About Soviet Watch Calibers
In the 1950s the Soviet Union reached its peak in development. That was an era when there were a lot of resources put in a variety of military and space programmes, which were moving the technological boundaries of that time. Due to overall need, the Soviet engineers were compelled to design a watch which would be time suffice to the high demands of military aviation and space missions and also be equipped with the function of chronograph at the same time. As a result, caliber 3017 was born in the year 1959. The first generations of that caliber carried the ‘’Strela’’ name on the dial, today among collectors all watches with 3017 movements are called Strela. The mechanism was a column wheel chronograph of high quality with manual winding, partly based on Swiss caliber Venus 150. These watches were manufactured exclusively for military and space aviation right from the beginning.
The year 1965 was the year of a great breakthrough for Soviet space exploration. Soviet astronaut Alexey Leonov went down in history as the first man who exposed himself to the forces of outer space and performed a spacewalk outside the spacecraft Voskhod that lasted more than 12 minutes. That was a groundbreaking achievement. Strela with caliber 3017 also was a part of the indispensable equipment on the mission. Almost anyone, who is a bit more acquainted with wristwatches, has heard about the famous Omega Speedmaster Professional, commonly known as ‘Moonwatch’. The latter was an official watch of the American space organization NASA and worn on the wrists of many astronauts, who were the first to reach the moon. But not many people know that the Moonwatch wasn’t the first watch in space. In fact, it was a Strela at the Voskhod mission. Next to Alexey Leonov, Strela was owned by the majority of the most important figures of the Soviet space programme, including Vladimir Komarov, who was the first man, who traveled to outer space more than once. The sad part of his otherwise heroic story is, that Komarov also passed away in space in 1967. Below, you can find one of the last known pictures of Komarov a with Strela on his wrist.
In the twenty years period of manufacturing of the mechanism 3017, until 1979, when it was replaced by famous caliber 3133, which remained in production till recent years, the design of these watches went through many changes and issues. Among others, the name Strela was left out and replaced with the names Poljot and Sekonda. Since these watches were manufactured mostly for professional usage and are thus limited in quantity (around 100.000), it is hard to acquire a nice and original piece today. At the same time, the worth of these watches is just growing and growing.
The history of Poljot 3133 began in the year 1974 when the Swiss watch company Valjoux ended production of their famous caliber 7734 and sold the complete equipment and rights to Soviets. On the first glance both 3133 and 7734 seem quite the same, but in fact, Soviet watchmakers did some major improvements on the Swiss 7734 (faster beat rate, jeweled bearings on the chronograph mechanism, improved date mechanism…) and in the following years the production of the caliber 3133 began. It is a cam shifted chronograph movement with a beat rate of 21600 bps (faster than the Swiss version 7734) and date indicator with the Soviet type quick set mechanism. At first, the caliber was intended to replace the old 3017 only in professional use, but later in 1980, the caliber was offered to the general public as well. Today 3133 is considered to be one of the most robust and well made Soviet movements of all time.
The 3133 movement, due to its quality and robustness, was a great success and with some minor technical changes, it stayed in production even for more than twenty years after the fall of Berlin wall, powering plenty different chronographs from different brands. Today there is some old stock of these movements left but in general new watches with this caliber are no longer manufactured. Consequently, the interest by collectors rises fast.
In the Soviet era, there were many models of watches with 3133 movements made, but the rarest and most valuable are the early and commissioned ones. One of those is the model ''Okean'' (in translation the word ''okean'' means the ocean), which is a fantastic watch with stainless steel case, screwback cover and inner rotating bezel. It was issued for naval officers but also worn by Soviet astronauts and thus traveled to space on Soyuz missions. The watch was reissued later but the original pieces today are very hard to find in authentic condition. Another legendary watch was the so-called Shturmanskie Aviator, which was given to military and aviation officers. This watch underwent some cosmetic and technical changes (hack function) and stayed in production for professional use until the end of the Soviet Union. Even the civil versions from Soviet days are getting harder and harder to find and their prices rise.