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Vostok Amphibia Review

Vostok Amphibia Review

The Vostok Amphibia is a truly iconic Russian diver’s watch, with a very special place in history at an unbeatable price, we hope you enjoy our Vostok Amphibia Review!

I used to always firmly believe that if you wanted a watch with real history and heritage behind it, such as for example the Omega Speedmaster Professional (Moon Watch), it would cost you a lot of money.

I completely rejected this theory after finding out more and more about the Vostok Amphibia and the special part it plays in history, and the overall design and functionality of the watch which you can get for significantly under $100.

vostok_amphibia_mod

Most of the pictures used in this review were kindly given to me for use by members of The Urban Gentry Facebook Group, which I highly recommend you join if you are a watch enthusiast and wish to connect with like minded people! That is why most of the photos are of different watches, and also I did this instead of just taking a lot of photos of my own to represent the huge diversity in how these watches can look both modded and not modded.

This is an in depth review including the history of this special timepiece, so I have divided it up into the following sections:
  • A brief introduction
  • The history of the Vostok Amphibia
  • General points and specifications
  • A closer look at the movement
  • My opinion of the watch
  • (Bonus) Modding resources

Introduction to the Vostok Amphibia

The Vostok Amphibia was originally designed for the USSR’s Navy, but due to its rugged, bombproof nature it has also made it into the USSR’s space program and was worn in space.

It is powered by an in house, 31 jewel automatic movement that is available with both date and non-date versions. It is important to note at this point that the date version of this movement does not have a quick set date, so you will have to either set it by scrolling the time round and round again, or scroll to 1 AM, then back to around 8 PM, and repeat the process to set the date quicker.

History of the Vostok Amphibia

The Vostok Amphibia has arguably one of the most interesting histories amongst watches of all time.

It all started back in 1967, when the Vostok watch company was tasked with designing a Diver’s watch for the Russian Navy, using completely innovative techniques for waterproofing as they were not prepared to pay the big swiss companies such as Rolex or Omega licensing fees to use their patented mechanisms, and did not have the machinery to reproduce these seals.

steve_zissou_vostok_amphibia

(Fact: Steve Zissou wore the Vostok Amphibia in the movie The Life Aquatic)

When making a watch waterproof or usable for diving, one must focus on three main parts of the watch; the crystal, the crown and the caseback.

Companies such as Rolex and Omega were using a traditional screw on caseback with an O-Ring gasket to keep the water out, more O-Ring gaskets around the crystal and a screw down crown with yet another gasket.

The designers of the Amphibia had to find new and innovative ways of waterproofing the watch, which they did.

Here is how they changed and at the same time improved the crystal, caseback and crown:

Crystal

As mentioned before, swiss companies at the time that were producing Diver’s watches put gaskets around the crystal and secured it very tightly in place, in effect using brute strength to combat water pressure.

However, the designers of the Amphibia came up with something far better as a result of having to change it.

They innovated a way of using a Lucite crystal, so that an increase in water pressure on the dome would spread it out, thus making it even more waterproof.

Caseback

The caseback on other diving watches of the time such as the Rolex Submariner, Omega Seamaster and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was a screw on caseback still used on millions of watches today.

It is effectively a screw on system like the lid on a mustard jar, which again uses brute strength to hold its seal.

The main problem with this system is that if you ever open the caseback, the friction against the gasket could easily cause it to break and no longer hold up a seal, so for most diver’s watches if you want to maintain their waterproofness, you’ll need to switch out the gasket on a regular term.

The Amphibia however uses a two piece screw on caseback, and a thick, flat O-Ring gasket underneath.

Effectively, what is happening here is that the water pressure would be pushing the still part of the caseback against the O-Ring, and because that part doesn’t move it doesn’t wear the O-ring down. Instead, there is a ring that is screwed on on top of the caseback to hold it tightly in place.

As the water pressure increases, the caseback will be pushed against the O-Ring which again means that the higher the water pressure, the stronger the seal.

The Crown

The Vostok Amphibia utilises a scew down crown with an O-Ring gasket just like many other diving watches do.

However, what they did differently here is how the crown stem interacts with the movement.

With most diver’s watches, the crown’s stem is always in contact with the movement, and therefore a shock on the crown could mean that the stem bends and damages the movement.

In the Vostok Amphibia, however, there is a clutch system put in place that means that the stem is loose inside of the case which makes it much more robust.

It engages with the gears only when the crown is unscrewed and a it is pulled out slightly while turning. This adjusts the time.


Vostok Amphibia in Space

It is not so commonly known in the watch community, that the Vostok Amphibia was in fact used by USSR Cosmonauts in various space missions.

vostok_space2

(Image Credit – USSRWatch.net)

The fact that it had a mechanical movement helped it work in EVA (Extra-vehicular activity), and the thick, acrylic Lucite crystal made it more resistant to shocks and gave it a very small risk of shattering, which are qualities seen in the Omega Moon Watch, the Speedmaster Professional.

General Points and Specifications

The specifications of this watch are utterly mind blowing to me, especially considering the price.

vostok_amphibia_review

Vostok Amphibia Specifications:
  • Stainless Steel case
  • Lucite acrylic crystal
  • Screw down crown
  • 31 Jewel in house made movement
  • 200 meters water resistance
  • Bi-directional rotating bezel

It will be very hard to find any other automatic in house diving watch for this money, and harder yet with this incredible history and innovative engineering found only in this specific watch.

Vostok Amphibia Movement

The movement powering this tough little watch is called the 2416-B (date version), and 2416 for the no date version.

It is an in house, 31 Jewel automatic movement with a 30+ hour power reserve, which isn’t the best, but should be fine if the watch is either worn or wound every day.

Vostok_Amphibia_Ministry_Antimagnetic_3

(Image Credit: NHT Watches)

The movement is extremely robust with shock protection not only around the escapement but also with the crown stem as discussed earlier, and has a service term of 10 years.

This means that the recommended time for this watch to run without a service is 10 years, which is incredibly long and many luxury watches of the present day have much shorter service terms than that.

On top of all this, the parts for the Vostok are extremely cheap and widely available, so should anything go wrong it will most likely be a very cheap and easy fix that any watchmaker can do.

My opinion of the Vostok Amphibia

You’ve probably already noticed that I am a huge fan of this watch.

I would even go so far as to say that it is the best ‘bang for buck’ watch that money can buy! I certainly don’t think that this is the best watch ever in the grand scheme of things, but the price and value for money ratio can not be beaten by anything in my opinion.

There is a place for this piece in every watch collection, whether it is used as a beater or daily wearer, it will not disappoint.

BONUS: Vostok Amphibia Modding Resources

There is huge variation of Amphibia models out of the factory, and the modding opportunities are huge.

To read this bonus part of the article, I’d like to kindly ask if you could share article as it would really help us out and only takes a few seconds!

Wrapping up

We hope you enjoyed this Vostok Amphibia Review!

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Opinions

  1. Post comment

    Hi. your article on Vostok is great…but I was left with a question or two.
    The first watch pictured here has what appears to be a brass bezel.
    What model of Vostok is this? I assume this is a mod? do you know where they can be purchased?

    Thanks for such a great article. So much about Vostok to learn.

    Regards

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    1. Post comment

      mm

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you very much! I have already got that question a lot today so thanks for leaving a comment so that my answer can help more people 🙂

      It belongs to someone in the urban gentry facebook group, and is the stock bezel where the chrome plating has been polished off.

      You’re very welcome, glad you liked it!

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  2. Post comment

    I received the scuba dude 3 weeks ago from Russia and out of the box was averaging +21 spd. Over the 3 weeks it dropped to +14, +10, and now it’s averaging +5.5. On the wrist is +10 and crown up is +2 SPD. At 5.5 it’s within COSC -4/+6 spd, and bang for the buck. Hopefully it can maintain at +5 to +6 spd. Highly recommended.

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  3. Post comment

    I have left my two Amphibias in a winder for 2 months now. The one has gained 51 seconds, the other lost just under 2 minutes. Quite impressed.

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