The Russian diver watch is a classic “big watch”, the original measured 78mm including the crown with a height of 15mm and a weight of 280 gms (over half a lb).
The original was the Zlatoust Caliber 191-yC divers watch which came out in the early 1950’s and is still in production at the Zlatoust factory now under the name Agat
These new models however “are not built to the same specifications and quality as the originals. Buyers have commented that the modern cases are plated brass, not stainless steel, and that the new movements are not the same as the originals. Water resistance is also questionable.”*
Some interesting facts about the original Russian Diver :
- Features the unique “canteen crown” which covers and protects the crown from water.
- It used a pocket watch movement, one of the reasons it was such a big watch!
- It was NOT intended to be deep diving watch but rather for depths of about 30 metres.
- It wasn’t a wristwatch produced by a watch company but rather a tool made by a weapons systems clock plant
- Used by the Soviet and East German Navy.
- The original was similar in style and purpose to the original Panerai military divers watches and some people refer to the Zlatoust 191-yC as a “Soviet Panerai”.
- Often described as a “hard hat” diver’s watch.
- The dial and hands are NOT radioactive (a common misconception) on the 60’s and 70’s models (unlike the early 50’s versions which used Radium)
- The heavy weight from their solid stainless steel cases was intended to contribute ballast weight.
- The Zlatoust is sometimes nicknamed ´diversant´ which means saboteur in Russian.
The modern versions typically feature a lot more face and case decoration than the original which was pretty much plain and devoid of any unnecessary embellishments.
Original Zlatoust 191-yC Russian diver watches are fetching upwards of $500 and when looking to buy one there are various things to consider not least the recent brass-cased ‘tourist’ pieces some being sold by unscrupulous sellers.
If someone is selling what they claim to be an original Zlatoust Russian Diver watch , here is something to consider:
What makes an original Zlatoust Russian Diver?
- The screws fixing the dial are (roughly) on 4 and 10 o´clock position.
- No markings on the dial besides numbers and indices
- No decoration on the back, just a serial number
- No metal grill over the crystal
- No seconds hand
- Size should be 78mm in size including the crown.
- Slow beat (listen to the movement)
- All stainless steel case ( no signs of brass at the crown for instance)
- One-piece case without screw-down back
Photo of original Russian Diver watch courtesy of Mark Gordon at USSRTime who has a fantastic Russian watch collection, well worth a visit.
*Source: 25 Apr 2009 by Editor, RussianWatchGuide.com
Video of a typical Russian Diver Watch homage: