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I’LL never forget when I first saw the Invicta “Russian” Diver presented on ShopNBC some time in the mid Oughts. I was pretty stunned that Invicta would do an homage piece to the Zlatoust Soviet era dive watches that had been cropping up on eBay since the late 90’s. Most of those auctions originated from the Ukraine. They went for anywhere between $99 USD and $299 USD at that time. I always wanted one but I don’t buy from Eastern European sellers – too shady.
These were typically matched with a strap that looked like it was made from vulcanized rubber and a certificate would be included detailing the date of manufacture. They usually included a grill guard similar to the ‘trench’ style guards on World War I watches. These things seemed unwearable in an era where the standard Mens size was anywhere from 38 to 40mm. It looked like something that Flavor Flav would have worn around his neck ten years earlier.
AHH, ten years earlier. “1989 a number, another summer” and the Pop Swatch had recently been released and was crazy big at 39 mm when the average mens size was around 36 mm.
I’ll always remember in the fall of that year when Joe showed up at my house to show off his new Soviet wristwatch. This particularly burned my ass for two reasons. The first was that these things were impossible to find yet somehow, he managed to get his hands on one. The second was that Joe was the type of cat who could give two shits about something like a wristwatch. This would undoubtedly be lost or broken within 6 months. It’s fate to end up on the wrist of the boyfriend of a chick that he would hook up with a few times; forgetting it in her car. He would have some rationale for lossing possesion. Maybe it would end up smashed in a fit of rage.
I had to have it after seeing it in person. The band was thick leather and the design was overall utilitarian and slightly industrial. It was huge like a Pop Swatch, but way cooler to a young mind that romanticized the socialist picture idealized in Billy Bragg songs. I tried buying it; even I including other watches in the deal. He’d just grin and refuse precisely because I wanted it so badly. He could finally “get me” for all of the times I busted his balls, laughed at his self-caused misfortune and made him feel dumb. It came with a lapel pin of a crossed American and USSR flag that he said, “You can have this pin for free if you want it…” Cock.
It came to pass that he “loaned” it to a girl a few months later and never saw it again.
It wouldn’t be until the late 90’s and the establishment of eBay that I would search for the Gruen Soviet watch. I finally managed to add it to my collection in the winter of 2003. At 40mm in diameter and about 45mm when one included the screw down crown cap, it was no longer large; it was average. When the battery required changing, I opened it up to find a Poljot Quartz movement making another first in my collection: the bit of research that I had done lead me to conclude that even with a undobtbly Hong Kong case and final assembly, this thing was actually a Soviet product based on the rules of the day. Maybe that’s why I wanted one of the Zlatoust divers. Because it was clear that the Gruen Soviet that I was smitten with in 1989 was itself an homage to a design that I hadn’t any knowledge of.
INVICTA’S homage some half a century later was more of a replica, from the dive helmet logo to the “C.C.C.P.” in a sans serf font. As more variations of the so-called “Russian Diver” came into being, the ‘history’ started to get mentioned in sales presentations. Initially I don’t recall any Soviet connection. I do remember quite a few messageboards discussions on Watchuseek and pmwf discussing the strange resemblance between the Invicta Russian Diver and the real Zlatoust Divers. Maybe it was because of that noise that Lalo started to elude that Invicta had designed the original Russian diver; a claim that immediately was questioned on the boards. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Then the story changed – what Laylo meant was that Invicta was contacted in 1959 by the Soviet Navy to create a limited edition of 100 pieces for officers yet at the same time the Invicta webpage was pushing the story that Invicta had designed the Russian diver.
But to the limited edition story that Invicta seems to be pushing yet again; why would an officer wear a nearly 60mm timepiece in an era when 35mm was large? Not to mention none of these 100 pieces has ever surfaced on the market and Laylo has only shown a single example of the supposed 1959 piece on TV once. A piece that, to my knowledge, has never been examined or authenticated by any independent sources. Wouldn’t a detailed article on this one piece be worthy of inclusion in WatchTime?
Furthermore, wouldn’t you expect some record; some log to exist detailing the transaction?
I’m not buying it. I refuse to believe much from Invicta. Just today Michael Davis said that the Invicta Men’s Pro Diver Swiss Quartz GMT Black Bezel Mesh Bracelet Watch is Swiss Made, yet if you follow the link and zoom in on the watch face, you can clearly see the absence of the “Swiss Made” mark. He also stated that the mesh bracelet was manufactured by an Italian company which would violate the conditions for a Swiss Made designation.
It’s easy enough to connect the dots here, but I guess if you equate collecting with tv viewing, then you wouldn’t know any better.
My own comment on this is to Invicta "Where is the Beef?" The claim by Invicta and the so called "100" is something that has never been examined in detail. Many claims have been made and there was even a show watch shown on TV but no close ups, nada. My personal viewpoint is the claims are false. Prove me wrong. Give one of these watches to the people at WUS for review. Show us the paperwork on the watch production.
“Your heart was warm and happy
With the lilt of Irish laughter
Every day and in every way
Now forever and ever after."