Zlatoust Watch Factory

About us

History
History

In the late 19th century, the famous Brockhaus and Efron encyclopedic dictionary informed its curious readers: «Watchmaking is underdeveloped in Russia; most of such facilities are of joined workshops nature, and certain watch parts are sent from Switzerland, Germany or the USA».

The Russian watch industry of that time was indeed limited to several small operations which were owned by famous manufacturers, such as Bure and Moser, and only assembled watches using foreign parts.

After the Revolution of 1917, the Russian watch industry was nationalized – all operations related to watchmaking were included into the Trust of Precision Mechanics (TOCHMEKH) and worked using the parts from the old supplies. But they were running out of those parts quickly, the demand for watches was rising fast and foreign supplies were very expensive.

Soviet Russia faced the pressing issue of establishing its own watch factory. Thus, on 20 December, 1927, a resolution «On watchmaking establishment in the USSR» was adopted and marked the beginning of the Soviet watch industry.

At that time, major watchmaking centers were in Europe where the mass production of relatively inexpensive watches had already been organized. However, the negotiations with European companies about the purchase of necessary equipment did not end well – they either refused to hold talks with the Soviet states or inflated their prices. In fact, it was a boycott.

At that point two bankrupt American watch factories offered to sell their mothballed production facilities along with equipment and materials to the USSR. Duber Hampton Factory was chosen out of the two, and the deal went through in April, 1929.

American equipment was only being prepared to be shipped when in Moscow, in Vorontsov Street, the main building of the future factory was already being constructed. On 1 October, 1930, it became operational, having received the eloquent and proud name of the First State Watch Factory (1SWF). Only two years later, the new factory grew so strong that it started to export its products and entered a global market.

Almost immediately after the start of the Great Patriotic War, in the autumn of 1940, 1SWF was evacuated to the deep rear – the Ural town of Zlatoust. 126 engineers and 170 craftsmen that came together with the equipment started a new and remarkable chapter in the watch history of the USSR – on 25th December, 1941 (the date when the first batch was produced at the new place), Zlatoust Watch Factory (ZWF) came into service, and 1SWF is righty considered to be its procreator.

During the war the ZWF worked to meet the needs of the front, producing marine and aerochronometers, watches for the Red Army commanders. Almost all military hardware was equipped with Zlatoust clocks.

The Zlatoust Watch Factory still preserves the traditions of unique manual, high-precision

operations, having managed to retain them throughout the time. Today the ZWF has resumed the production of its famous war and postwar watches, retro watches, collectable and masculine timepieces which are still highly valued by specialists and, being a symbol of masculinity, look great on men’s wrists and deserve to be a highlight of any collection.

Pobeda (Victory) Watch
Pobeda (Victory) Watch

As strange as it may sound, the very first men’s wrist watches were pocket ones: lugs were welded on to the watch case and straps were pulled through them so that the watch could be worn on the wrist.

During World War II the Red Army soldiers and officers were awarded with name engraved watches made by the Zlatoust Watch Factory for special services in the battlefield. Originally, the watches came in a traditional pocket version.

However, those traditional pocket watches proved inconvenient in the battlefield and were first upgraded by their owners, who welded lugs on to dials which enabled them to wear watches on the wrists, and then the ZWF itself started manufacturing wrist watches, which were more convenient to use in the field.

Years later, in order to commemorate another anniversary of the Great Victory, the Zlatoust Watch Factory resumed the production of collectible wrist watches styled and designed after those of war years. They are an absolute copy of those famous wartime watches that adorned the wrists of Soviet soldiers-liberators and together with their owners headed towards the Victory.

The watches have chrome plated brass cases and are hand-assembled, every part, including the smallest screw, is made in Russia. They rightly received the proud name of Pobeda (Victory) watches and will become respectable companions for those who remember and honour history.

Dive Watch
Dive Watch

For centuries (since the late 17th century), people had been trying to protect timepieces from moisture penetration that is damaging to them. The most inquisitive minds tried to understand how to keep the movement safe from water, how to seal the smallest gaps between the bezel and the case, how to make the crown shaft completely impermeable. Finally, craftsmen of the 20th century managed to find the answers to these questions and develop timepieces capable of withstanding salt water and submersion. They were used by swimmers, divers and for equipping water vessels.

One type of water resistant timepieces particularly stood out from all the variety of different models and brands – dive watches that were produced at the Zlatoust Watch Factory by the order of the Soviet Navy. In the 1950-60s, these legendary watches were constant companions of almost every Soviet Navy diver.

Being water- and shock-proof (their stainless steel cases stood the most severe tests and over 100-meter submersion) and having luminous dials, these watches were unique. They are now still among the biggest watches in the world, having the diameter of 60 mm (not including a crown and lugs).

In the early 1970s, the production of dive watches was discontinued, but their ever-lasting popularity gave the Zlatoust legend the second chance – the dive watch production has been resumed. They can now be purchased again, and they are as reliable, precise and water-proof as before. Even the luminous dial is reproduced. However, it is now made with luminophor – a completely safe material – instead of a radioactive one used in the past.