In the last two months I added two "modern" German watches which both uses Poljot 2612.1 alarm movement. I decided to compare those two watches and on the same time use this opportunity to write something about the history of Poljot 2612.1 movement.
The watches which are compared are:
a) Alexander Shorokhoff Tschaikovsky (in short AS)
b) Strela Watches Signal (in short Strela).
For the better understanding what here is all about, let me start with the short history of the Poljot 2612 movement.
It all started back in 1954 when A.Schild company introduced alarm movement called AS 1475 which technically had two spring barrels (one for alarm and one for time.
For the better understanding, here is the picture of the original AS 1475 movement, taken from the Ranfft.
Movement has a very distinctive Y shaped bridge, 17j, f 18000 A/h, 46h power reserve, alarm rings cca. 12 seconds. Alarm rings or better say buzzes by striking the hammer (on a movement picture hammer is just above the Ranfft text) into the pin, mounted on the backplate (see the picture of such a backplate). It is quite obvious that due to the pin construction backplate could not be screwed into the case. Instead of screw type plate, a plate which was just put on top of the case and fixed with the ring (also seen on the picture) was used on almost all watches with this alarm movement.
AS 1475 has become very popular movement, several versions and modification exist, just for a flavor here is one of my watches with this movement.
Take a close look to a balance spring wheel, you will notice that original AS 1475 from Ranfft and mine are not the same in every detail (Breguet hairspring versus flat, different stud carrier). I am pointing out this differences since they are important also for the latter understanding of Poljot 2612.1 development of the movement.
In 1959 1MCHZ (First Moscow watch factory, latter known as Poljot) took AS1475 and modified it to it's own alarm movement which few years latter got the 2612 code. On the quick look this movement looks identical to AS1475 with two important differences - it has 18j instead of original 17j and the ringing function is changed.
Namely, while original AS1745 rings when the upper crown is pulled to position 1 in 2612 alarm rings with the upper crown in base position.
First 1MCHZ alarm watches were called Signal and looked like this:
Close look of the movement reveals that the movement looks much more similar to original AS1475 compared to mine AS1475. It has Breguet hairspring, fixed stud carrier, the only visible difference is 18j instead of 17j. It has a 1MCHZ rhombus stamp on the bridge, there is a serial number but NO 2612 marking, what is logical if we know that USSR coding of the movement was introduced only in the mid sixties.
Very first Signal models also had additional resonating backplate over the standard backplate with the buzzing pin. 1MCHZ soon dismissed that second backplate so this backplate is a clear recognition that watch is from the first series of the 1MCHZ alarm watches.
The first change of the movement happened on the stamp. Rhombus 1MCHZ stamp was replaced by pentagonal 1MCHZ stamp in early sixties:
I have this movement integrated in the watch which is already a Poljot watch with the construction of the watch typical for seventies. So this is either a franken watch where the original newer version of the movement was replaced by older version either Poljot simply used old stock of the movements.
In the late sixties three important things happened: 1MCHZ changed it's name to Poljot, unique classification of the movements was introduced and movement itself was simplified. By the new coding system the movement should be coded as 2612. But as far as I know there is no movement with this code. The reason is the fact that "original" 2612 was in the meantime modified, and modified version got the 2612.1 code name.
All stated changes resulted in the movement which is seen here:
It is seen that
- 1MCHZ stamp is removed, replaced by SU (Soviet Union) marking;
- serial number does not exist anymore, it is replaced by the code 2612.1;
- movement now looks more similar to mine AS1475 movement, balance wheel is flat;
- cyrillic "18 kamnej" is replaced by "18 jewels" on the bridge.
That basically concludes the development of this movement. The only important change happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union when stamp SU was simply removed from the bridge. So if there is no SU stamp on the bridge, this is an obvious sign that movement is already a Russian and not a Soviet product.
Now, we are ready for the watches mentioned at the beginning. Let's start with AS.
Alexander Shorokhoff clearly place this brand to be a higher class watch brand (opposite to his other brand - Poljot International - which is lower level). That is seen also in the Tschaikovskiy, which is really made as one would expect from higher brand. Stainless steel case, sapphire glass and case back. Movement is 2612.1 from the Russian production BUT fully reassembled, gilded and decorated. I am dare to say the best what can be done from this movement.
We can also notice one small but very important innovation. Hammer does not strike to a pin mounted on a case back but to a gong bulge on the inner edge of the case (see the picture). This small change allows case back to be glass, allows case back to be screwed in and as a result watch even has some water resistance (crowns are still problematic for serious water resistance).
AS rotated the placement of the movement for 90 degrees, so crowns are placed on the top instead on the right how we are all used to. Basically a bullhead look of the watch. The reason for this is probably hidden in the idea that this wrist watch alarm can in fact also serves as a table clock alarm. Even though this idea seems attractive, I must admit that in practice it does not work very well.
The main problem with this solution is the fact that the owner of the watch daily actively uses both crowns (which are screwed in BTW). Winding the watch while on hand is almost impossible, deactivation of the alarm is even worse.
Crowns on top also optically make watch smaller then it would be with the crowns on the side. Knowing that watch is already small (only 40mm outer case and 35mm inner case with dial circumference of just 29mm) makes this watch smaller than expected from the specification.
I should also mention a short alarm hand as an unfortunate choice. The hand is so short that it is hard to set the alarm time to permissible tolerance of exact alarm time. You can quite easy miss the expected alarm time for +- 15 min. If you are from digital alarms used to set alarm to 6.37, forget this here.
Watch has a small luminova on both hands and a small spot at 12 o'clock. Luminova does not last very long and together with the small luminated surface it is not very useful.
"Ringing" is maybe little less loud than standard Poljot 2612 movements, gong instead of pin gives a bit more gentle, less anoying buzzing than standard. You can hear the sound of the alarm on the following video. I have to worn you that on the wrist watch is not so loud.
Watch arrives in nice, big wooden box, no surprises here.
What about the price? Well, take a deep breath, full price of the watch in the AS catalogue is 4200 EUR. VERY high. To be quite honest, I was able to get this watch for 1700 EUR with the help of Julius Kampmann's web shop Poljot24.de. Still a lot for a 2612 movement watch, but to be quite honest, you will not find such a decorated and refurbished movement in any other watch. For a alarm watch collector for sure an interesting price.
I will say something about the price at the end of this article, let us now move to another watch which is in focus - Strela Signal.
Strela Watches is relatively new brand which was established by Juri Levenberg, a well known ebay watch seller. At the beginning he has just imported russian watches to the west, later he established brand Pilot, and now this Strela Watches brand as well.
Strela Watches company main line are chronograph watches dedicated to original Strela watches with 3017 movement. Apart from chronographs this year alarm watches with Poljot 2612.1 movement were introduced BUT all alarm watches are clearly also dedicated to Strela watch. I have bought the black dial version with paddle hand which clearly is a Strela paddle hand watch heritage
You can compare how good this imitation was by comparing both. Unfortunately I have just Sekonda paddle hand version, but that is just a cosmetic thing.
Strela Watches named it's alarm watches Signal, which was, as already stated, the original name of the first 1MCHZ alarm watches. So Signal t's a kind of strange "heritage" combination of two iconic but very different 1MCHZ (Poljot) watches. This confusion to which watch is in fact Strela is dedicated goes on in the back plate. What you can see on it - Leonov on his first space walk with Strela chronograph on his wrist and the text that watch is dedicated to 50th anniversary of his walk. All OK if watch is Strela watch, but Leonov nor any other cosmonaut has never worn Signal nor any Poljot alarm into the space.
Watch is quite a big watch with the diameter of 44mm (original Strela has 36mm!). Stainless steel case with black PVD coating together with a sapphire glass gives a good impression. Construction of the back plate follows standard approach of 2612 and AS1475 movement watches, so with the pin on the back plate and the fixing ring.
Alarm hand is short also on this watch however due to it's big dial Strela can afford itself to have another inner alarm dial which helps in setting the alarm time a lot! Hands have a very small luminova part on the paddle part of the hand. But I can say that luminova is poor, I was not even able to take a photo due to poor visibility of the hands for the night shot.
Now, let's take a look under the hood. First impression is - as expected. Standard 2612.1 movement in it's original performance and look.
So, standar d materials, 2612.1 stamp, 18 jewels text on the bridge and - wait a minute, what?? SU stamp! So, movement is from long forgoten Soviet Union?? New old stock or something else? Perhaps refurbished movement from some old Poljot alarm watch?
I also had another misfortune of the watch. When received, second hand dropped off. Nothing serious but this is not the first time that I received a Levenberg watch with a flaw. So clearly his companies have a problem with the final control.
But in general I must admit that watch is a good looking watch, well built. Alarm rings as expected, maintaining the alarm and watch is within the expectation. You can again check the alarm sound in the following video.
Watch is packed in a wooden, relatively small box, no excitements here. Closer to disappointment I might say.
Price? This black model full price costs 450 EUR. Again, with a bit of luck you can get it cheaper, I paid 390 EUR. Higher than majority of the old stock ex. Poljot alarm watches, but still within the expected limits. Sapphire glass and black PVD stainless steel case are not something seen normally on Poljot watches so those two things are for sure added values to justify a bit higher price.
So, final verdict? Two very similar but so different watches! One tries to be a high end watch one a mass produced watch which does not care so much about the details. For sure AS is much higher class than Strela. But is it 9x higher as original price list suggest? Is it 4x higher what "true" pricing suggests?
To the first question I can easily say NO. For the second one, hmmm. I leave it up to you! But my answer is YES.
P.S.: This article was first published on Portal Satova web page on 30.3.2018. For this issue it was just slightly modified, some additional pictures were added, some less important ones were removed and some comments were changed or added.