The Best Watches Under 500 – Poljot – 3133
Welcome and today we are going to take a look at what is possibly one of the best range of watches you will ever find under 500. These specific watches are powered by the Russian Poljot 3133 movement.
A Brief History
Now back in 1929 Joseph Stalin was looking to manufacturer watches for his military personnel, conveniently for Stalin a Brooklyn based clock company and a year later an Ohio based watch company went out of business and Stalin acquired there machining tools, in-so-doing setting up the First Moscow or ‘Soviet’ Watch Factory in 1930. Skipping forward a few years during the war in 1941 the factory was evacuated as the German forces moved in. In 1943 operations resumed and in 1945 during now the Russian occupation of Germany, the machining tools from Glashütte based Tutima factory were taken to Moscow and later that year the first Soviet Chronograph watches were made.
By 1950 the factory purchased the tools and rights to the Venus 150 movement from the Swiss creating the Strela 3017 movement in 1951 which replaced the Tutima. Between the 1950’s and 70’s many of the first Moscow Watch Factory brands had become world renowned thanks to the likes of Yuri Gagarin the first man in space, who on 12th April 1961 wore one of of factories Sturmanskie or ‘Navigator’ watches during his mission. By the mid 1970’s the factory bought the rights and tools to the legendary Swiss Valjoux 7734 and by the late 70’s the Poljot 3133 movement was born.
The factory continued producing a variety of watches such as the Buran, Strela Sturmanskie, Okeah, Basilika… they even sold watches in the UK under the name Sekonda all using the 3133 movement until the company’s Demise in late 2003. In 2004 the company was sold off in two parts, the 3133 machining tools were purchased by MakTime who were predominantly made up of Poljot factory workers and the remainder of the factory was sold to Russian watchmaker Alexander Shorokhoff who also introduced a number of new brands to the range.
Unfortunately extremely sad news came in late 2014 when Mac time ceased trading the Poljot 3133 machining tools were disassembled and sold separately never to be produced again. However though operations came to a grinding halt in 2014 there are a few hundred maybe even a thousand brand new unworn 3133 movement watches available on the internet. And though these are now fast becoming extremely rare and prices have subsequently increased, they are still by far one of the most affordable quality mechanical watches you will find.
Poljot 3133 vs Valjoux 7734
So what makes this movement so special if it’s simply a Valjoux 7734? Well actually it’s not!! The factory to the movement and the tools completely apart making several subtle and not so subtle changes to it, in fact if you sit both movements down side by side you will certainly see the differences. The most obvious of those is the thickness, the 3133 is notably thicker and more durable, and even though the Swiss replaced the 7734 with the 7750 automatic movement, it is believed they turned to the 3133 movement to help improve later editions of the 7750. Also as the movement is thicker and much improved it is easier to service than the 7734.
Now this watch (in the video and pictured on this page) is one of the last produced by the factory, the Moscow Classic Shturrmovik, there are lots of types of watches and variations, and what I love about this particular watch other than the incredible movement inside, in 1930 when they were producing watches the case shape that they used was almost identical to this as you can see via the images below taken from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poljot).
It’s kind of like Trench watches, if you think back in the day when army officers were in the trenches and needed to see the time easily their pocket watches were not the most easy of means to seeing the time, so they adapted their pocket watches, adding brackets like these so they could put a NATO, leather of fabric type strap through the loops and wrap the watch securely around their wrists, another type of watch that has a similar bracket are early cushion cased watches. What that means however is that you will need to get a Bund or folding type of strap for them, they are pretty cheap and easy to get online and the watch comes with one anyway!
The movement is really quite beautiful inside, you will get a lot of use from this before it needs a service, usually 5 years being the average and if you are like me and have many watches then as long as you wind the watch a few times each month you will get many more years of joy out of it before a services is required.
Another beauty about these watches is they made a number of limited edition watches this one is 1 of 500, there are a good few thousand secondhand 3133 watches available on the net and possibly only a few hundred to a thousand at most brand new watches available at the time of my writing this. Price-wise this one you which there were two left of with a different dial can be picked up for £349 about $400, not bad!
This watch has sapphire crystal on both the front and on the case-back, it has a screw-down crown but I certainly wouldn’t go diving in it, any watch that has push down buttons that doesn’t have a screw in protection around it like that on the Rolex Daytona’s can quite easily get water inside if the button gets knocked while under water.
If you are considering one of these watches do be aware that with these and pretty much any old or vintage watch it may likely need servicing if not stated otherwise, don’t let this put you off completely as long as the watch is in good mechanical order a standard service is about £100, so it is therefore worth considering the additional cost of a service when buying an older watch sometimes it is cheaper to buy one of the last new ones remaining…!
Beyond their own unique style watches there are a number of homage type, so for example if you like your Brietling Avengers then you will likely want to check out the Poljot Jetfighter 5177 or 5176, if you like your Navitimer’s and don’t have £11,000 just sitting around to buy a vintage version or £6,000 for a new one then you can pick a Navitimer style watch such as the Poljot Blue Angels reference 2476 for 400/450, so certainly worthwhile considering if you like the original vintage Brietlings with the manual-wind movements but cannot afford one. And if you like other brands such as Panerai then they do have some case styles similar.
The Poljot 3133 was and still is an incredible movement stooped in history with Swiss beginnings and many twists and turns along the way, it’s just terribly sad that one of the very few affordable, quality mechanical watch movement makers, who made it all the way through to the 21st certainty was stopped in its tracks due to few people knowing about them.