Historic Story: Vostok-Europe Watches Design and Construction
Posted by Craig Hester on Oct 1st 2019
The year is 1992 and a young Lithuanian physicist named Igor Zubovskij toils away at the Vilnius radio measurement equipments research Institute with three colleagues. While most of the world looked on from the outside in and as the Soviet Union rapidly collapses, Zubovskij and his team live the increasing turmoil from the inside day after day working under classified Soviet directives. The team feels the sense of urgency as their current project approaches completion. It's a microwave transceiver being built together with and for the Vostok factory of Chistopol, Russia, and it's a critical piece of a Soviet government contract. While more publicly known for the production of affordable watches and watch movements, Vostok was actually a labyrinth of departments during the Soviet era, many of which were engaged in activities for the electronic equipment needs of the Soviet military aviation and space programs. As the conclusion of that fateful year arrives, the transceiver is just becoming whole as the Soviet union falls apart, Lithuania and the former republics quickly fall into chaos.
That time we made 'em together, this Vostok watch factory officially, which was actually in 70% of their production was military electronics, not watches. Right. And we made a common project with them, a microwave transmitter for secret dates transmitting and they owe us money for the for our job, for our work, for our block of trans photons, this transmitter and but everything was destroyed. They couldn't transfer us money because of the banking since it was collapsed. So instead of money, the chief of laboratory took the luggage full of Vostok Komandirsky watches and bring to realness to us instead of money.
Okay. I went to the street market and sold out all of them is in two days and we paid salary to 15 people. Okay. Kevin, Jeff, $20 per month salary. I said to my friends guys, so let's make money from watches. We cannot do it from microwave electronics. Let's do it from watches. That was the beginning of our watch business. It was in 1991 now what was the name of the Institute? What's the actual official name? Vilnius Radio measurement equipment Institute. Research Institute, Vilnius. Radio measurement equipment research Institute. It was you and three other gentlemen who are still your partners today. Of course, yes. Right, and you were working there, that's where you were making the microwave transmitter equipment. Yes, true. And you were saying earlier that this building is effectively not changed in the last 25 years it looks absolutely the same as if it was finished five years ago. Now. The fascinating thing to me is it's not what, a few meters
from where you are right now. You're still, he's still
the same company
The core of Vostok. Europe's creations are driven by chief designer Costa Markon, Markon and Igor Zubovskij The company's managing director have worked together since before Vostok Europe even existed. It's no exaggeration to say they grew up in the business together, learning by trial and error. Neither man came from a background that fits naturally with where they are today. Zubovskij a physicist by trade and Marken, a former engineer and constructor of metal fabricating tools are an unlikely watchmaking duo. Yet their love for watches came together to create a partnership that has produced the amazing time pieces of Vostok Europe. Both are Lithuanian and bring a different view to what they do than more traditional watch brands, which lends to the unusual and striking design that Vostok Europe [inaudible] Every VE watch starts with an inspiration and constructs the model around that theme. All of the namesakes for each model come from a Russian or Eastern European technological or historical achievement. For example, the Energia rocket blasted the Russian space shuttle Buran into space or the Anchar, the world's fastest submarine, just two of the many fascinating inspirations Vostok Europe has incorporated into their watches over the years. This is where Markin begins, but not the whole inspiration in its entirety. He tends to focus on one key element and expand from there.
The quality control process begins before the unit actually assembled. With each component being inspected individually and all watch movements. The engines of the time piece being tested for accuracy and durability before they are mounted into the case, which refers to the outer metal housing. Each watch maker can complete 15 to 20 pieces per day depending on the complexity of the movement. The case and materials of the watch. Simple math demonstrates that Vostok Europe is a boutique brand focused on quality over quantity with a maximum of 25 to 30,000 watches per year, passing through the hands of their skilled watch technicians, a fraction of larger watch companies over the years both to save money and ensure only the best possible results of construction. Vostok Europe has employed several unorthodox methods and tools. The caseback is a separate, usually flat metal part that allows access to the units mechanisms in the future.
This is one of the final steps in the fabrication process. Once assembly is complete, each watchmaker then tests the time piece again for accuracy before it goes to another group of technicians for additional scrutiny. In the case of automatic watches. This includes a multi day trip in the world's largest watch winder and eight drum rotating behemoth that is capable of holding 1200 watch heads, watches without straps at a time. This is another unexpected and specialty apparatus Vostok Europe employs originally housed at the first Moscow watch factory in Russia. The original home of Poljot. The massive custom built winding machine was built in 1973 once the units had been fully wound, they are then again each individually tested in a six position time grapher which is a device with a microphone which listens to the heartbeat of the watch to ensure it is keeping proper time. Each automatic watch mainspring, the drive train which propels the timekeeping has a particular number of vibrations per hour.
The time grapher tests that the beats are marking the time correctly and gives a readout of the results. No time piece will leave Vostok Europe that does not pass the six position time grapher test. The final hurdle for the time pieces of VE before they can pass inspection is the water resistance test. This is particularly vital as almost all Vostok Europe watches are professional grade dive watches meaning they are 200 meters water resistant or more. These machines use compressed air to test the strength of all the seals on the watches to ensure they will pass the threshold set for testing if they fail. There is a backup device that uses actual water to find the source of the leak, which really just means looking for bubbles and then they correct it for the top line dive watches. VE includes a copy of the testing results with each unit, so the owner will know their watch met their strenuous testing requirements. This is then given the serial number of the watch inside the machine there. Each Vostok Europe hand assembled time piece undergoes a 28 point inspection process before they are shipped to the company's 32 worldwide distributors. This ensures that each fast accurate watch will live up to the promise of going to extremes
I'm here with Zydrunas Savickas also known as the strongest man in the world. Our big Z.
very much a proud of our, sign, the feeling of sign knights. Uh, we have here and, absolutely Vostok Europe is produced in Vilnius, Lithuania. I'm very proud of that and I'm very proud to be ambassador of these watches. So this corporation, actually, uh, this year we have won the car famous, the car running private category, right? So, which means we first private in the world. Thank you Vostok Europe for supporting us.