Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another new "Russian" watch--Slava "CJIABA" Constellation Review

СЛАВА СОЗВЕЗДИЕ (Slava "Constellation") 194B

Found this one on eBay and couldn't pass it up. Interesting story behind this one, though.

СЛАВА (or Slava, as they say in Russia) has been a manufacturer of Russian watches for decades. Whereas the Vostok watches were created mostly for the military, Slava has been known for making affordable civilian watches. I wasn't counting on it being this affordable, however...from eBay, I paid $9 for the watch, and $9 for shipping. Total price was less that $20.

I was a little worried about that, but I pulled the trigger anyway. Turns out, the Slava seems to be a nicely put together watch. And, the biggest surprise is, it keeps time better than my Vostok. Plus, it looks like a number of more expensive divers' watches. Since I got it, I've seen several watches on the Internet that the Slava obviously copies. It looks much like this Golana Aqua Pro except for the red section on the bezel. The Swiss Golana sells for over $200, and I don't think anyone who gave the Slava a close look would be fooled, but it looks pretty good nonetheless.

As I dug deeper, I found some interesting facts on the Slava. Somehow, a company in China managed to get the rights to use the Slava name. Now, it seems that they don't have the rights to the distinctive Slava logo found on some of the original Russian brands. But, they do try to play up the Russian angle by making some of the print on the watch face in Russian. Of course, Slava is spelled "СЛАВА", Constellation is spelled "СОЗВЕЗДИЕ". And, although "Automatic" is in English, the word Jewels is spelled "КАМНЯ" and Russia is spelled "РОССИЯ". Notice it does not say, "Made in Russia", it just says Russia. That's because the Slava Constellation models are actually made in China with Chinese parts.

So, it's not a "real" Slava, but, it seems to be a decent watch nonetheless. And for less than $20, if it lasts a year, I will consider that I got my money's worth.

UPDATE: 11/2011 - The Slava keeps on ticking. Still looks good, although the silver plating has completely worn off the crown. Accurate and reliable. Who would have guessed?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Two weeks with the Vostok

Today is exactly two weeks since I got the Vostok. I'm still pretty happy with it. It looks great and it runs reliably without winding. It still runs a little fast, but I adjust it back every few days, so it isn't a problem. I've been reading and many say that they tend to run fast and that you should wait for at least a month to assume full accuracy. If it is not as accurate as you want it, there is a lever on the inside with a +/- indicator. It is a simple matter of moving the lever slightly, then testing. You have to have a watch wrench to do it. I don't have one yet, but they're available on eBay for around $8-9, shipped. Of course, you can take it to a watch repair service, but most have said the cost of this adjustment is more than the watch. If it doesn't correct after another couple of weeks, I might be placing an order and tearing into it myself.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New Watch, straight from Moscow.

Vostok has been making watches for the Russian military for a number of years. In fact, it is possible to find Vostoks marked "Made in the USSR" (CCCP) on eBay if you keep a good lookout. I wanted a new one, so I poked around until I found this one, sold by an eBay seller called Zenitar, who also sells Russian made camera equipment of the same name.

This watch is called the Vostok Amphibian. It is a 31 jewel, fully automatic movement mechanical watch. In other words, an internal pendulum winds the watch using only the movement of your body. I've had this watch running over 96 hours so far on one winding, and that includes at least 8 hours per night of sitting on the nightstand not moving.

I'd always heard about jewels being used in watches, but never understood what the advantage was. Turns out, they are used as bearings and friction points, and the more jewels you have, the less metal-to-metal friction is present, which could eventually cause the watch to become inaccurate.

The best part is, lower end Vostoks are not super expensive. Some of the fancier models can go for several hundred dollars, but the Amphibian pictured here sold for $49, with $15 air mail shipping directly from Moscow.

It takes a long time to get something from Moscow to the United States. I waited about 18 days before the watch arrived at my door. It is supposed to be water resistant to 200 meters and it seems rather ruggedly built. In fact, a friend of mine remarked that it seemed like you could use it for self defense in an emergency...just smack someone with the back of your wrist, and let the mass of the Vostok do the rest.

It does have some slightly rough edges, but nothing that is obvious nor troublesome. All in all, it is a handsome watch that's completely functional. Accuracy is not what you would expect from a modern quartz watch, but it's still pretty good. It should get better as the watch becomes broken in. So far, it seems to gain about 5-10 seconds or so per day, which means that in a week, it will be about a minute or so "off". It is not a big deal to set it once a week, however, and it's more than accurate enough to get me to work on time.

It also has a calendar window, and luminescent hands and face marks. The numbers look like they would be luminescent, but they are not. A shame, because that would make this thing really easy to read in the dark.

Nevertheless, for around $65 shipped, this is a pretty cool thing to have. I've shown it to several people I know, and a couple of them are now thinking about getting Vostoks for themselves.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Android on the Nokia 770

Don't waste your time. It boots, and it looks pretty, but as of right now, there was no wireless support that I could find, and no way to get an on-screen keyboard. It is really disappointing that Nokia basically abandons the people who went out on a limb to buy their fledgling technology. Now, we're left with less than perfect solutions to try to keep our Internet Tablets up-to-date.

I'm glad the community gives us the option of running OS2007 and OS2008. Too bad Nokia doesn't make a polished version of these operating systems to run smoothly on the 770.

Of course, all Nokia is concerned with is the bottom line, not building a customer base. As long as they can continue to push customers toward the 8XX series tablets, they think they'll keep selling them.

Truth is, I don't plan to buy another one. "Fool me once..." still applies. If I have a product that becomes obsolete because it is too slow or too limited due to more advanced designs coming to market, that's one thing. But, if "planned obsolescence" is the only reason for upgrading, then forget it.

Although it's not exactly the same type of unit, I have since gotten an Acer netbook. Much greater possibilities for upgrading that than the 770, and I'll be buying another one if this one either wears out or is no longer powerful enough to run decent software. I think it is more usable than the Internet Tablets anyway, at almost the same price as what I paid new for my 770.