The Sturmanskie Gagarin commemorative edition watches are a must have addition to any Russian watch collectors timepieces and a great introductory watch for people new to the brand.
Nearly six decades have passed since Yuri Gagarin’s
historic journey inaugurated the era of human space flight. In the
intervening years, the technological advancements in space travel,
and virtually everything else, has been nothing less than staggering.
Ironically, one aspect of daily life,
and of Gagarin’s flight gear, has remained fairly, one might say,
The simple, mechanical, manual-wind watch of today is
remarkably similar to the standard-issue model that adorned Gagarin’s
In fact, at first glance, the original watch worn in space, built by Sturmanskie, is nearly indistinguishable from the commemorative reissues issues of the past few years by the same company, which is still in operation in Moscow, Russia.
Both watches have 17-jewel, Russian, manual-wind movements.
Both lack a date function. Both have nearly identical dial configurations.
Only when you compare the size or turn
the watch over to view the commemorative medallion on the case back
of Gagarin’s image and the Cyrillic writing honoring his
contribution, is it obvious that fifty years have passed between the
two issues of this watch.
The original was 36mm and today's models are 40 mm. The commemorative models actually have dials that display the same early insignia of the watch brand, the First Moscow Watch Factory (1MWF) and the Kirova mark, along with the Sturmanskie arch in Cyrillic.
The numerals on the chapter ring while the same font as the original are also larger with heavier lume, now SuperLuminova, than the original. But all do have luminous markers, as the original did.
As a testament to the pragmatism of the
Russian space program, unlike the deliberate choice of watches made
by NASA for their U.S. counterparts, the model Gagarin wore just
happened to be his personal timepiece.
As the standard pilot’s issue watch of the time, he most likely received it when he graduated the Russian air force flight school. Examples of the original models of the era are still available on the second-hand market, though getting more and more difficult to find, and are the jewel of many a watch collection.
There is some debate among scholars of
Russian watch history as to whether Gagarin actually wore the
15-jewel version, which he would have received as the regular issue
But many believe he would have “up-graded” by the time of his flight to the 17-jewel model. Either way, this was a watch that became a part of history through happenstance and not deliberation.
Regardless of how much, or little,
mechanical time-pieces may have changed since Gagarin’s time, there
are key features of the commemorative model that aren’t in line
with the tastes of much of today’s watch buying public.
The watch is small by modern standards at only 40 mm (though smaller watches seem to be making a comeback) and very simple, without even the complication of a date.
So, in an effort to appeal to the more contemporary demands of watch aficionados, such as size and complications, Sturmanskie, which translates as “navigator,” is also issuing sport models that are 45 mm in size and have dual time and other complications.
While they are a stark departure from the original, they sill celebrate the achievement of Yuri Gagarin.