We’ve been stocking Vostok-Europe watches at Heinnie Haynes for the past couple of years, and they’ve always been good, steady sellers. The watches are manufactured in Lithuania, building on the pedigree of the Russian Vostok quality, with design tailored towards the European market. The collaborative working between the Russian Chystopol Watch Factory and the Lithanian Koliz company of Vilnius began working in 2003.
The first Vostok-Europe watch to capture the attention of the wider world was the K3 Submarine, which appeared in 2004, and later, in 2009 the Ekranoplan. The designers sought to build on the renown of Soviet technology, with their models being named after landmark achievements in Soviet technological history – the Ekranoplan being a low-flying aircfraft-ype “ground effect vehicle”, moving along just above a water surface, and a Submarine being a, um, submarine.
The Ekranoplan watch achieved note by being the first of the Vostok Europe watches to make use of sealed tritium vial technology to provide illumination for the markers on the watch. Tritium is an isotope of Helium, with two, instead of one, neutrons in the nucleus. The property of interest to us is that when tritium decays, it emits a weak beta particle, which appears to the human eye as a faint glow – ideal for marking out a watch face. We understand that the tritium contained in watch-face vials is of no harm to humans!
The Anchar line of watches from 2010, named after the fastest submarine in the world are Vostok-Europe’s range of dive watches, boasting both tritium, and water resistance to 300 metres and a Japanese Seiko SII movement.
The link with Seiko re-surfaced in 2014 for the Mriya automatic chronograph. (Mriya being an enormous Antonov 225 aircraft.) Chrono movements are essential for the working aviator, and before the Mriya, the market was dominated by either battery-powered quartz movements, or the automatic Valjoux 7750. In fact, the arrival of the 7750 in the early 1970’s coincided with the advent of cheap, mass produced quartz-electric watches, so that the centuries of watchmaking skill which culminated in the ability to produce an automatic chronograph was almost made redundant by low cost new technology. As a result, there haven’t been many “mass market” auto chrono’s until, in the early 2010’s, Seiko produced the NE88 automatic chrono movement. The NE88 is tipped to be a movement to supplant the “industry workhorse” 7750. The NE88 is designed around a “column-wheel movement”, reported to offer a smoother operation that the vertical clutch of the 7750. The finer details of the construction are beyond the scope of this article, but the point of note is that the NE88 is new, is different, and has not previously been seen in a production watch.
The Vostok-Europe Mriya is the first production watch to feature the NE88 automatic chronograph movement. We have them in stock at Heinnie Haynes, here in the UK. The quality of the workmanship on the watch is undeniable – it’s a heavy chunk of metal. The operation of it is fantastic to watch – the watch functions well as a normal wristwatch, but it’s when one uses the chronograph functions that the fun really begins. The watch has three chrono dials – hour, minute and second can be started with the faintest touch – apparently a feature of the column wheel construction, rather than the slightly stiffer start of the cam driven vertical clutch movement. All three dials can be instantly and simultaneously reset to the starting positions – another NE88 feature.
The reverse of the watch is transparent, so that the balance weight can be seen in motion – it’s almost too interesting to put down at the end of the day. The watch is reputed to have a 45 hour reserve time – in our tests, it easily lasts off the wrist overnight, but with a watch like this beside the pillow, one is eager to start the next day to look at it all over again.