Moscow Watch Factory)
Watch industry in the Czar Russia
consisted just of several small workshops and enterprises. They usually
assembled watches using watch parts made abroad. After the 1917
Bolshevik revolution, the entire watch industry became a part of the
“Trust of Precision Mechanics”. These were mainly production facilities,
work shops, and warehouses of watch parts and half-finished products
which belonged to famous manufacturers such as P. Bure, G. Mozer, Reinin,
Dmitriev, and others before the revolution.
The Formative Years
By 1926, the supply of watches and
watch parts had run out, but the demand for watches by the army, the
navy, the railways and ordinary people was on the increase. To meet the
demand, the USSR started to buy watches and watch parts from abroad
paying in gold. To further correct the shortage of watches, on December
20th 1927 the Soviet government made a decision to establish and develop
a watch industry. On December 21st, the Council of Labor and Defense
passed a resolution “About How to Organize Watch Production in the USSR.”
At the same time an offer to buy an ailing Duber Hempton watch factories
was received from the United States. On April 26th 1929 two purchase
contracts were signed. The first one was for the $325,000 purchase of
the watch factory with an output of 200 to 250 thousand watches per year.
The second, $135,000 contract was for the purchase of spare parts and
the half-finished products. After the deal was sealed, a steamboat with
American equipment left for Russia in April 1930. Simultaneously,
construction of the factory’s main block was already in progress on the
previous location of the Krasnaja Zvevda (Red Star) Tobacco Factory on
the Voronczovskaja street in Moscow. The factory’s main block was
finished within a dramatically short period of time. The work started in
February 1930 from digging a foundation pit and finished in June 1930
with the main block construction completed. Installation of main
equipment was finished by September 15th of the same year. The factory
was named the First State Watch Factory or the 1st SWF (1ый ГЧЗ). Later
it was called the First Moscow Watch Factory or the 1st MWF (1ый МЧЗ).
Thus, even some of the Poljot watches produced today are sold under the
1st MWF mark.
To start production, four types of watches were chosen: a man’s pocket
watch with 15 jewels for the enterprises of the Narkomat (Ministry) of
Means of Communications, a man’s wristwatch with 7 jewels for the Red
Army; a man’s pocket watch with 7 jewels and a ladies wristwatch with 15
jewels to be sold in the market. The first creation of this new factory
were pocket watches called “the 1st type” or K43 with a side seconds
Although at the start, the factory needed some technical help from the
American and the German specialists, after two years, it was able to
resolve most of the technical issues and continued to develop
independently. Almost from the beginning the 1st SWF exported its
watches and soon after launch, new production development was started.
According to the order of the Chief Military Aviation Administration,
airplane board clocks were produced, and in June 1932 a decision to
organize stopwatches production was made.
In the same year technical renovation and production line upgrades were
started. In 1935 – 36 the factory received over 120 new machining tools
from several world’s leading companies and some equipment was made by
the factory itself. By 1936 the number of machining tools had increased
by 1.5 times. On December 16th 1935, Mr. M. Kalinin signed a resolution
to award the name of Sergey Mironovich Kirov to the 1st SWF. From 1935
until 1941, the 1st SWF Kirova produced about 2.7 million of the “1st
type” pocket and wristwatches. Today, a line of Aviator and Buran
watches is sold under the “1st MWF Kirova” trademark.
Aviation and WWII
The history of the First Moscow Watch
Factory is indissolubly connected with the history of Russian and Soviet
aviation. All Soviet battle airplanes of that period were equipped with
the airborne clocks made by the 1st MWF Kirova. The Red Air Force pilots
and navigators flew with watches on their wrists with the “The 1st MWF
Kirova” and later the “Poljot” trademarks. Before WWII aviation clocks,
stopwatches, navigator wristwatches, automobile mechanical and electric
charging watches, navy chronometers, ship deck watches and other watch
movements were put into production for the benefit of the national
During the Second World War production defense such as ammunition,
aviation glass, aviation clocks, navy and aviation chronometers and some
parts for the first Katyusha (lorry-mounted multiple rocket launcher)
was organized in the factory.
The War had not yet ended when the factory started peaceful production:
in 1943 it started to make machining tools for the watch industry again,
and in 1944 – fire-place, table and automobile clocks were produced. In
April 1945 the factory stopped ammunition production and started
preparation for a new K26 Pobeda (Victory) watch model. Production of
the Pobeda with a side seconds hand started in 1946. Josef Stalin
approved the name, design and specifications of this watch personally.
The watch became very popular, as the 1st MWF was making the K26 model
until 1953; and today, it is still in production in other factories
around the country.
Gagarin and Space
In 1949, the Shturmanskie (Navigator’s) watches
were put into production. They were specially designed for the military
aviation and were not available in the general market. The Shturmanskie
watch made history on April 12 1961 when the Soviet Union launched the
first successful manned space flight. Yury Gagarin, the first man in
space, wore Shturmanskie watch on his wrist during that celebrated
flight. The watch operated without any problems in weightlessness and
became the first watch ever to go into cosmos. Later, this legendary
watch was given to the factory museum.
Poljot watches were taken to space flights by astronauts from France,
Russia, Germany, and the Ukraine. The 3133 chronograph set a record in
longest duration of a space flight by cosmonaut V.V. Poljakov.
The 50s and 60s
By 1955, 1.1 million mechanical
wristwatches were made by the 1st MWF. In 1956 production of the first
automatic movement watches under the Rodina (Fatherland) brand started.
The Rodina watch opened a new line of watch movements with the 24 mm
caliber. They have a central second hand. The height of the movement was
6.3 mm, with 22 jewels.
In 1957, according to a special government order, an elite Antarktida (Antarctic)
watch for the participants of the first Soviet expedition to the South
Pole was developed. These watches were magnet proof, with a 24-hour dial
and the watch movement was based on the Pobeda (Victory) watch movement.
A special shield protected it against strong magnetic fields.
In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial
satellite into space. The whole world peered to a slightly flashing
small star in the night sky. To mark this event, the Sputnik (Satellite)
watch, based on a Pobeda model was produced. Watches were made in two
variations: with a central second hand and with a transparent dial,
which had a satellite mark instead of a second hand. At the moment, the
Antarktida and the Sputnik watches are a collection rarity, because they
were in production just for one year.
On October 2nd 1959, the government of the USSR designed the 1st MWF as
a leading enterprise in watch exports. Export production share increased
from 42% in 1959 to 80% in the 90s. Watches were exported to 70
different countries, including USA, England, Belgian, Italy, West
Germany, Hong Kong, Greece, and many others.
In 1959 the first Soviet Signal 2612 alarm wristwatch was developed. In
the same year, the Strela (Arrow) 3017 watch was put into production.
The Strela was a wrist chronograph with a stopwatch function and a
45-minute counter of minutes. The dial had additional telemetric and
tachometer scales. The watch was exclusively designed for the officers
of the Air Force and was produced according to strict military
specifications. Cosmonauts Pavel Beliaev and Aleksej Leonov also used
these watches when they became the first in the world to enter into the
open space. During the next 20 years 100,000 of the 3017 watches were
In 1960, the first Poljot (Flight) brand watch with 2414 caliber
appeared. On April 12th 1961, Yuri Gagarin’s flight opened the era of
space travel in the human history. The first cosmonaut took
Shturmanskije watch made in 1st MWF into space. Later, production of
several models with space names celebrated this flight: Orbita (Orbit)
2415 – in 1962, Kosmos (Space) 2416 – in 1963. In 1961, the factory as
first in the country started production of particularly slim Vympel (Pennon)
watches with a second hand, caliber 2209 with 2.9 mm height of the
movement, 23 jewels, and the 1st accuracy class. The total height of the
watchcase was only 5 mm. In 1963, during an international Fair in
Leipzig, the Vympel watch was awarded a Diploma and a Gold medal. These
watches were in production until 1975, later the technology was passed
to the Minsk Watch Factory.
Since 1964, Полёт or POLJOT trademarks have marked the watches made in
the 1st MWF. The factory trademarks are registered in 30 different
countries and are famous around the World.
In 1965, production of a super slim Poljot 2200 watch with 1.85 mm
movement height started. This product confirmed the highest level of
skills of the factory’s designers and technologists once again. The
height of the watch-case depending on its variation was from 3.5 mm to
In 1966, the factory started production of a new basic movement model, a
26 series caliber with anti-shock capability, screw-less balance wheel
and flat spiral, and different accessories. New movements were
distinguished by small height and long run time.
The 70s and 80s
In 1971, the factory produced 2.5
million wristwatches, and 1.6 million were exported to 63 different
countries. In 1972, the factory increased production of wrist mechanical
watches up to 2.7 million. Since up to 70% of the production was sold on
the export market, the factory decided to design and to put into
production a number of new watch movements which could satisfy the
requirements of exacting foreign customers and would be useable for
automatic technological processes. As a result, in 1972 new designs of
watches with the 26 series caliber movement were developed and had a
distinct mark of a letter “H”: 2609H, 2614H, 2616H, etc. The factory’s
designers, technologists and stylists paid particular attention to its
reliability, technological aspects and reparability.
In 1976, the factory started production of new
wristwatches with a stopwatch function: chronograph model number 3133.
For this development, the factory staff was awarded with a State Bonus
Reward. At the beginning, watches were intended for the Navy officers
and were produced under the Okean (Ocean) brand name. Later, the factory
started to make modifications intended for the Air Force, with a
Shturmanskie brand name (model 31659, a watch with a second hand
arrester and pointer of time zones) and another Shturmanskie watch with
a pointer of time zones (model 3133). The production of these watches
was limited and subjected to strict military inspections. Only nine
years later, in 1983, watches with a 3133 movement were made available
to the public.
At the end of the 70-ies and the beginning of the 80-ies, the factory
put into production the quartz 30 series calibers watches, and later -
24 and 16 calibers. The quartz movements were mainly exported to
Southeast Asian countries: Hong Kong and Singapore. In some years,
export achieved up to 3 – 4 million pieces per year.
During the 70 year history, the First
Watch Factory kept leading position in the area of man’s wrist
mechanical watch production. Today the 1st Moscow Watch Factory also
remains the first. Extensive experience, strong design capabilities,
enormous technological potential, and spirit of innovation helped the
factory to survive during a difficult periods and allow it to face the
future with confidence. Today “Poljot” is a leader among the producers
of high-class man’s wrist watches, a producer of unique movements, such
as the chronographic movement 3133, the alarm movement “Signal” 2612,
and the factory’s pride a 6MX marine chronometer. Furthermore,
mechanical chronographs and “Signal” analogues today are in production
only in several factories in Switzerland.
The high level of technological development, design and the high quality
of “Poljot” production are also confirmed by the fact that the
administration of the President of Russia has chosen a “Poljot” 3133
watch as an official government award “From President of Russia”.
late 1990s quartz movement
production ceases, export of basic ebauches ceases, company
refocusses on niche-markets
2000-2003 Several new movements with complications introduced,
including 31679 chrono with moonphase
2002 ex-Poljot employees form Volmax
2003 Renamed '1st Moscow Watch Factory', Poljot brand limited to
2003 begin production of export brands Shturmanskie, Buran and
Aviator for Volmax