Pobeda ZIM Full Review

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Vladimir Putin sent me this Pobeda ZIM watch to reward my assistance in the United States presidential election. Surely I jest! I got it from Amazon.com (no commision on link). Somehow my habit of searching for newest arrivals under 35mm yielded a vintage Soviet watch. Classic size, unusual shape, Cold War provenance and old school mechanicals. Why not? . . .

Shipping from Ukraine was estimated at six to eight weeks. The Pobeda Zim arrived in exactly three weeks. Seller Sovietwatcher (no commision on link) include a branded box and little white pleather pillow. The same diagonal scratch seen on the upper left lug in listing photos (and Instagram) was present on my watch, so truth in advertising.

Strapping the Pobeda ZIM on, I was struck by the sharp outside corners of the lugs; how they didn’t really curve down much. I’m getting very sensitive to the importance of lug measurements and their height relative to case bottom. There is a little arching going on here. I guess broader wrists don’t mind, otherwise I’m baffled by how sharp corners like this endured, both in design and damage avoidance for a brass case.

Pobeda Zim and illustration

The odd case shape – with parallel lugs leading to a concave radius bowing out to sharply meet faintly convex sides – made me think the shape was a result of efficient manufacture rather than a deliberate styling choice. I imagine a brass plate being stamped out with repeating shapes for minimal waste, but that’s just a theory. I can’t really explain it otherwise, but I doubt it is a nod to porthole hinges.

The crown end and case back both show concentric tool marks, the former being especially unsightly. Whether these are original or restoration efforts is anyone’s guess.

Pobeda Zim caseback

The white dial has slim crisp black sans-serif roman numerals. I’m quite fond of how the 6 o’clock index appears shrunken instead of truncated. Subtle little red minute markers are there at the very edge, matching the even smaller indices on the small seconds sub-dial.

The stylized script ZIM (Завод имени Масленникова or Maslennikov Watch Factory) logo is tastefully petite. The only complaint that I can muster for the dial: the slender Roman numerals are not the easiest indices to read at a glance, proving that I’ve never had a watch without Arabic numeral indices.

Did you see the incomplete printing at the bottom of the 40 on the seconds dial? That’s the only real manufacturing flaw I could find. There are tiny Cyrillic characters (Сделано в СССР) at the edge under 6 o’clock.

I know that CCCP means USSR but, being a dunce, it took seeing a version of the dial online with the same marking in English to realize it simply read “Made in USSR.” I can hear the eye rolls from readers used to seeing “SWISS MADE” in this position.

The Pobeda Zim’s main hands are blued dauphine, the seconds hand is a baton with a lollipop back. They look black in most conditions. When enough light hits them at the right angles they really come to life. I dare say they popped. I thought I was above enjoying such petty details, but apparently not.

Pobeda Zim dial

The crown is very short, which looks smart and doesn’t dig into the back of the hand. It doesn’t give you much to grab onto. The fluting is aggressively sharp, though, so there’s grip. Comfort, not so much.

The winding sensation reminds one of thumbing a Zippo’s flint wheel repeatedly in the wind. It rubs you a little raw. The ratcheting is also sparse. Go over a quarter turn and it will fully and sharply snap back without catching. Avoid releasing while winding.

There is no ambiguity about when the Pobeda Zim is fully wound; it hits a hard stop. That bitty seconds hand finally starts its slow crawl. The Russian timepiece initially seemed to have a power reserve of under under 18 hours. This improved dramatically and it now runs about 30 hours, although the time varied by a couple hours in identical tests. A week and a half of daily winding kept the watch humming without any multi-minute inaccuracy.

Pobeda ZIM 2602 movement

There’s no hacking thanks to the base movement design: a French LIP R-26 dating to 1908. To aid precision, the 2602 engine has a Breguet overcoil balance spring. The balance wheel is made Glucydur (beryllium copper with some iron). It’s hard, nonmagnetic, corrosion-resistant, and barely varies in size with temperature. It is my understanding that the Soviet Union isn’t exactly Miami Beach at this or any other time of year, so the choice makes sense .

I couldn’t figure out why the ZIM name was on the dial when they made the movement for a watch by Pobeda. And then I hit up stonehengewatchcompany.com . . .

The ZIM factory originally made munitions for WWI and WWII. The Ruskies started producing the caliber 2602 for Pobeda watches in 1950 – and kept going for over 50 years. The Kremlin itself established Pobeda in 1945. Stalin chose the name (ПОБЕДА), meaning Victory, to commemorate not losing the Second World War.

The Pobeda Zim comes attached to a decent quality mock croc/faux alligator padded leather band. Despite my distaste for black leather and exotic grains. I wore it without issue, but I was happy that my collection of 18mm nylon straps fits the lugs.

I lamented the lack of date function, as I always do. Otherwise, the Zim disappeared from notice during wear. It only weighs an ounce (28g) and is 10.6mm thick, with a shirt sleeve-friendly domed crystal.

Soviet watches have a nasty reputation as being crude and unreliable. Believe you me, that would have made a better story.

Besides needing daily winding and having the unhackable bitty seconds sub-dial, the Pobeda ZIM was no worse than any modern quartz I own. It’s vintage good looks are tasteful instead of zany.

Model: Pobeda ZIM 
Price: $82.99 as reviewed

SPECIFICATIONS:

Case diameter: 34mm
Case thickness: 10.6mm
Lug to lug: 42mm
Lug width: 18mm
Case metal: Chrome plated brass
Band: Original unknown
Crown: fluted
Weight: 28g (1.0 oz)
Crystal: Domed Acrylic
Lume: N/A
Movement: Calibre 2602, 15 jewels
Power Reserve:
approx. 30 hours (observed)
Water Resistance: N/A
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Design * * * *
Pure class. Soviet staid to the max, the vintage styling is time capsule authentic and free of frivolity.

Legibility * *
Classic size is not big; small seconds are small. Lume not there but contrast is just fine. Roman numerals have been not about legibility for a long time.

Comfort * * * *
I could try again in hotter weather, but no fault was found outside the knowledge of the sharp corners. Small and light with an unobtrusive crown is comfort in my book.

Overall * * * *
I really wanted it to be quirkier, more problematic, and exotically archaic. It let me down by being an uncomically handsome dress watch that didn’t really need any coddling or concern beyond a daily winding.

-40-

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I didn’t expect a heirloom when I bought a Vostok Amphibia, but Soviet watches are surprisingly robust: it still works after ten years.

  2. No way, you have an Amphibia! That is an engineering coup, at least the pressure resistant sealing techniques. I hear they are iffy on precision timekeeping, and huge beasts, but otherwise solid.
    We don’t have a review of that yet (hint, hint), and I highly doubt they really changed anything. Plus my thin wrist doesn’t want to test it despite a detached appreciation.

    • Mine is a beast. The power reserve is 40 hours (although in the last six months it has dropped to 14 hours) and it was (and still is) precise. I’ve done some dumb things with it and it has taken a lot of abuse. It’s a fantastic Dad with small children/ and or vacation watch. I won’t get another soviet watch when this one bites the dust, but I understand why people love them.

  3. Is it normal or traditional to have Roman numerals in the bottom half of the dial to be inverted? They are oriented such that you’d have to rotate the watch (if off the wrist) to read them normally. On the wrist, you’d have to be at least “double-jointed” to see the 5 o’clock to 8 o’clock numerals in the proper orientation. Bonus is that the 4 o’clock numeral works either way! 😉

    • Funny you ask, as I just noticed the lower half number flip for radially oriented Arabic numerals yesterday. Based on very brief searching, it looks like cathedral clocks tend to have the base facing center, as does the classic Cartier tank watch. Modern watches, it seems to be a tossup on whether the lower half of the dial has the numbers spun (numeral base outward) for improved legibility.

      My suspicion is that the pure radial, number bottoms to the inside/center, is the traditional style. If anyone knows more on the matter, I’m curious myself.

    • In truth, the bitty small seconds hand on this watch were the motivation for that piece. I found the feature useless except as a sign of life, and even that took several seconds to verify motion. Admittedly, I needed it for anything else.

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