Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A watch hero


On June 22 1941 Nazi Germany attacked Soviet Russia. The operation known as "Barbarossa" was the biggest single land operation in the history of wars. The surprise was complete: in just a few months Leningrad was under siege, Crimea was conquered and the Germans were on Moscow's doorstep. Five million Russian soldiers and civilians were killed in five months.

There was no time to be wasted: the First Moscow watch factory had to be evacuated. A convoy of 170 trucks loaded with watchmaking machinery and 488 machinists and technicians were en route to Chistopol, a small town located on the Kama river in Tatarstan, 1000 kilometres east of Moscow.
Severe winter weather caused delays, but by the spring of 1942 the newly-established Chistopol Watch Factory (Чистопольский часовой завод ЧЧЗ) was fully operational, manufacturing both pocket and wristwatches. Like all military facilities, Chistopol was designated a number: Factory 835. While its main activity was the production watches, CWF also produced magnetic fuses and various other military devices. However, the 488 evacuated watchmakers were not enough to meet war production demand  and the factory employed and trained local boys and girls as young as 14 and 15 years of age.
​World War II ended in 1945. The Soviets defeated the Germans - at enormous cost: over 26 million Russian soldiers and civilians lost their lives.   But Muscovite watchmakers didn't return home: they stayed in Tatarstan, continuing to make civilian wrist watches, and the Chistopol Watch Factory was renamed simply to Vostok - East.
A war era Chistopol pocket watch definitely deserves a spot in your pocket watch collection.  My plan here is simple: to encourage you to look for one, while providing some basic 'how to decipher' details.

How do you identify a Chistopol pocket watch?

      1. Dial, signed: Чистопольский часовой завод (Chistopolsky Watch Institute).

2.  The movement is stamped "ЧЧЗ".  Note:  this is not number 443.

3.  "15 камнeи" = 15 jewels.
"2-48" is manufacturing date: this particular watch was made in the second quarter of 1948.

4. "ЧK-6" is the movement calibre. 
"373764" is the individual serial number.

5.  The case back is stamped "ГОСТ 918-41".  This could be confusing to novice collectors.  "ГОСТ" is a Russian Technical Standard.  "918" is the Standard number and "41" is 1941, the year when the Standard was issued.

In other words, this is to certify that the pocket watch was made according to official Russian Standard, and this number on the case back is the stamp for all watches, regardless of the year of production.

Which one to collect?

Clearly Чистопольский pocket watches manufactured between 1942 and 1945, as well as pieces produced 1945-1949.  The 1950's and later models would have less collectable value. The Holy Grail: 2-42!

Happy collecting.

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