Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Montana... a digital watch

A cheap Chinese electronic watch called for some reason "Montana".

Quite some history behind this watch, in a previous incarnation it was made in Hong Kong when Hong Kong was one of the pioneers and centers of electronic watch design, almost on a par with Japan in the late 1970s and the 1980. This watch was well known in the USSR.

But this version is a cheap Chinese version, whilst retaining the functionality of the original though, especially its famed "melodies" or simple tunes.

You can buy them say in Moscow for RUB 150 which is about USD 3 or 4.

The post Soviet Electronika-77 watch is said to be a clone of the Hong Kong predecessor of this watch lacking only its "hourly chime" and being more honest with the number of the melodies, see below.

Lots of things that are bad (cheap) about this watch: for starters, the bracelet is very poor, too small, made of like tin foil and dropping its push bars easily.  The buttons are not very responsive on this particular specimen. Other than that everything works. 

The number of "melodies" is not 16 as stated but 7 or 8.

The bird is aspiring to be the American eagle, no?


 Easy to open the back.

 All functions work.

In case someone is interested here is a manual to go with it, as it is typically sold without one.

Here is a video in Russian of the Electronika-77 which is a better made clone of the Montana but out of production already.


  1. Hi, I am from Hong Kong. What you write here about electronic watch manufacturing in Hong Kong in 1970s and 1980s was true indeed! You have good knowledge of world history and watches! Electronic watches manufactured in Hong Kong then were of very high quality and reliability indeed.
    I am a sometime and part-time watch collector as well. I also like economy and quality watches from around the world, including both Russia and former USSR.
    I LOVE Russian/USSR watches. I have more than 20 Russian watches. 10 of them are Vostok.
    I appreciate both Chinese and Russian watch manufacturers from the Communist era. They were REAL watch manufacturers manufacturing movements. They were state-owned and operated under the Communist years. Hence it was possible for these factories to manufacture quality mechanical watches at affordable prices for all people in those years. Compared with many new shallow and commercial watch brands today, this philosophy is noble, such history and engineering are solid.
    For this reason, I appreciate Vostok very much. It keeps this philosophy till today. Sadly, it is not the case for all other Russian watch factories/manufacturers: Poljot, Slava, Raketa, Molnija. You must know the new automatic movement from Raketa last year...
    For the same reasons, Chinese watch factories/manufacturers with solid history and roots from the Communist years manufacture good movements and watches in fact. I highly recommend Seagull Watch of China, especially its 1963 chronograph re-issue model.

    1. Hello, KL!
      Thank you very much for you comment. I agree with everything you are saying. I too have an interest in Chinese watches, especially those that come from those great factories that were once state-owned. It seems that the socialist economy is uniquely suitable for purposes of industrialized production of affordable quality watches. Only China now retains the base of such large-scale production, whereas almost everyone else has either lost this ability (Russia, USA) or is into "manufacture" of expensive watches in small quantities by "shallow" and over-commercialized profiteering companies (not to take away from the established high-end brands but their philosophy is different).
      I also think the 1963 chronograph re-issue is one to have in anybody's collection, and it is on my prospective wish list also, and a great mechanical movement it is too.

    2. In retrospect, yes, the industrialisation during the Communist years was somehow crucial for both USSR and China.
      I always cite this example: even today, we can never find a real Swiss made watch, or even a Swiss brand watch under US$500 (or even US$1,000) with screw-down crown. Yet we get it in every Vostock Komandirskie and Amphibia from 1965 up till.....today! Unlike the marketing gimmicks, screw-down crown is truly functionally for watches.

      The former state-owned and real watch manufacturing factories in China went through extremely difficult situations from 1990s to early 2000s under the economic reform. Many smaller factories were closed or went bankrupt. It was so painful for the workers. My friend witnessed this years ago: the general manager of a small watch factory was obliged to sell heaps of new watch movements as scarp metal, in kilograms, as so to repay the factory's debts. The manager, the watchmakers and the crafted workers must be in tears then...
      Only the big watch factories like Seagull Watch and Shanghai Watch survived. Otherwise, Chinese watchmaking industry would be more colourful now. You are right here: the survivors have been doing better and better then in recent years.

      From 2000 to now, I have been really upset to read similar stories happening to the great watch factories in Russia. In your opinion, can Vostok keep this great tradition? If yes, is Vostok the ONLY exception in Russia? In fact, I did email Vostok before to praise this tradition.

      I want to raise one case for our common view on profiteering Swiss/European/American watch brands or companies. And this one is even not manufacturing real in-house movements. It is Invicta from USA. A case relevant to USSR. These years, It has kept promoting its credit over the very big, famous former USSR real diver watch from Zlatoust Watch Factory. Invicta's story was sort of the grandmother of its original founder was related to Hampden Watch from the USA Blah...blah...blah.... Hence Invicta claims the credit of the Zlatoust diver watches.... This is a joke! That is probably why a member (an American himself) in WatchUSeek calls Invicta a 'morally bankrupt' watch company.

    3. Great comment, thank you, KL.

      It is good to be reminded of the Vostok screw-down crown. I have some Vostok watches with the crown and have been taking it for granted. But thanks to the point you made about it, I too see that it is one of Vostok's strong points. No way you can find a screw-down crown in a watch priced competitively with Vostok.

      Regarding the Chinese watch industry, I agree with you it is doing okay now. One can hardly call it differently considering that China is now the biggest producer of mechanical movements and makes every type of movement there is really. Too bad though about those small factories that you mentioned. Indeed the watch scene could be more colorful. As watch collectors and enthusiasts we can hardly say no to more varieties of movements, watches etc.

      As for Vostok, I am not quite sure but I would like to be hopeful. The factory went through reorganization in the recent past, I think even bankruptcy was mentioned. And it now exists not as the large joint-stock company of the 1990s and early 2000s and certainly not as a large state-owned enterprise it had been before that but as a collection of small enterprises which may have been done for various optimization purposes. The good thing is that it retains the ability to produce movements and most of the watch periphery in house. This is promising.
      I certainly do my part supporting Vostok by buying at least one new Vostok watch every year in recent years.

      I've heard about the Invicta Russian Diver story. Yes, it seems to have no basis in reality at all but at least they make some Russian-themed watches which can't be too bad. Also, Invicta in its previous incarnation as a Swiss watch company did have a lot of connection with Russia going back all the way to before WWI. I think they use Chinese movements too in some of their watches which is good too.