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In the Soviet clock industry an Amfibia watch was what the west would call a "Diver" watch. Produced in great quantities for the Soviet and Russian military, these watches gained great popularity worldwide. The Vostok Amphibia or Raketa Amphibia are Russian diving watch created respectively in 1967 and 1968 for the USSR's navy.
The Amphibia creation was led by Vostok's chief of their new design bureau. The objectives were to create a watch that was competitive with contemporary diving watch such as the Blancpain 50 Fathoms, the Rolex Submariner, and the watches using the compressor case, and to create a watch that could operate reliably at the temperature and pressure of a depth of 200 meters (and later 300 meters). The chief designers were Mikhail Fedorovich Novikov and Vera Fedorovna Belova.
According to Mikhail Novikov, the name “Amphibia” was chosen in a contest among the watch factory’s employees. It was named after the amphibians for their quality of being equally comfortable on land and in water.
On the way to creating the first Soviet diver watch, the developing team had to go through quite a lot of difficulties. Since similar foreign counterparts were patented it was impossible to simply copy them and everything had to be developed from scratch. The team had to design a special technology for glass, start manufacturing special rubber, and adapt to working with steel instead of brass.
In 1967 the first batch of the Amphibia watches rolled off the factory line, it could withstand depths up to 200 meters. Due to the high popularity of the model, in the 70s, the factory together with GLAVCHASPROM started developing a new model that could be used by divers in the 300-meter depth.  This new watch had to go through a tough test in the field during a maritime exercise in the North Sea. The divers practiced submarine rescue while wearing Amphibia watches.
In 1975 a Soviet cosmonaut Georgy Grechko wore the Amphibia watch during the Soyuz 17 mission to the Salyut 4 space station which led to the even higher popularity of Amphibia watches among people all over the world.
The Amphibia is the embodiment of possibly the most simple concept for creating a watertight case. The basic principle is to use the outside pressure to create the seal needed to prevent water from entering the case. The further the case sinks, the higher the outside pressure, the higher pressure is exerted on the case, creating a dynamically tighter seal. This is opposed to the idea where you create a case that creates the pressure to withstand 20ATM of pressure no matter what pressure it experiences (1 ATM at sealevel, for instance). This is a design similar to the western compressor case, a patent for which was filed at least as early as 1954, and granted in '56(US pat. 2,737,009). The advantage of the compression design is that you do not need to tighten any of the seals to a pressure that would withstand 20ATM, it also eliminates several pieces required to create such a seal.
The Amphibia's crystal is 3mm thick lucite(50% thicker than standard) that is ground like a precision lens to create a very good size and seal. The lucite deforms plasticity by a half millimeter under pressure whereas the slightest deformation of a glass or sapphire crystal would crack it. This allows a much lighter, smaller, cheaper crystal to be used. It also does not require the extra rubber seals and a very high pressure crystal retaining ring.
While a traditional caseback gasket would experience shear forces with the rotation of a screwback case used for a traditional hermetic case that would leave the gasket permanently compressed, making it unable to return to its original shape and unsuitable for reuse, the Amphibia uses a very wide sintered gasket. This solved a problem found during the design where when surfacing, the gasket which had been compressed by 20-30% decompressed slower than the pressure on the caseback, critically weakening the seal. To fix the problem of the O-Ring shear, they used a bayonet mount held in place by a nut. This use of a very large gasket distributes the force of the pressure which can be a problem with O-rings.
The case is made of stainless steel. The thickness of the caseback is 1MM, double the regular thickness. The crown screws down with a gasket to prevent water from entering from the stem opening. The stem incorporates a clutch to protect it from lateral forces. This clutch gives the stem a wobbly feel as it doesn't engage unless you pull the crown away from the watch.
The watch includes a rotating bezel which is used to mark the time you first submersed. The dial and hands also have luminescent so that the watch can be read in the darkness of ocean depths.
There has been a few designs of Raketa's Amphibian watches, the first where designed in 1968 by Serebriakov from the Raketa Design Studio. Much larger than the Vostok Amphibia, the Raketa Amphibia was actually produced in more limited series for special orders from Navy and other military departments.
The Amphibia was first equipped with the Vostok 2209 movement, a manual wind movement with no calendar. Later models used the Vostok 2409 and 2414 which added a date complication, and the 2416 which is an automatic movement that winds itself any time the watch is moved. The dateless version of the 2416, the 2415 was used in the reissue of the 1967 Amphibia.
There was a problem including traditional built in lugs with the new stainless steel Amphibia case, so for the first case design, model 350, fixed lugs were added on. Later versions included attached lugs that swung before they incorporated integral lugs to the case. Later model cases include the integral lug model (420), the hexagon case, the ministry case (710), and the new curvy 060, and the tonneau/paddle model.
Currently Amphibia line of watches (Classic) have eight different models of cases and Amfibia line has one.
In the 60's and 70's the Raketa Amphibia was equipped with movement "Raketa 2609" The new design finished in 2014 is equipped with the new movement Raketa Avtomat.
The modern Amphibias have:
|Amphibia Raketa vs Vostok||Power reserve||Water resistance||Luminecence|
|Raketa||48 hours, self-winding automatic movement||40 ATM||Super luminova|
|Vostok||31 hours, self-winding automatic movement||20 ATM||classic luminova|
- The Amphibia was worn by Steve Zissou in the eponymous Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
- One of the Amphibia dials includes the outline of a diver. This has been nicknamed "scuba dude". Blue scuba dude is dial 059.
- Raketa Amphibia gained popularity since President Vladimir Putin started wearing it from time to time
This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (February 2013)
- Russian Watches Museum from Peterhof
- "Amphibia Watch History". 2016-10-26.
- "About the Chistopol factory. Official website".
- "The Best Watches with Soviet Past". 2013-01-30.
- "Amphibia 12K New Collection". 2016-08-22.
- Raketa official site