Saturday, April 23, 2011
The Last Bargain: NOS Poljot 3133 Chronograph Review
Let me begin by stating that the title of this review is a bit misleading. The watch you see above is probably not the very last inexpensive new old stock (NOS) Poljot chronograph floating around on the world wide tag sale. If you are patient and look hard enough, others can be probably be found. That being said, however, inexpensive Poljot 3133s are nowhere near as common as the were a few years back. Frankly, you are far more likely to find a new Volmax with this movement (or one derived from it) on the high side of $500 nowadays. It's a shame that truly cheap 3133 powered chronographs are becoming scarce but I suppose the party had to end sooner or later. With the dollar as weak as it is now (circa 2011) and the reality that the 3133 is a terrific movement that is really worth a fair price, I'm really quite happy that I found this one for only $159.00.
The watch arrived, new in the box, with the tag still on and without a band. To be honest, the lack of a band didn't bother me as Russian leather bands have generally been a disappointment every time I've encountered them. The example you see above currently resides on a beautiful Hirsch Trapper that I picked up from Watchprince a few years back. It's a nice soft padded leather band that, I think, compliments the watch nicely. The watchcase itself measures 39 mm in width (42mm with the crown) 45mm lug to lug, has an 18mm band lug width and is 12mm in thickness. It appears to be made of chrome-plated brass with a snap-on stainless steel case back. The crystal is a domed type made of acrylic. Water resistance is not stated so I would assume little to none in this category. Lastly, there is no lume whatsoever on the hands or watch face. That's ok with me as this is clearly a dress style watch. This particular example was produced after the wall came down. The included paperwork states that the watch was manufactured in 1996. That is consistent with the "Made in Russia" mark at the six o'clock point on the dial. Earlier models would have been marked CCCP.
Internally, this Poljot is powered by a 23 jewel model 3133 hand-wound movement. The 3133 is based on the Swiss Valjoux 7734. Back in the seventies, the Russians purchased the tooling from the Swiss for the 7734, made a few modifications, and produced the 3133. (The Russians raised the jewel count from 17 to 23 and increased the bph (beats per hour) from 18000 to 21600 among other things.) The 3133 is a well regarded movement that is known for it's long power reserve per wind and relative ruggedness as mechanical chronographs go. Despite the age of the design, it is still in production today and is often found in watches that cost many times what the model above ran me.
The watch itself works flawlessly. The winding mechanism is very smooth and the chronograph starts, stops and resets to zero perfectly. (On a 3133, you start and stop the chronograph with the two o'clock button and reset the hands with the 4 o'clock button. Do not press the 4 o'clock button while the chronograph hands are running. You can damage the movement that way.) The watch is not considered very large by today's standard but, for a dress watch, that's good in my opinion. The combination of the shiny chrome plated case and the silver finished hands produce an elegant and classic look, I think, that goes well with a suit or in an office environment.
If you are interested in acquiring an inexpensive mechanical chronograph, I highly recommend these Poljot 3133s. The movement itself has withstood the test of time nicely and remains a popular little engine today. That new examples now command fairly high prices is a testament to the quality of the design. Better still, if you can locate an inexpensive new old stock model like the one above, you'll be getting a bargain to boot. Don't wait too long if you want one of these though. There really aren't that many low priced examples out there anymore.