8:26 PM  
Blogger Mark Scott said...

just found this site while looking for someplace to repair mine. As far as I can see, mine is very old and original. I gave it to a local clock guy who screwed it up. Don't think he broke anything but wants out. Any suggestions anyone?
juanitosdad@gmail.com

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a 24 jewel back mounted Zlatoust from ebay. Love it so far. It is advertised at 700m, but not sure. I would never be 2000 feet down anyway. This one is stainless steel, and has a side sub second hand. So far I am impressed with this watch. It is also slightly smaller than old watch. Mine came with a breitling rubber divers strap and a water resistand leather strap. This one is 51mm at the case, but I'm not sure about tihe crown cover. It still weighs almost half a pound. And this watch has the grill, but has a metal ring to replace it with rather than a rubber one. It still bears the military insignia 3aka3 mo cccp. Look for brand new 700m watch on ebay. Good luck and thanks for the information.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous Thomas SPAZ Hill II said...

Hey so I'm buying a Zlatoust shortly I found online. but it does not have the original strap.
Does anyone have an extra strap I could buy or know where I can go to fins a strap?

Cheers,
-SPAZ
spaz@spazticproductions.com

4:03 PM  
Anonymous bulliporker said...

i too would like to know where to buy a replacement watch strap from as i cant use the watch to i find a replacement

9:54 AM  
Blogger Attiya Ramzan said...

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6:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are waterproof gaskets for the Zlatoust 191 available?

5:46 PM  
Blogger stanley bleeker said...

Are waterproof replacement gaskets available for the Zlatoust 191 diver watch?

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome- review Ed, I have one with the grill in the front, works awesome-super heavy conversation piece, it is next to the 1st original series, in my budget, tested in water/shower/beach, diving to 12 ft(snorkeling) and having worked in mechanical watch repair from 1983 to 1992--as long as the two gaskets are good and to pressure-you have a nice piece of technology-too heavy for daily use , but a fun watch- the 1st series of Zlatoust are super expensive and out my budget.the case is nickel plated, but as long as it is not cracked, you have an excellent watch/super watch . Thanks , Danny

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HELLO GOOD DAY TO YOU ED THIS IS ARJUN.FROM BANGALORE INDIA.REMEMBER ME I HAD CONTACTED YOU 4 YEARS BACK ENQUIRING ABOUT RUSSIAN ZLATOUST WATCH?? WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY I BOUGHT ONE FROM ENGLAND FOR 300 BRITISH POUNDS
ED MY WATCH RAN PERFECTLY FOR 1 YEAR AFTER THAT THE SECONDS HAND STOPPED MOVING. I WANT TO GET IT REPAIRED AND SERVICED IN AMERICA DO YOU HAVE ANY JEWELLER OR WATCH MAKER IN AMERICA YOU CAN CONTACT ME AT.arjun0404@yahoo.com i will be glad if you assist me coz i have sentimental attachment towards this watch thanks ed i will often come to denver do you know any zlatoust watch specialist in denver or new york ?

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HELLO GOOD DAY TO YOU ED THIS IS ARJUN.FROM BANGALORE INDIA.REMEMBER ME I HAD CONTACTED YOU 4 YEARS BACK ENQUIRING ABOUT RUSSIAN ZLATOUST WATCH?? WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY I BOUGHT ONE FROM ENGLAND FOR 300 BRITISH POUNDS
ED MY WATCH RAN PERFECTLY FOR 1 YEAR AFTER THAT THE SECONDS HAND STOPPED MOVING. I WANT TO GET IT REPAIRED AND SERVICED IN AMERICA DO YOU HAVE ANY JEWELLER OR WATCH MAKER IN AMERICA YOU CAN CONTACT ME AT.arjun0404@yahoo.com i will be glad if you assist me coz i have sentimental attachment towards this watch thanks ed i will often come to denver do you know any zlatoust watch specialist in denver or new york ?

7:56 AM  

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