A diving watch is a watch designed for underwater diving, that features, as a minimum requirement, water resistance greater than 1.00 MPa (10 atm), the equivalent of 100 m (660 to 980 ft), though modern technology now allows the creation of diving watches that can go much deeper.
The history of Zlatoust diving watches
As early as the end of 1941 the First State Watch Factory, named by Kirov, was transferred from Moscow to Zlatoust, and production started on chronometers for the Red Army. Evidence of the industrial scale of this production is borne by the fact that clocks from Zlatoust were installed in almost every Russian tank and aircraft. After the end of the war it was decided that production in the Southern Urals should continue, and be extended. The Zlatoust Watch Factory, which grew and became a large production center in the Soviet Russian watch industry mainly produced defence orders, but it also successfully entered the civilian production market. The Zlatoust Watch Factory story continues to this very day.
In the 1950s and 1960s the Zlatoust factory produced the 191-ЧС (ChS) watches for the USSR Navy divers. That watch is unique! It is one of the largest wrist watches in the world, having a diameter of 60mm excluding the crown and lugs, and it weighs about 250 grams. Production of the single block stainless steel case is a complicated process, but which produces an unbeatable product. In the early days radioactive material was even used in the luminous dial markers!
Production of diving watches in the Zlatoust Watch Factory ceased in the early 1970s, and gradually the watches were withdrawn from professional use, but still the legend lived on. However, demand creates supply, and as a result new “Russian” divers’ watches started to be produced by Invicta, appearing on the market in 2003, which, with regard to the external appearance, were slavish copies of the 191-ЧС (ChS) originally manufactured by the Zlatoust Watch Factory, but naturally without Radium, and with a diameter reduced by 8mm to make them wearable. These Invicta watches also carried the defaced abbreviations “IMF USSR” on the dial (implying Russian origins, recalling the Soviet Navy (VMF) with the “I” for Invicta. This Invicta watch is more decorative, but in terms of functionality it cannot compete with the 191-ЧС (ChS).
However, inventive people also exist in Russia, and those people have disrespectfully exploited not only the legend of 191-ЧС (ChS) but also the good name of the Zlatoust Watch Factory itself. Zlatoust divers’ watches advertised as original 191-ЧС (ChS) have been sold in the Internet and some Moscow and St. Petersburg shops during the past four years mainly for the tourist market. By its size, but not its quality, it is closer to the original than the Invicta copy. It is smaller by only 1 or 2 mm, and they carry the insignia of the USSR Navy on the dial and on the back. They also have serial numbers. Certificates are attached with QCD marks and a “No Radiation” stamp. The box bears the inscription “Ministry of Defence of the USSR Order” and “ZlatouS Watch Factory” (the T is deliberately omitted).
191-ЧС (ChS) also occurs as “Chajka” or “Poljot” in Internet watch shops on counterfeit Zlatoust diving watches. These diving watches are 10 – 12 mm smaller than the original Zlatoust watch. Are these fakes? Or were Russian watch factories simply responding to demand? The question remains open.
Production of the 191-ЧС (ChS) was resumed at the initiative of a new Director of the Zlatoust Watch Factory. Once again the genuine “Russian Divers’ Watches” are produced in the Southern Urals, and only there.
The luminescence has been updated with non-radioactive luminous material. An updated and improved movement has been installed, and the triangular Zlatoust symbol is now stamped on the back of the case, together with the serial number. The updated version now bears the name 192-ЧС (ChS) to mark the improvements.
A second model has also entered production. It has a smaller diameter, 53mm, an improved automatic movement, a center sweep second hand, and a leather strap. This model is a smaller version of the original with the same functionality (certified to 700 metres). This model bears the name 193-ЧС (ChS).
GENERAL DIVING WATCH HISTORY
The history of man’s efforts to use watches underwater, and to make watches that are water resistant or waterproof, and to make diving watches, goes back maybe as far as the 17th century. In the 19th century water and dust resistant watches were usually one-off pieces, custom made for a particular customer, and described as “Explorers’ Watches”. Early in the 20th century such watches were industrially produced for military and commercial distribution. Like their predecessors, early 20th century diving watches were developed in response to the needs of several different but related groups: explorers, navies, and professional divers.
Divers must inspect their watches and wristbands for defects prior to every dive, and especially when it comes into contact with gasoline or strong chemicals, powerful magnetic fields, or subjected to hard impact during use. Additionally, watches with mechanical movements should also be hand-wound or, in the case of automatic movements that cannot be hand-wound, given sufficient motion to self-wind prior to every dive to ensure a fully charged mainspring.