Zlatoust Diver’s Watch

May 19, 2006

The awful stock strap

Screw-pin detail

Crown detail

A Type One Movement. It is a Russian made copy of an old American Dueber-Hampden pocketwatch movement,

About three inches from end to end.

Weight lifting 🙂

According to watch industry buzz, big watches are “in” these days. I regularly hear folks discount 38mm watches as being far too small while the old 34mm standard man’s size watch is barely considered large enough for ladies now. Well, if big watches are your cup of tea, I’ve got the thing for you. The Zlatoust diver’s watch is big, really big. I’ve owned alarm clocks that weren’t this big. How big, well its 58mm in diameter (not including the huge canteen crown which brings the overall width to 74mm!), 24mm in thickness (which is thicker than the width of many a ladies watch), the lugs are 24mm wide, lug to lug the watch measures 73mm and the it weighs 10oz. (For those of you who are curious, my wrist measures 7 1/2″ around. The watch, as you can see, completely covers it and actually sticks out a bit) Needless to say, this is not the most comfortable watch out there. Frankly, it’s at best clumsy and at worst (on the stock band) downright painful to wear.

The watch itself is undeniably fascinating. I wore it around my law firm one day and at least a dozen people commented about it. No one had ever seen a watch like it and a number of folks actually tried it on. Even people who probably were not all that interested in watches were amazed. The Zlatoust uses a one piece case design (the movement is installed through the front) with an unusual screw-down bezel to hold the thick acrylic crystal tight against a rubber gasket. The watch ships with a sort of rubberized canvas band (complete with CCCP logo) that is possibly the least comfortable watch band I have ever encountered. It is stiff, sticky and does not breathe at all. I suppose the band would make sense if worn over a wetsuit but otherwise, it’s more like a handcuff than a watchband. I currently have my Zlatoust on an old Rhino band I had lying around. It’s still not remotely comfortable but it is wearable. In addition to the odd band, the bezel unscrews completely to allow the wearer to remove the protective grill and place a thicker (included) gasket in its place. The lug pins are of a screwed in type and can be removed with the small screwdriver that also came with the watch. The huge canteen style crown screws down and has a rubber gasket to protect the movement from water. An attached chain keeps the crown from getting lost. The numerals and hands on the watch face are luminous and, in a pleasant surprise, the lume is pretty good. The movement on this model is the same one used in the old First State Watch Factory Type One (reviewed below). It is a 15 jewel hand wound mechanism that must be wound once daily by unscrewing and partially removing the canteen crown cover. I have not actually opened the case to see the movement since this type of case design is tricky to extract a movement from, but the frequency sounds exactly the same as the low-beat tick of my Type One models. The one curious bit of data that I don’t have is water resistance. I have fully immersed my watch with no damage but I don’t know how deep it can go. I read a post over at watchuseek.com that stated that this watch is not really meant for very deep water at all but is instead meant for prolonged use in shallow water along the lines of a diving bell. I honestly don’t know for sure.

The Zlatoust watch factory has an interesting history. During WWII, the one of the Moscow watch factories (I believe it was First State Watch Factory) was evacuated east to Zlatoust in the Chelyabinsk region to avoid being captured or destroyed by the advancing Nazi army. (many other Russian factories were moved this way as well) There, watch and clock production was quickly brought back online. According to the factory, (be patient, the page loads very slowly) over 90 percent of the clocks installed in Soviet tanks and aircraft were made at Zlatoust. After the war, the factory continued to produce all sorts of clocks and watches including stopwatches and this huge diver watch. (As an aside, they don’t just make watches in Zlatoust. This place was also the center of the old Soviet nuclear weapons industry. See: Zlatoust . It is also reputed to be one of the most contaminated places in the world as well. Scary stuff. (Additionally-If you are interested in modern Russian history I recommend reading Andrew Meier’s book Black Earth. It is a collection of stories consisting of recent reporting by the author as he traveled throughout Russia. A real eye opener.)

It bears noting that watches like this one appear on frequently ebay and other Russian watch seller’s web pages these days. Many of them are clearly modern reproductions of the Zlatoust diver. Models with the text “700 Meters” on the face or with a centrally located second hand or a subdial are not, to my knowledge, real military diver’s watches. They may be made at the Zlatoust factory, however, but their movements are probably not the old low-beat Type One variety. Additionally, I have heard that modern examples have chrome plated brass cases instead of the solid stainless steel cases the originals used. If you are going to suffer owning one of these, try to get one that is as historically correct as possible. (Mine isn’t perfect either, it doesn’t have the plain back that the real issued ones have). Watches like this are available from a number of Russian watch sellers. I got mine here.

I think it should be obvious from this review that the Zlatoust diver is clearly never going to be anyone’s daily wear watch (That is unless your wrist is over eleven or so inches around. Then it might work for you). Still, I’m very happy to have this beast. It is, without question, the most unusual watch I own and may be the biggest wrist watch ever made. It is also an interesting piece of history. The one thing it is not is boring.

P.S.-Another great review of this watch can be found here


28 Responses to “Zlatoust Diver’s Watch”

  1. Eli Says:

    Hi Ed, I was wondering, where did you get the information about the ones with the plain back being the most historically correct? I would like to read more about this watch, and might buy one myself. Thanks!

  2. Ed Says:

    I got most of my information about this model over time from posts on the Russian watch forum at watchuseek.com. Additionally, Mark Gordon’s Russian watch website has a lot of information about this and other models. The prevailing consus is that models with stylized backs were probably made for the civilian market. The same goes for the ones with subdials and second hands

  3. Eli Says:

    Hi Ed, thanks for your reaction, I’ve bought one myself today. There are 2 retailers here in the Netherlands where i live, and both of them only sell ones with the 700 metpob (metres) on the dial. Not with subdial or second hand though. I saw a lot of pictures showing the watch with the plain back, but most people told me those are old pictures, and I wasn’t able to find a seller who sold these plain backs. I must say that the seller who I bought it from, told me (and also stated on his website) that this is a Zlatoust reproduction, so I never had the idea of this being real military watches! What do you think of the age of these watches? I got mine with a paper dating it to 1976, and it seems pretty authentic.. I do think theyre old stock. And one more question, hope you don’t mind, what do you mean by “low beat tick”? I’m sorry my english isn’t that good!

  4. Ed Says:

    I’m pretty sure that the models without subdials or second hands are new old stock from the seventies. The ones with either type of second hand I’ve heard were made in the ninties. These are not reproductions though, they are genuine Zlatoust models made by the Zlatoust factory just like the military versions that Russian military divers used in the sixties. The only difference was the decoration ob the caseback that was added for the civilian market. As for “low beat”, the movement in these monsters is a very slow moving pocket-watch movement that was probably designed in the ninteenth century. The Russian watch industry got its start in the late twenties when they bought the bankrupt American watch maker Dueber-Hampton. The movement in the Zlatoust is that ancient movement. It ticks very slowly, in comparison to a regular watch movement.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Ed,I also own this monsterwatch….and I like it very much.You get lots of questions frompeople who have never seen itbefore.I have a replica and an originalwith plain back.(compared to my IWC Big Pilot whichlooks like a childrens watch as youput them next to each other…)say..is this giant easy to repair ?thanks,Sander

  6. Ed Says:

    Because of the one-piece case, the movement in this one comes out through the front. That makes things tricky right there. Additionally, the movement design is very old and hard to get parts for outside of Russia. Ordinary servicing (cleaning, oiling, etc) should be doable by a competant jeweler but beyond that, major repairs would probably be an iffy proposition.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Ed, not long ago I got a Zlatoust for my birthday, it’s probably a replica. My question to you is, how many turns should I give the knob on the side of the watch for optimum performance(the promised 30 hours) ?Thanks for helping me out and I love your review.

  8. Ed Says:

    My example is fully wound at about 20 turns. Assuming that you have the same movement in yours, that should be good.

  9. Rob Says:

    Hi Ed: I own 5 Zlatoust Divers Watches and I am in need of some new Crystals for some of them they are 53mm in diameter by 4mm in thickness and I was wondering if you new where I could get these my mail is rob@solarsea.ca

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Hello Ed:How to remove watch strap by screwdriver??Because when I turn 1 side of screw another side also move…That is difficult to remove it??i hope u know what i mean??thanx

  11. Ed Says:

    The pin is really just a long thin screw. The whole thing should come loose when unscrewed.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Hello Ed butis it hard to loose it?? and you must fit 1 side screw and turn another side screw to lost pin??thanx for help…bcz i have problem to loose it.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    I’m pretty sure, yours is also chromed brass.. maybe the one with the flat back is stainless steel.

  14. Ed Says:

    Possibly. It was advertised as stainless but, who knows.

  15. LikeTheReindeer Says:

    Just wondering if you know what size band the watch uses.Thanks!

  16. Ed Says:

    My example has 24mm lugs

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Hello,When you say plain back do you mean absolutely nothing on the back? I have seen some that have double anchors or a scuba diver both in high relief. But I have seen one that is plain except it has a small 4 digit number stamp below a small anchor stamp. Can this still be considered one of the “originals”?

  18. Ed Says:

    I’m not sure about the anchor stamp. The serial number, yes, that is correct. Search around on the watchuseek.com Russian forum. I believe that someone there has posted a pic of an original.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Ed, Thanks for the quick response. I did some checking on the site you suggested. But could not readily find a picture of the “original”. Is it possible to post a picture here or email you a photo or two? Im interested in purchasing this particular watch, but would prefer the non-civilian version. BTW, thanks to your great blog, you saved me from purchasing one of those reproductions.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Ed where did you get your nato band for this watch? I’ve been looking all over for one just like the one pictured. Thanks

  21. Ed Says:

    I’m afraid this is an old Rhino band. I’m pretty sure they aren’t made anymore. The store over at the military watch resource forum has some zulu bands that are similar though.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Ed,I got one of these from amazon. I have trouble with it, it starts to “lose” minutes within an hour and it stops completely after a while. Do I need to have it on in order for it to operate accurately? Are there any tricks about winding it? Is it possible that I have got a faulty or fake one? Never happened before with amazon.Thanks

  23. Ed Says:

    Sounds like a bad movement there. It’s not an auto so it makes no difference if you wear it. It winds in the usual way. Not good at all.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    I am not familiar with mechanical watches at all. I have wound it all the way. It is fully wound, but still might go slow after a while. Can this be fixed?

  25. Ed Says:

    It can certainly be serviced but your jeweler needs to know what he’s doing. The movement in this one comes out through the front which makes things tricky.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    hi ed, good job…am a big fan of this watch….and this might intrest you…with regards to the crappy strap that comes with the watch…i found a solution…i found leather straps for it…you can email me at donny78ph@yahoo.com…id be glad to show you some pics

  27. Ed Says:

    Sounds interesting. Certainly would make it easier to wear.

  28. Anonymous Says:


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