Vostok Amphibia

Vostok Amphibia

In 1942, the Vostok Amphibia was the Soviet Union's solution to the Swiss' global stranglehold on the watch market and one of the world's first mass produced mechanical watches. Originally, founded and located in Moscow, Russia by the government, pressures from WW2 forced a relocation of the Vostok factories to Chistopol, Russia. The Defense Department of the Soviet Union appointed Vosotok as their official supplier of watches in 1965 which lead to the development of rugged, military style timepieces for enlisted men. This, alongside with the rising tensions from the cold war and on-going naval warfare, led to the development of the extremely water resistant Amphibia models.

Cuff-shot of Amphibia

During this time period, the now instantly recognizable Rolex Submariner was the benchmark for deep sea dive watches. However, the patents required to produce the waterproof design by Rolex (the Oyster case) was unavailable to Vostok and would be inefficient for mass production. To me, this is the interesting aspect of the Vostok Amphibia. The lead watch designers at Vostok developed a truly Russian and utilitarian approach to the problem of water resistance. There are only three pieces to the watch case that make the watch incredibly water resistant: (1) a domed acrylic crystal is used in the watch face that required no rubber gaskets--it expands under high pressure and cannot shatter, (2) the stem of the watch screws down around the crown which keeps a constant pressure downward on the gasket inside and it has a clutch system so that it cannot transfer stress into the winding system of the movement, and (3) the screwback of the case was designed with a secondary screw down ring as to never damage the inner gasket (by shearing the rubber). These design features allowed Vostok to mass produce these Amphibias extremely easily when compared to the Rolex Submariner.

Case back of Amphibia

The design of the Amphibia has not changed much since its inception in 1967. However, since then, the hand-winding mechanical movement has changed to the automatic-winding 2415 and 2416b which possess 31-jewel with a date and no-date versions.

Brief one-year review:

I purchased my Amphibia for approx 70 USD last fall on a whim. I have always preferred an analog watch--mostly since I can visually assess the amount of a single hour. I suppose it is more satisfying to look at dial than a digital read out. Also, in the back of my mind, I always reassure myself that I could also use it as a compass in a pinch.

I was retiring my trusted Casio waveceptor field watch of 8 years. The waveceptor was a huge pain to travel through different time zones and I almost literally had that watch strapped to my wrist for 8 years. So, I was interested in a tough, water resistant, and most importantly no-frills watch. The Amphibia fit the bill perfectly.

The version of my Amphibia is the no-date 2416b movement and is automatic and has hand-winding capabilities. This means that the watch is constantly powered by the movement of your hand but if the power-reserve is completely empty, you can hand-wind and set the time before wearing it. The hand-winding capability is actually a rare feature for such an inexpensive automatic watch.

The Amphibia is currently available in many different case styles but they all share the same automatic movement. Each case style has different dial styles so there is a huge variety of Amphibias. I wasn't aware of this at the time but I'm very happy with the dial and case that I picked. If you are shopping the case models are specified by the item numbers (090, 100, 110, 120, 420, 710).

I have constantly modified my Amphibia since it arrived.

Three main points:

  • The stock bands are very ratty and left much to be desired. I actually found my stock band comfortable but on a recent beach trip it caught a lot of sand in the small joints and became very annoying. Currently, I wear it on a NATO or silicon strap.

  • The stock bezel is freely rotating and is held by friction. This combined with the lack of lume on the bezel may bother some people since it is essentially a decorative bezel. I replaced mine with a Murphy bezel since the minute markers on my bezel were not very functional for 5-minute intervals. I use my dive timer for cooking and especially grilling which it excels at.

  • The case of the watch arrives extremely polished and it is impressive for the price point. However, I am all about subtly so I gave mine a brushed finish with a scotchbrite pad.

All in all, for the past year I have really enjoyed EDC'ing my Amphibia. It was my first automatic watch and it hasn't stopped ticking yet--despite the comments from my Russian friends. It still has the same accuracy as the day it arrived (+- 20s/day) and it really hasn't been an issue.

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