Saturday, March 11, 2006

Vostok Radio Operator Review

On a newly acquired factory bracelet

The subject of this review, the Vostok Radio Operator watch is one of the new old stock (NOS) models that have been turning up of late on the worldwide tag sale. I got this particular example a few weeks ago in what looked like its original box with the factory paperwork. It did not have a strap, however, and I decided it would look good on a black Nilsen bund (Nilsen incidentally has a great selection of bund style straps for excellent prices. Quality is quite good too.) (For more information on the history of Vostok, check the monthly archives of this site for the Vostok Komandirskie review)


The watch itself is powered by Vostok's 17 jewel model 2409 hand-wound movement. It uses a thick acrylic crystal, the company's trademark two piece stainless-steel case back, the usual wobbly screw-down crown design (normal for this make), and Vostok's typically awful lume. The watch is rated at 200 meters water resistance but since this is NOS, I wouldn't rely on that figure without having it tested first. This Vostok has the old style octagonal stainless-steel case style that thankfully had nary a mark on it when it arrived. The case measures 38mm in width (42mm including the crown), 12mm in height and has an 18mm lug band width. Like most Vostoks, it has a bi-directional chrome plated bezel but this one also has a luminous marker embedded in it. So far, the watch has run flawlessly, gaining an acceptable 15 seconds daily.


Until recently, the radio operator was something of a rare bird. Even now, the examples available are apparently all there is of them as the style is not among the many being produced by the Vostok factory today. It is my understanding that the reason for the watch's name is that maritime law requires certain periods of radio silence between ships during which time they are supposed to monitor certain frequencies set aside for distress calls. The time periods in question are marked on the watch face, the first three minutes of each quarter hour. I have read that this system was developed in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster. Apparently at that time, the ship's distress calls were hard to make out amidst all the other signal traffic. For a better explanation of maritime distress communications, see this site.


In all other respects the Vostok Radio Operator is very typical of most of the company's products. It is rugged, reliable and accurate and makes a fine field watch or daily wearer. Since this is a somewhat unusual model, I don't wear it under less than ideal circumstances the way that I do with newer Vostok models. That is more a reflection of a desire on my part to preserve this watch than a result of concern that it would be damaged easily. I have little doubt, in fact, that the Radio Operator could take all the abuse that I could normally dish out. Final thought, get one while you can.

Update-The top picture shows this Vostok on a factory bracelet. Turns out, the current generation of Vostok Amphibia bracelets will fit these older style Vostoks as well. Unlike a Swiss watch, whose accessories can be unbelievably pricey, this bracelet set me back all of $4 on the world wide tag sale, new in its wrapper by the way. The shipping at $4.50 was more. I think it looks pretty good.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed: What size band does the Vostok Radio Operator watch use?

7:25 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

It uses an 18mm band width

11:23 PM  
Blogger tony said...

Bought one off ebay. Thrilled with the package and watch. Keep up the good work!

1:39 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Thanks. It is a really interesting watch.

11:04 PM  
Blogger bombero said...

I put a "diver or sport" $6 rubber type band from walmart. I thought it really went well with the watch.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Makes sense. It is a marine radio operator's watch. Sounds like it would look pretty good.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice review! It also deteremined me to order such a model from E-bay. By the way Ed, could you point out what exactly leather strap model did you fit your Vostok Radio Operator with? It is one from ebayer "rmnilsen" wright? Thanks, Radu

6:38 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Right here

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. Best regards!

5:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed,

I own a Vostok Komandirskie VIP-Blue Submariner and the case exactly the same as your Vostok Radio watch. It also has marking 3AKA3 MO CCCP. Do you have any information about my watch?

Your web about Vostok watch is great and given me a lot of information about the watch!

P. Lo

9:30 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

If it has the same ocatgonal case as the one above, it was manufactured in the late eighties or early ninties just before the wall came down. The designation
3AKA3 MO CCCP means "By order of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR". It is what is known as an "Issued" Vostok, that being that it was to be given to a soldier as part of that soldier's equipment, as opposed to one that was made by Vostok for sale in a military px store like the Radio Operator model above. Vostoks with the 3AKA3 designation are considered more collectible that their non-issued counterparts.

9:42 AM  

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