The first electronic digital watch seen in the USSR was probably one
of the original Hamilton-Pulsars pre-ordered by Leonid Brezhnev. The
effect of this watch on Soviet development policy relating to quartz
watches can only be speculated upon, but it is clear that in the
early digital era the Soviets were keen to stay as close to the
technological bleeding-edge as was possible.
There is a popular and enduring internet myth that an early Soviet
attempt at a LED watch was so unsuccessful that it was quickly taken
off the market and replaced by a mechanical jump-hour with red
back-light to simulate a LED. In fact the only Soviet-made jump-hour
was the Zarja 2006, produced around the late ‘60s or early ‘70s; but
it is unlikely to have been converted in such a fashion. The
‘Tegrov’ pseudo-LED jump-hour referred to in some sources was a
Swiss watch with no relevance to Soviet developments.
Possibly as early as 1974, ZIM in Kuybyshev was producing LCD
digital watches (model B6-02). Russian sources confirm that this was
the first Soviet digital watch. This bulky, primitive watch had 4
digits displaying hours and minutes only. Strangely there was 3
setting buttons. The third one was to zero the seconds, even though
they weren’t displayable! This watch was produced in several case
styles, and was even exported. The only other offering from ZIM was
in the 1980s; a very basic 4-digit LCD (calibre 30351) in what
looked like the modified case of a mechanical Pobeda watch. ZIM
digitals were sold with the following brand names: ZIM,
Elektronika, Pobeda and Sekonda.
The Buletronic watch
below is from the first russian patent for LED-Watches and was
produced in a bulgarian factory. The watch has time, seconds and a
day & date dunction. The back cover is marked: BULETRONIC with
a serial number.
Around the same time as the B6.02 or shortly after, NII-Zavod Pulsar
in Moscow started production of their LED display Elektronika-1
(model B6.03) which remained in production into the mid 1990s! The
4-digit LED shows hours and minutes with a short push of the button,
and seconds with a long push, with day and date available at the
push of another button. It was made in several different case styles
however the module is the same in all cases. The Elektronika-1 is
currently the most collectable of Soviet digitals, possibly due to
the common misunderstanding (due no doubt to it having LED display)
that it was the first Soviet digital, or possibly just because LED
is more distinctly ‘retro’. This watch was sold as Elektronika
and Elektronika-1, and
never has been exported.
Also included in this first wave of digital enthusiasm was Integral
Elektronika Factory in Minsk. Their brand name was Elektronika-5
and their first model, 5.202 (module calibre 30350) was a 6-digit
LCD with day and date (correcting for short and long months). It
remained in production for many years alongside more modern models,
including the multi-function 5.207. In the post Soviet era, Integral
continued production of the 2nd generation Elektronika-5 models then
current, but with new names (e.g. 55B). These are the basis for the
current Elektronika and Kamerton ranges. Soviet Integral digitals
were sold with the following brand names: Elektronika-5,
Elektronika and Sekonda.
In the mid 1980s 1st Moscow Watch Factory Poljot produced a
multifunction analogue-digital (calibre 2968). Its rarety indicates
that it only saw limited production (or perhaps that production was
primarily for the sale of movements to foreign brands). The watch
was sold as Poljot and possibly Sekonda. In the
1990s a similar watch was made by Minsk Watch Factory (calibre 2964)
under the brand name Luch.
In 1977 there was a LCD digital sold under the Sekonda label
featuring a world-time function that looked virtually identical to a
Seiko produced within the previous year. Was it pirated or a
licensed product? Who knows; both possibilities seem equally
Sekonda was a brand created in 1966 for marketing all Soviet
watches internationally. From the mid-1980s they increasingly
supplemented their digital range with non-Soviet products.
Post-Soviet Sekonda (now Sekonda UK) ceased buying from Russian or
Belorussian producers in 1993.
There are no Russian watch companies currently making quartz watch
movements. No quartz means no digital either. However Chasprom (
lists two Belorussian digital watch brands on their catalogue,
Elektronika and Kamerton.
Elektronika is based in Minsk and Kamerton in Pinsk. Both are part
of the electronics combine Integral. Their watch ranges are almost
identical and consists principally of slightly retro-looking 4-digit
women’s LCD watches, and 6-digit and 2-line men’s multifunction
watches. The ChN-05 analogue-digital watch uses a small Miyota
quartz movement embedded in a multifunction electronic module with
dual LCD. Also produced are Nintendo Game&Watch clones, including
some original locally designed games. Bizarrely, Kamerton also has a
Pobeda-type mechanical watch on their product-list!
Kamerton and Elektronika are not currently marketed outside
Sergei Frolov reports that the number after the name ‘Elektronika’
on a watch or other electronic item indicates the factory of origin.
1 = Pulsar, Moscow
2 = Angstrem, Zelenograd, Moscow region
5 = Integral, Minsk, Belarus
8 = Soyuz, Novosibirsk
Digital watches were categorized as electronic appliances rather
than watches per se. This was reflected in the product code,
e.g. B3 = calculator
B = domestic electronic appliance
6 = type of product; probably watch.
02 = second model
There is no known reference to a B6-01. Perhaps it was a prototype?
For more pictures and
Sergei Frolov’s Soviet calculator site
more Elektronika-1 pictures
Guy Ball’s LED watches site
Chascomm for all the
writing and the