Mechanical Movements of the Cold War:

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Mechanical Movements of the Cold War:

Post by koimaster » July 17th 2019, 9:30am

How the Soviets Revolutionized Wristwatches

Though it’s hard to believe, there once was a time when workers in the Rust Belt were delighted to have their jobs—and themselves—shipped overseas. Shortly after the stock market crash of 1929, the Soviet Union purchased a bankrupt watch manufacturer in Ohio and moved the business halfway across the globe to Moscow, employees and all. The international maneuver wasn’t viewed as a competitive threat to American industry—after all, the company’s products were already outdated and the recently established Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) lacked any prior watchmaking culture. Yet within a couple of decades, the Soviets had transformed this single workshop into one of the world’s top watchmaking centers, second only to the venerable Swiss enterprise.

As precise timekeeping became essential for the success of modernized economies, the Soviet government threw its weight behind watch production, steadily opening new factories and overhauling out-of-date facilities. The country’s efforts were bolstered by the Allied victory in World War II, which allowed them to pilfer surviving equipment from German factories. By the 1950s, Soviet watchmakers were turning out timepieces that were at least as accurate and durable as their Swiss counterparts, yet also more affordable, making them desirable across the Western world, in spite of the Cold War.

But in the 1980s, the Soviet Union’s mechanical-watch production fizzled along with its stagnating economy, which was increasingly weighted toward military spending. In 1991, the USSR broke apart into 15 independent states, and Russia, the dominant member of the Soviet Union, never regained its status as a watchmaking leader. In fact, aside from a few obsessive collectors, the impressive quality of vintage Soviet watches has mostly been forgotten.

A few years ago, amateur horologist Dashiell Oatman-Stanford (who happens to be my brother) unknowingly fell down a rabbit hole into the world of Soviet watches. He has since become part of a small, tight-knit community of Soviet-watch collectors, with more than 1,000 specimens in his personal collection, which ranges from the years preceding the Soviet Union’s founding to the period just after its collapse. Dashiell meticulously restores and researches each of his watches, striving to learn about each product’s unique past and prior owners.

I recently spoke with my brother to discuss the Soviet industry’s prowess and the lasting appeal of vintage mechanical watches.

How the Soviets Revolutionized Wristwatches .pdf ... stwatches/
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