First Watch in Space - Shturmanskie


The end of forties and the beginning of the fifties of the last century were a very productive times in Soviet history. The war had ended and cities were left in ruins, but since Soviet Union was on the winning side, the industry had flourished and their golden years were yet to come. The new momentum in whole industry has also reflected in watch-making; immediately after the end of the war, a new directive came, ordering to stop the production of the old so called ''Type 1'' watches and begin a cooperation with French watch manufacturer Lip. The new watch bore the name ''Pobeda'', which in translation meant ''Victory''. It was such a success that it stayed in production literally till the fall of Berlin wall. Pobeda watches came in many different versions; all of them were meant for general public. Since the country's power rose significantly, the air force was strong and also the astronauts divisions were getting bigger, there was a great need for a more complex, accurate and sophisticated watch, which should be designed and made in Soviet Union. The watchmakers at First Moscow Watch Factory (1 MChZ) mastered the task and first pieces came out of production lines in year 1949.

The new watch was called Shturmanskie (in translation it means captain or pilot) and was actually an upgrade to very successful design of Pobeda. Despite the fact that it was only an upgrade, the new watch exceeded on many levels. It was the first Soviet massively produced watch with central seconds hand and the first Soviet watch with direct driven second hand (this technical solution actually put Soviet Union in line with other world's leading watchmaking industries). Besides central seconds it was also the first Soviet watch with hack function (pulling the crown stops the movement for accurate timing). Every Shturmanskie watch was carefully tested and timed and was offered only to designated air force pilots and astronauts. All Shturmanskie watches bore special air force logo on the dial, the distinctive red second hand, luminous markers and very special design type of crown (named ''pillow crown''), designed for easier access to the hack function for the users.

The Shturmanskie was a success in all aspects and the production continued further into the fifties. During the course of time the watch got many small improvements. The most notable one was made in the year 1954, when the so called Type II of Shturmanskie begun production. Even though the watch was excellent in many aspects, it was only in the year 1961 awarded with an eternal place in Soviet history. That was the year when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made the first manned space flight in history, wearing a Shturmanskie Type II watch on his hand. This particular watch is today still at display at Moscow museum. Such an important role in history made all the Shturmanskie watches very collectible.

Buying a Shturmasnkie watch has become a very difficult job today. Although there are many pieces for sale, closer examination quickly shows that acquiring a truly original piece is almost impossible. The dials were made in such a manner that not many pieces have survived the passage of time. Besides, there were plenty of different types of these watches with only small alternations, visible only to the experienced eye. On top of all this, the parts of the movement are interchangeable with later Pobeda watches and Soviet watchmakers did not pay a lot of attention when they got them for repair. My opinion is that the watch is worth of all the efforts and that there should be at least one piece of Shturmanskie watch to call a soviet watch collection a proper one.