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The Molnija line of vintage Russian pocket watches

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A high quality mechanical movement

The USSR produced the Молния (Molnija) pocket watch movements in watch factories outside of Moscow and in the Ural town of Chelyabinsk. Production stared end of 1947 and the last movements were made in 2007.

The movement is based on a design from the Swiss movement manufacturer Cortébert. Cortébert produced high end movements that were e.g used by Rolex in the 1940's. The Molnija movement which was based on the Cortébert design had 15 jewels and was known as "ЧК-6" (ChK-6). This movement design was further improved by the Russians in 1964 and became then the 18 jewel movement known as 3602. The 3602 is a much better time keeper than ChK-6 but the ChK-6 has a nicer finish pattern known as Geneva stripes. External appearance was not a priority for the Russian watch makers since they operated in a regulated communist market with no competition. The focus was on the simplification of the production process and the functional improvement of the watch movement when they upgraded the Molnija movement design to 3602.

Here is a comparison of a Rolex movement from the 1940's, a swiss Cortébert movement, the first generation Molnija movement (ChK-6) and the Molnija 3602 movement:
rolex movement cortebert movement Molnija ChK-6 movement Molnija 3602 movement

The communist market does not know the concept of competition. It is similar to monopolies and self regulated organizations in the west. They could set their own rules and they documented that the watches would run with an accuracy of -15 to +40 seconds a day. This rather wide range allowed all watches to pass easily. The actual mechanical movement was however designed for much better results and it is therefore possible to tune and adjust the watches to run with much higher accuracy.

Be gentile to vintage pocket watches

Vintage pocket watches have no shock protection. The pivots (balance staffs) and jewel bearings that support a watch balance wheel are fragile in comparison to the mass they must support. Modern watches have therefore shock absorbers (often just a plastic frame) around the movement and a shock protection system to reduce the chances of damage to the balance staffs under the impact of mechanical shock. Vintage pocket watches do not have such a system. This does not only apply to Russian watches but all vintage pocket watches including well known American watches such as Hamilton and Waltham. A pocket watch is pretty well protected when carried inside a pocket but one must be very careful to not drop the watch when taking it out of the pocket.

It is therefore recommended to tie a pocket watch to your vest or to a belt loop on your pants to prevent the watch from hitting the ground if it should accidentally slip out of your hands while taking it out of your pocket.

Small chains have traditionally been used for this but a metallic chain rubs on the watch while it is in your pocket. It produces scratches on the crystal and damages the finishing of the case. A short and thin shoe lace makes actually a pretty good "watch chain" and does not scratch.
a string as watch chain
We provide one with every watch but you can email us if you prefer and chain and we will included a pocket watch chain instead.

Molnija pocket watch cases

The cases of the Russian Molnija line of watches are typically made of one of the two materials: Chrome cases stay nice and shiny for a long time but if the chrome plating is damaged for some reason then bare brass is exposed and there is no easy way to fix such a case other than possibly re-plating it completely. Silveroid also known as Melchior, Maillechort, Argentan, new Silver or German Silver is an alloy made of Copper, Zink and Nickel. It looks exactly like Silver when polished. Real Silver does however tarnish with a brown tone and Silveroid becomes gray as it tarnishes. The advantage of a solid Silveroid case, as opposed to e.g a silver filled (=silver plated) case or chrome plated case is that one can indefinitely polish it and bring it back to its original Silver look. Any plated case would wear through after a few years.

Watch accuracy

You can not compare vintage mechanical watches to quartz watches. A quartz oscillator does not have a dependency on the physical position of the watch. Mechanical watches have various measures to reduce the impact of gravity on the movement in different positions but ultimately there is still a small positional dependency. There is as well some dependency on the power of the main spring. A fully wound watch runs slightly faster then one with almost no energy left in the main spring. Again there are measures in a mechanical watch to reduce this effect but it does not fully compensate it.

One way to further reduce those effects on the timing of a watch is to makes those effects periodic. That is: keep the watch at night more in a horizontal position and in vertical position while you have them in your pants during the day. Wind the watch every morning around the same hour to ensure that the main spring has maximum power for the day ahead. Because there is a daily routine it is possible to factor this into the timing and this is exactly what we do. We do actually use our watches for at least one week and adjust the timing at the end of the week.

In other words, our watches are made to be used.

Molinia watches are specified for an accuracy of -15 to +40 seconds a day but we adjust them to a much higher degree and the aim is to have them within 10 seconds per day.

Water

Vintage pocket watches have measures to protect the movement against dust but there is no protection against water or any other liquid. You can however clean the outside of watch with a damp cloth.

Why a vintage pocket watch?

The Molnija line of watches was designed with durability longevity in mind. The watches we sell have been running for decades and they will continue to do so for many more decades if handled properly.

A vintage pocket watch is a lasting investment and a timepiece that you can enjoy.

Molnija watches have a good amount of weight and slide easily back into your pocket. This is in contrast to many modern pocket watches which use wrist watch movements and are way too light for a pocket watch.

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