Vostok Europe watches are here to stay. You can read why in our previous blog post, here.
We will do an article on each line of Vostok Europe watches starting with the Almaz.
Almaz means diamond in russian. So, that's our starting point.
In the midst of the Cold War and the race to become the first ever to reach outer space, the Almaz project was born under the leadership of the OKB-52's design Bureau's Chief Designer Vladimir Chelomei, and it was thus announced on October 12, 1964. However, in line with the Cold War's nature, Chelomei needed a challenge from the US administration to justify the allocation of soviet resources to the program. Said challenge came after all, from Lyndon B Johnson who, after having been in office only for several weeks following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, stated that he would consider the development of MOL, (Manned Orbiting Laboratory), which would enable the US Air Force to explore military potential of a man in space.
With the MOL the US Air Force would be able to explore military potential of a man in space.
On October 27, 1965 the Ministry of General Machine Building approved the Almaz program, only a short time after Johnson, from across the pond, gave the order to build MOL in August 25, 1965.
The "Diamond" was yet another statement of brilliance and vision on Chelomei's part.
The ambition of the program was surpassed only by its needs. First, Chelomei needed to get the green light for the project. And it was to be a program that would come to live on long after Chelomei.
Preliminary work on the Almaz project apparently started around 1963.
A TsNIIMash research institute's veteran remembered seeing a mockup of the reentry capsule for the Almaz station and of the station itself while on a guided visit around Chelomei's facilities. It was designed for a three-person crew and an operational life of one or two years.
After a strenuous yet successful period spanning almost 20 years with Almaz stations OPS-1 (Salyut 2), OPS-2 (Salyut 3), OPS-3 (Salyut 5),being launched to orbit, political pressure and a bitter strife between Dimitry Ustinov, a powerful Communist Party executive and an old Stalinist who had been in charge of overseeing Russia's rocket development program since its inception in 1946, and Chief Designer Chelomei.
On June 28th, 1978 the Soviet government cancelled the development of Manned Orbital Stations at Chelomei's bureau. Furthermore, opponents to the Almaz program pinpointed the complexity of the new step of the program and argued against its approval. Also, the TsKB design bureau, was pushing to use their own satellite bus, citing cost as one of the reasons.
On December 19, 1981, Ustinov, Chelomei's lifelong enemy, after having finally attained the position and the power necessary to make sure that Chelomei never got another project off the ground, managed to get the Party and the Soviet Ministers to issue a decree that would officially shut down the entire program.
Dimitry Ustinov, Soviet Minister of Defense and Marshall of the Soviet Union. He was also Chelomei's most ardent rival.
On December 20, 1984, Ustinov met his fate a few days after Chelomei met his. However, all was not lost. Existing hardware for three Almaz-T spacecraft had been put away by the NPO Mash, by order of its leader, Chelomei himself, when the order to cancel the program was issued,in case the project was ever revisited. Ironically, the three spacecrafts arrived on the very day Ustinov parted from this world.
Vladimir Chelomei, Chief Designer of the Almaz Project.
Chelomei's successor as head of NPO Mash, Gerbert Efremov tried to revive the Almaz-T project. In 1986 he was given the go ahead.
After a 5 year stint including a delay of 6 months, a failed launch, a miracle and some successes, with the USSR's collapse government funding was no longer possible and despite the many attempts of the NPO Mash to find funding for it in the private sector, and so the project was finally cancelled and shelved.
In 2009 a company named Excalibur Almaz, based out of Isle of Man in the United Kingdom, wanted to use Soviet era inspired vehicles, similar to the ones that were used to fly cosmonauts to the Almaz Space Station, to launch commercial shuttles into outer space.
This is a story that contains heeps of passion and love for exploration. It presents itself as a enthralling story of ambition, self interest, vengeance, ego glory in one of the most delicates era's in mankind's history. The Almaz project, the Diamond project was an epic tale of discovery, knowledge and brilliance pitted against a series of events and a context so overwhelming that would eventually bury the project along with its creators.
Until Vostok Europe watches came along.
Now that I know the story that inspired the watch it is impossible for me to "unsee" the Almaz space station whenever I see a Vostok Europe Almaz. The presence, the boldness, and the statement of design and engineering make it a worthy tribute to that era of human brilliance and valor, where ambition can go higher than the atmosphere's barrier.
A Vostok Europe Almaz is more than a nice looking watch. It's strong and doesn't feel too heavy on the wrist. It is reliable, it is a dynamic watch that can be used for almost any occasion. With a Water Resistance of 200 mts you can wear and use an Almaz watch on diving trips. Its dial is something to look at, chronograph, superluminova, and its use of colors is quite tasteful to say the least. Subtle, yet the contrasts it manages to create, aid in creating a perfectly balanced timepiece that manages to convey a precise image of heritage, history, love and passion for outer space and deep space exploration. It also consumates the romance behind a project that could have been so much more had things gone down differently. The Vostok Europe Almaz line of watches manages to stretch the confines of the imagination enough to see with clarity what could have been. An Almaz watch is a watch for dreamers.