VOSTOK AMPHIBIA HISTORY
The Vostok Amphibia Watches are produced at a watch factory “Vostok” in Chistopol, Russia.
The history of the brand Vostok dates back to the fall of 1941.
In November – December of 1941 150 railway carriages arrived in Kazan with more than 1000 tons of equipment and materials of the 2nd Moscow Watch Factory along with about 700 workers and their family members.
There was no railway communication between Kazan and Chistopol. Kazan is more than 100 kilometers away from Chistopol and there is a crossing through the Kama river.
Navigation has already been shut down and thin ice would not allow trucks with heavy equipment to pass only supporting horse carts. It took more than three thousand carts to carry the people and the bulk of the equipment.
Machines that have been laying for a few winter months in the open air required a full sorting out.
But despite of everything in April, 1942 the factory already started to provide the Soviet Army with its first produce and in May equipment installation was finished. The newly created facility was named “The 5th Watch Factory”.
It was placed in the buildings of two schools, the Pedagogical Institute (“Teachers’ Institute” as it is listed in the documents), a college, and a library.
Since February, 1943 following the order of People’s Commissariat of mortar arms the factory began producing peacetime products. It was the first in the country men’s wristwatch “Kirovskie”.
In 1965 the Chistopol Watch Factory became the official supplier of watches for the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union.
In 1963 watch 2214 (with calendar) was introduced. First editions of “Vostok Komandirskie” watch were in 1965. The mechanism of this watch unlike the regular 2214 had a device that stopped the balance when the winder was pulled out and has been marked 2234. The watchcase was water resistant, numerals and hands were coated with a luminous compound. At the bottom of the dial there was a clearly visible inscription “Order of the USSR Ministry of Defense.”
That’s exactly when the “Vostok Komandirskie” watch that are known today all around the world was created.
The first “Vostok Komandirskie” did not have a rotating time disk.
Designing of the 24 caliber mechanism that nowadays is in all the “Vostok Komandirskie” was launched in 1966 and the first watch with this mechanism was released in 1971. In 1968 based on the K-22 mechanism watch “Vostok Amphibia” was released. Stronger watchcase, glass, and back panel allowed a dive to a depth of up to 200 meters.
A famous Soviet cosmonaut G.M. Grechko owned the Vostok Amphibia watch and in 1975 they traveled with him in space on Soyuz-17 and the space station Salyut-4. The “Vostok Amphibia” is the first Chistopol model with rotating time disk. Since then it was installed on almost every watch that has been produced by the factory.
The developer of the watch Vostok Amphibia was Michail Novikov. Here is what he told in one of his interviews:
“Seemingly the Vostok Amphibia is not so different from the regular watches. But in fact almost every element in it is exclusive and each of them required a lot of work. The glass: it is almost invisible but it has a special contour. After all the glass is under pressure of 20 kg per cm2 which is a lot. It is several times greater than the pressure of a car tire on the road.
At this level of pressure the glass bends up to 0.5 mm. Bending inwards while also flattening a little it has to additionally seal the watchcase and not touch the second hand. Calculating the curve is difficult even for the flat glass let alone for the glass such as the Amphibians’.
… In the “Amphibia” the screw-in winder and time disk were first introduced.
If pre-dive you set “0” on the disk against the minute hand then later you will be able to determine the time spent underwater by the numbers on the disc. Only in the 90s these same features appeared on the “Komandirskie “. The rear panel was also special – instead of 0.5 mm as the regular watches have it had a thickness of 1 mm.
Even the screw that held the back panel has been strengthened. … After the creation of the “Amphibians” the International Diving Watch Standard has been updated on our suggestion. The paragraph was included according to which if under water you apply pressure perpendicular to the winder or buttons the watch should not let in moisture. Of course the “Amphibia” met this requirement.
… The watch Vostok Amphibia was tested in very hard conditions. The tests took place during fleet military training in the North Sea.
The submarine went to the bottom at the depth of 120-130 meters simulating an accident. There were two rescue ships, a huge floating crane “Karpaty”, diving bells, decompression chambers, and a diving team.
The scheme worked as follows: bell went down from a ship and was installed on a special docking area on the submarine. It was attached to it by pressure. Men came out from the submarine out to the bell and were raised to the decompression chamber.
A group of six sailors took part in this training. Our watches were worn by the divers who were working at a depth. The tests and the training both went well. The watch was tested at extreme depths of more than 100 meters even though in real life they are intended for other purposes.
Deep-divers hold constant radio contact with the ship and besides in their heavy equipment at such depth it is just too inconvenient for divers to look at the watch. But for scuba divers and our combat swimmers the Vostok Amphibia was irreplaceable. “
The success at the field of professional watches manufacturing determined the course of development in the following years –the factory focused on mechanical watches with accurate timekeeping at any temperature, in any medium withstanding high pressure and heavy blows.
For all these years the Chistopol watchmakers did not divert from the classical scheme: all models have a so-called Swiss anchor escapement system, steel anchor wheels and forks, ruby stones support, wind-up clock spring from special precision alloys, and shock resistant balance.
In addition to civil watches the Vostok factory manufactures a lot of different products for the military. This depth gauges, course recorders, various special watch mechanisms. All of these devices had to meet requirements that are much higher than the ones for regular watches.
In 1991, the Vostok factory fulfilled a special order from the Pentagon. It produced 40 thousand watches for participants of “Operation Desert Storm” with appropriate symbolics.