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As we mentioned a few days ago in our introductory piece on Russian watches, one of the strongest selling points of these post-Soviet timetellers is that they give you the chance to own a real mechanical watch for a reasonable price.
This is a quandary we are regularly presented with when speaking to people looking for advice on their next watch purchase, it is something we were asked well over 100 times from people using our Watch Finder service. People want a mechanical movement, one that's not from Japan or China, and they want it to be affordable.
Not the easiest thing in the world to find, but if you look to the Russians, you'll be surprised by what you see. For the two weeks, we have been testing the watch you see to the right. It is a Sturmanskie Gagarin chronograph. As we mentioned in our first post, the Sturmanskie brand is one of the oldest in Russia, but it has been revived by the Volmax company.
It was actually a Sturmanskie that was the very first watch worn in space by Yuri Gagarin, and it is a Sturmanskie that holds the record for the longest time spent in a zero gravity environment. So, one could say this Sturmanskie has just as much right to be called a space watch as the Omega Speedmaster or Breitling Cosmonaute.
We have been wearing this Gagarin Sturmanskie for about 2 weeks now, and we really like it. It is certainly an aviator's watch but it is not clunky. It features a storied Russian mechanical movement, the 3133, what many people call the Russian Valjoux 7750. This movement has been around for decades and it has been used in hundreds of models, so you are getting a movement that will last. This watch features a great exhibition back where you can see the decorated movement working away.
Another feature that we really like about the Gagarin is the inner-rotating bezel. It is is adjustable by turning the crown at 10 O'clock. A bezel like this is something we wish we saw more of, as it is a simple way to allow the tracking of a second time-zone. This chronograph is very accurate, and features a date aperture, a small but important detail. The only thing to consider though is that this watch is a pure mechanical watch, not an automatic. That means it requires a good winding every few days, and the date is not a quick-set. Some people like the old school charm of the mechanical movement, others do not, but as of right now, there is now such thing as a Russian-bred automatic chronograph.
This watch is very good looking, and we received a number of comments on over the course of our test period, actually many more than we thought we would. It was mistaken for a Breitling once, which we never would've expected but in hindsight it makes sense. It is sized at a more than appropriate 42mm, features sapphire crystal, and a 42 hour power reserve.
The best part about this Sturmanskie Gagarin is the price. You are getting a fully mechanical chronograph (not from Asia) that allows you to track two timezones for a list price of only $700. Through our friends at Russia2all, you can get it for $539. And because you are a Hodinkee reader, you get an additional 15% off of that (see here for details). You really can't ask for a better deal than that, and we think this watch and its comrades are the answer to many of your requests.
Did we mention this is a limited edition watch of only 999 pieces? And they they make an even more limited edition version in black and red?
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