Soviet “KGB” Watches [3/98]

Archives September 24, 2002 admin

Review of Soviet KGB Watch

Posted by STeve D. on March 03, 1998 at 10:14:59:

Hello Comrades!

Well, today I got a KGB watch from the Sovietski Collection. I had thought the order I had placed online was dead. When I didn’t get an email confirmation (most companies seem to do this) I called the company last week. They had no record of my order. It arrived today. I guess it’s a good thing that I was still interested. I know, this is probably isn’t the kind of watch that is usually discussed here, but I thought it might be fun to review a watch that costs less than the sales tax on some watches. And besides, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever looked at those oh-so-cheap Russian watches with curiosity. I finally broke down when I thought of wearing my new (well, ordered, anyway) Fortis Pilot’s Automatic while rock climbing, and figured for less than $70 (including shipping) the KGB watch would be worth a try.

The KGB model is a pretty basic watch. The 23 jewel (from the ad copy) automatic movement is housed in a shiny stainless steel case (40mm dial, 12mm thk), with some sort of screw back. It has a diver’s style rotating bezel – no ratchet or detent, just enough friction to keep it from turning on its own. There aren’t any numbers, just dots every 5 minutes, with the last 20 minutes of dots being red vs. black. The screw-down crown (the watch is rated for 200m WR) is large. It has the date at 3 o’clock, and silver-colored markers at each hour, with printed minute-ticks in between. The dial is sort of a metallic green, with the KGB logo in the background. The hour and minute hands are silver colored, with a luminous stripe, and there is a luminous dot at each hour except 3 o’clock. The second hand is red, and non luminous. In the lower half of the dial there are the letters KGB in red Cyrillic. Visually, one of the ugliest, most thief-resistant watches I’ve ever seen. The scary part is that now that it’s on my wrist I’m starting to like it ;^).

The band is black leather, quite thick, and sized rather long – I had to use the smallest hole and if it stretches I will have to make another one. It is also very stiff and tough feeling. I like this, as the tougher a leather item feels in the beginning, the longer it lasts (in my experience). The buckle looks like nickel plated steel. Quality. Well, for $70 you don’t expect a lot, and this watch was no real surprise. The crown has a very flexible, wobbly mounting to the stem. When you pull the crown out to set the time, and then push it back in, it doesn’t always move to the inner position. This means that the watch might stop when you screw in the crown, which had me ready to box the watch back up until I figured it out. The ‘manual’ (a Xeroxed sheet of paper) states emphatically that you must screw in the crown for the watch to be waterproof. Surprisingly, the watch is quiet. My Hamilton khaki is loud enough to hear at arm’s length if I hold it right – not this watch.

The watch has sort of a hack feature in that when you turn the hands backwards the second hand flips back a few seconds and stops. Let go, and it pops ahead those same few seconds and keeps going. Strange. I don’t know if this a feature, or just a ‘nonconformance’ of manufacturing 8-).

There is a quick set date feature: when you’ve turned the hands past midnight, and the date changes, if you turn them BACKWARD (this is in the manual) back past 9 o’clock, and then forward the date will change again at midnight. Not the best, but better than running through whole days when the watch arrives set to the 5th, on the 2nd!

I can’t say much about the accuracy, other than in the 5 hours I’ve worn it it hasn’t lost or gained any obvious amount. I don’t know what to expect, but I don’t intend to wear the watch in situations where it would make a difference. If it really dies, it will become my introduction to watch repair.

All in all I think it will be a nice conversation-starting beater-watch that I can wear without worry.