Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Vostok Komandirskie Revisited

On the Brown leather replacement band

Freshly unwrapped on the original black band

It's been a few years since I did a review of a new Vostok Komandirskie. I was curious to see if much had changed since the last time I picked up one of these. When this one became available, I took the plunge so to speak. (For what it's worth, buying a Vostok is never much of a plunge, financially that is. This model appears on Zenitar's ebay store from time to time for less than $50). The example above has the insignia of the Russian Space Forces launch crew as I understand it. There are pictures of it aboard the International Space Station which was enough to get me interested. I'm pleased to see that the Komandirskie is still a solidly made mechanical watch that sells for a bargain price.

The Komandirskie these days is still powered by Vostok's 2414A 17 jewel stemwinder movement with a date display and a screw-down crown. The 2414A has an excellent track record for durability and acceptable accuracy. The case is still made from chrome plated brass and the caseback is still the Vostok 2 piece stainless steel water resistant design. (Note-Water resistant means washing your hands, rain and maybe immersion to a depth of one or two meters. For diving, go with a Vostok Amphibia. It is rated at 200 meters water resistance and is more robustly made. For a good article describing the differences between the Komandirskie and the Amphibia see this post at Watchuseek.com Another terrific Vostok article can be found here). In common Vostok fashion, the caseback is intricately decorated, this model sports the Imperial Russian 2 headed Eagle (Symbolizing the Tzar's role as head of church and state I believe).

The Komandirskie still uses a domed acrylic crystal. The choice of acrylic has the disadvantage in that it can scratch fairly easily. However, unlike glass, it is very shatter resistant and scratches can be polished out with a cotton ball and a little toothpaste from time to time as needed. (There are proper watch crystal polishes available that do a better job if you are interested. Crystal Clear and Polywatch work very well).

In typical Vostok fashion, the stock watch band is of so-so quality. I replaced it with one from Nilsen's ebay store (I recall that Randy Nilsen sadly passed away a few years ago. I believe his wife now runs the place). In the past, Vostoks were usually sold without bands in a plain plastic box. The buyer was expected to pick a band that suited them. I personally believe that Vostok hasn't quite gotten the stock watch band idea yet. They really should ship a better quality band. It would do a lot for their overall image.

Vostok's Komandirskie line is something of a design classic these days. It has been around since the 1960's, I believe, and is still largely made the same way. While the Komandirskie was originally marketed to the Soviet military, Vostoks are now popular in civilian markets as well. It is true that one could certainly quibble that chrome plated brass and acrylic crystals are not the latest or the greatest choices. That being said though, they are both quite durable and should last for years. Realistically, at the Komandirskie's price point, plastic cases and simple digital displays are more the norm. That Vostok can still produce a well made 17 jewel wristwatch for an affordable price is really quite remarkable. And that this example has a space program connection of sorts is just icing on the cake for me. Recommended.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post: Thanks also for the link to the WUS comparison. There's also a thread "Vostok's Exclusive Interview" with the chairman of Vostok over at WUS now.

I notice that lots of people think the leather bands are terrible, but I've got to admit that the stock leather is among my favorites. Maybe this is a sign of bad taste? The leather is thick but soft and supple, and flexes easily when taking it on and off. The only issues with the band I have are: (1) The buckle is chrome-covered brass, and the finish wears away fast at the points of contact, and (2) The stitching on the belt-loop is loose and could come apart, a flaw that can be fixed with a little crazy glue to the knot and nearby stitching. Cheers, D

12:37 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

You apparently got a much nicer band than I did. The one this watch came with used a hard shiny leather that was stiff and uncomfortable. It frankly felt like laminated cardboard.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, maybe they changed that. I got mine maybe 4-5 yrs ago through, of all places, Restoration Hardware. It came in a slim cardboard box, but it's an Amphibia nonetheless. Keeps great time, maybe -10 s/day.

2:44 AM  
Anonymous Jose M. said...

awesome blog! as a Russian watch and Vostok watches fan/owner I found this little thread lovely! I've been thinking about this exact Komandirskie for a couple months now... this just convinced me... thanks!

11:08 PM  
Blogger vanizorc said...

I would say that, at Vostok's price point, providing a "sub-par" band (or even none at all) is entirely justified. After all, you are getting a solidly-built, mechanical, metal-cased watch at $30-$50. That's really impressive. I mean, I've been to local Walmarts where they charge $60+ for simple, disposable, and frankly inferior digital plastic junk. So it's unfair and unrealistic to expect Vostok to lower their profit margins even more than they already are by including "higher-quality" bands -- unless, of course, they raise the price of their watches in response.

8:36 PM  

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