In the 1980s, Slava, a renowned Russian watchmaker, released the Sadko, a distinctive-looking diver’s watch inspired by a character from Russian folklore. The original watches are so uncommon that just about a half-dozen are known to still survive — and they are considered a grail watch by certain collectors of Soviet-made timepieces (especially Soviet military and professional watches like this). Slava, a Moscow-based watchmaker, is one of the original USSR watchmakers still working in Russia today. Their timepieces don’t typically make it outside of Russia or Europe, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hardcore Soviet watch aficionados in places like the United States.
I’ve travelled to cities like Moscow, Russia, and Glashütte, Germany, both of which produced Soviet-era wristwatches. The old East Germany, which was a Communist state until German reunification in the late 1980s, is rarely mentioned when the Saxon town of Germany’s most high-end timepieces is mentioned. Although much of the German and Swiss watchmaking know-how was absorbed into the Russian watchmaking machine, Russian movements (and watches) have their own unique individuality. Message in Advertising Message At The End Of Advertising
Unlike most items produced in Soviet culture, USSR timepieces were frequently unique and full of personality. If there was one area of life where showing off was acceptable during the communist era’s forced humility, it was reportedly one’s wristwatch. Or, at the very least, those who were cast in interesting roles, such as divers, got to play with cool props like the genuine Slava Sadko. The Slava watch firm is still in business today, and it produces both wristwatches and movements. The historic calibre Slava 2427, which is found inside this re-issue Sadko reference 5000167/100-2427, is one of them.
It’s difficult to piece together the origins of the original watch. My theory is that the Sadko watches from the 1980s were designed as a prototype for a new collection that would be produced in larger quantities (but this apparently never happened). Despite the fact that it was a diver’s watch, it was far from a pure tool watch. In reality, the Sadko is quite modern in that it combines the production of a watch to commemorate a topic with the usage of a watch for practical wristwatch functions. The new Sadko watch is more durable than the original, with a water resistance of 500 metres (vs 200) and, of course, a better casing construction. The original had a tapered bracelet, which would have looked good on the model. Let’s talk about the clock for a moment before returning to the Sadko narrative.
This sports wristwatch has a variety of distinctive features that make it particularly appealing to today’s dive watch enthusiasts. The Slava Sadko isn’t for everyone, but its unique features give this rare vintage-redo sports watch a lot of personality that many other watches would kill for. With a unidirectional rotating time bezel, the steel case is 45mm broad and 15mm thick. A flat AR-coated sapphire crystal covers the dial. With a lug-to-lug distance of only 47mm, the case is quite wearable. The case sits high on the wrist, but the slanted lugs and bubble-style caseback keep it tight. The watch crown is located at approximately 2 o’clock, a date corrector is located at about 1 o’clock, and an automated helium release valve is located at approximately 9 o’clock. Message in Advertising Message At The End Of Advertising
The bracelet is OK, but it wasn’t designed specifically for this case and dial. As a result, the visual match is only approximate. As previously stated, the original Sadko watch from the 1980s came with a tapering bracelet. That would have been more intriguing than this plain bracelet. The bracelet’s design features brushed “H-style” lugs separated by polished “chicklet” lugs. It has a deployany clasp in the style of a butterfly. In addition to not being able to size the bracelet more precisely, my main criticism is that the firmly attached metal components have a propensity to pull arm hair. The watch’s clean case and dial, as well as the character-driven Cyrillic lettering, hint that it will look best on a NATO-style strap.
Overall, the Sadko’s dial is very much in keeping with the era, which was still fond of bright sports watches with large, easy-to-read hand and hour markers. The original Sadko dial is extremely unusual for its era for several reasons. First and foremost, it has a lot going on while remaining readable and instrument-like. There are three rings of hour markers, a lot of applied features, and a concentration on creating a symmetrical design, not counting the bezel. This features the day of the week window being placed vertically in-line with the date window above the 6 o’clock position on the dial. You get the idea that whoever developed the original Sadko dials had a lot of watchmaking knowledge and was also having fun with this one. The present Sadko watches (Slava produces both this original black and red natural steel 5000167/100-2427 model as well as a few additional style inspirations) do their best to recreate the essence of the original from the 1980s. The newer versions, as is customary, feature dials with slightly more polished features than the originals, though this is primarily due to the physical manufacturing of most watch hands today.
The elaborately applied Sadko name is also visible on the dial. Despite the fact that the watches were made by Slava, they did not feature the company’s name on the dial. Slava does not appear to describe the Sadko watch’s backstory on the website. It’s possible that the narrative hasn’t been told yet. I’m not sure who designed the Sadko watch or why, but the clock itself contains enough clues to deduce what the designer was thinking at the time. The watch is a tribute to a character named Sadko, who, given his adventures in the “Underwater Kingdom,” is an obvious choice for a dive watch.
Sadko first appears in a classic Russian epic poetry (known as a bylina) narrative in the 11th or 12th century; he is most likely based on a real person. Rather than being a king or ruler, he is a businessman. In reality, he is an intriguing character on which to build a watch concept in late-Communist Russia. Sadko became more famous after being the subject of a Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov opera in 1867 and a poem by Alexei Tolstoy in 1871.
Sadko’s gusli, a traditional Russian string instrument that is incredibly lovely when played, soothed listeners (such as the “Sea Tsar” who ruled the Underwater Kingdom). I assume the shape of the Sadko watch casing was influenced by the shape of the instrument, which is frequently “wing-shaped.” The case design of the Sadko watch is commonly referred to as “bullhead” in internet discussions, although this is wrong in my opinion. Pushers are located at the top of the case on Bullhead chronograph watches. Given the Sadko’s resemblance to a vintage Omega bullhead chronograph watch and the Sadko’s upwards orientation of the crown, I believe people simply linked their designs. We’ll refer to the Sadko as having a gusli-shaped case from now on. The crown is red lacquered and features the letter “C,” which sounds like a “S” in Cyrillic (for either Slava or Sadko).
For a simple diver’s watch, the caseback of the Sadko watch is astonishingly intricate. The modern Sadko starts up where the vintage Sadko left off, reimagining the artwork in a more appealing manner and adding some extra text (all in Russian). The majority of the caseback is a deep relief depicting Sadko playing his gusli in the water. On any particular voyage, we may easily envisage a person who lived over a century ago playing a gusli instrument on the deck of his trade ship for hours — and who later inspired the epic storey. This watch may easily have been his, and the Sadko logo (on the original model — it is printed on the re-issue) is written in a more antique-style typeface, which is a wonderful touch.
The Slava calibre 2427 automatic movement is found inside the watch (probably both yesterday and today). The 2427 movement contains an unusual mixture of qualities and is designed as a functional long-life movement that is somewhat reliable (but not ultra-accurate). Many Soviet-era mechanical watch movements had a different approach to service demands than, example, Swiss watches. Accuracy was regarded higher in Switzerland than service intervals. In the Soviet Union, on the other hand, a watch that needed to be serviced less frequently was more valuable.
The 2427 contains dual mainspring barrels and runs at 18,000 bph (2.5Hz), which is a feature often found in higher-end watches today. Accuracy must be increased in some other way at this relatively moderate beat rate. Because there are two mainspring barrels instead of one, power delivery produces a less dramatic torque curve as the springs’ power decreases. This aids in the promotion of isochronism, which means the watch’s accuracy will diverge less when the mainspring assembly winds down. The movement’s power reserve is roughly 40 hours, which may theoretically be longer, but I suspect the mechanism has a lot of friction.
The 2427 is a neat movement to have because of its date-day automated functions and unique engineering. Although it isn’t considered one of the finest Russian-made movements (due to the fact that it required servicing), it’s nonetheless interesting to see them in fresh new watches today. Back in 2015, when I evaluated the CCCP Heritage watch, I featured a watch with a Slava 2427 movement.
The Slava Sadko re-issue watch is especially worthy because almost no one can genuinely own the original. It has a well-done and unusual design, as well as an interesting tale.