Tochmekh would eventually be dissolved at the beginning of the 2nd Five Year Plan in 1933, three years after 1 and 2GCHZ were established.
Pruss did in fact establish, and for a short period run, the MONO (Moscow Department of Education) training facility, which trained teenagers in the watchmaking arts. A high proportion of the students were desitute street children many of whom were female, this infact set a trend whereby the majority of Soviet watchmaking was undertaken by women right up to the present time. In September 1929 the People's Commissariat transferred the MONO organisation to Tochmekh and Pruss was reduced to the role of "General Consultant". By 1937 he was working at the 4th office of Ministry of Defence Industry.
The Dueber-Hampden Watch Company was located in Canton, Ohio, and sold it's watches under the Hampden brand. With no interest in the Hampden or Dueber trade names, they assigned them back to the liquidator.
*The Amtorg Trading Corporation was based at 165 Broadway, New York City, and after 1929 at 261 Fifth Avenue. Amtorg is an acronym of Американская торговая - American Trading. It was formed by the amalgamation of the Products Exchange Corp. (1919), Armand Hammer’s Alamerico and Arcos-America Inc. (1923). The latter was the US office of the UK based All Russian Co-operative Society (ACROS).It became the first Soviet trade delegation in the US when in May 1924 it was established to assist the USSR’s import and export companies seeking to conduct legitimate trade. It would continue in this role throughout the Soviet era.Amtorg's chief commissioner for the purchase of the Dueber-Hampden factory was Mr A. Vladiminsky. Although based in New York, he would spend much time in Canton negociating with the Receiver Raymond Loichot.
Another major Amtorg contract was concluded with the American Architect Albert Kahn. Kahn was best known as the architect who designed many Detroit car plants, including Ford's. Around the time of the construction of 1GCHZ Kahn had set up a factory design bureau in Moscow. It is most probable that 1GCHZ was designed by Kahn's company as it meets all the criteria he established for model Soviet factories.
* It was reported by one of the American watchmakers, who later travelled to Moscow, that one of the men they met, as the Canton equipment was packed, had defected to Germany on the return trip. This may have been Dreyer, about whom little is recorded.
By April 1930 a steamboat with the Dueber-Hampden equipment aboard had left for Russia. Twenty-eight freight cars full of machinery and parts were transported from Canton to Moscow. These acquisitions were the embryo that helped to establish an impressive industry that still flourishes to this day.
|Aboard the RMS Aquitaine. Photo from William Goodenberger's scrapbook now at the McKinley Library & Museum.|
Three views of the factory. Top; pre 1935. Middle; Post 1935 with Kirov name added to sign and Clock Tower. Bottom: From surrounding suburbs.
Below: 22 of the 23 Dueber-Hampden staff who travelled to Moscow. Sue Killen is missing.
Each Canton man, who was originally a foreman or above, would head-up a Moscow department to train the Russian workers. For example Collins Wilcox, was head of the flat steel screw department, at which he had worked in Canton for 41 years. William Goodenberger worked in the Plate Dept. Albert Shoutz ran the Machine Shop. Karl Krumm had been responsible for jeweling the movements. All the Americans reported that they were well looked after and that all their expenses were met. They were given pay even when they were too ill to work and free hospital treatment, neither of which they enjoyed in Canton. Each worker was said to have been paid around $4,650 ($66,000 in todays money) plus $300 expences and provided with a cook and a waiter. One of the party, Ira Aungst, head of Modelmaking and the first Cantononian to have been employed by John Dueber, was very impressed by the speed that the Russians picked up the skills, especially the women. After English, German was the most common language used between the US and Russian workers. It's interesting to note that North Canton (the site of the Dueber-Hampden factory) was called New Berlin until 1918 and had been predominantly settled by German immigrants. The photographs below show some of the first Soviet trained watchmakers (часовщиком).
William Goodenberer made a scrapbook and in it he kept newspaper cuttings of the trip, postcards, photo's of some of the Moscovites they trained and many other momentoes. It's probably the best record that was compiled. Interestingly, the book itself was made from an old Dueber-Hampden factory production ledger.
|A collection of their Russian colleagues from William Goodengerers scrapbook now at the McKinley Library & Museum.|
There is not evidence that souvenir watches were brought back, nor that they were they given as presentations. Certainly their leader, John C. Miller, was not rewarded this way.
In a radio broadcast on Canton's WHBC station in 1949, it was reported that Karl Krumm had died in October 1949, but that seven of the watchmakers from the Russian expedition, all residents of Canton, were still living; namely, Burt Beebout, James Davis, Alfred Fravel, Victor Roust, Louis Ryman, Albert Shoutz and William Woessner. There was a strong possibility that William Goodenberger was also still living, but that could not be verified.
The actual body ordering production is difficult to pinpoint, but was most likely either the Council of Labor and Defence, or the Supreme Economic Council. From 1932 the following Commissariat's and institutes took over direct responsibility.
- НКТП - 1932 to 1936 People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry.
- НКМ - 1936 to 1938 People's Commissariat of Engineering.*
- НКОМ - 1938 to 1940 People's Commissariat of General Engineering.*
- NIIP, NII-5 & NIIChasprom - 1940+ (see below).
* HKM & HKOM appears on the movements of watches from 1GCHZ & 2GCHZ during the dates shown. ** Marine/Aviation chronometer with a NII-5 signed dial is cataloged in Mark Gordon's former collection.According to niichasprom.ru the Institute was established by the order of People's Commissariat of General Engineering in September 1940 as the Research Institute of Instruments or NIIP and later in December 1943 by order No. 459 of the People's Commissariat Mortar Weapons, the Research Institute of the Main Directorate of the Fifth Commissariat of Mortar Weapons or NII-5**. Entrusted with all matters of technical policy in the field of watchmaking. During the Great Patriotic War, the institute continued to operate and carry out state orders for military purposes. Later transformed into Research Institute of the Watch Industry or NIIChasprom.
|Typical Hampden, Canton made, Size 16 movement with its distinctive Twin-Bridge layout.|
The Type-1 in either pocket watch or wrist watch configuration are often referred to as Kirovskie's. However, strictly speaking this should only be used to describe watches made after 1935 at 1GCHZ Kirov. Many post war models made at the First Moscow Watch Factory Kirov, like the Probeda, are also called Kirovskie's.
Some sources site the Lip (see Guest Contributions) collaboration as the foundation of Soviet manufacture, but it wasn't until 1936, when Lip had financial problems back home in France, that Fred Lipmann signed a deal with the USSR to export technology and parts. This was some six years after the start of Type-1 production by the 1GCHZ in Moscow. Lip's modern designs no doubt highlighted the shortcomings of the aged Hampden pocket watch technology, nevertheless, the Type-1 was the first watch to be manufactured in the USSR and was modelled on a Hampden Size 16 movement with the distinctive Twin-Bridge layout (although in fact the two bridges were one piece with a milled out slot in the middle - later in the blog there is an example of a bridge without the slot). It was robust, repairable, accurate and reliable. Furthermore the Type-1 lasted until the 1980's in one guise or another.
Bodrov's decision to buy old technology with which the country could cope was vindicated in testaments found in reports from the mid 30's. With the introduction of more sophisticated watches (Lip), the Soviets desperately tried to recruit hundreds of Swiss and other western watchmakers, as there were too few skilled workers in the SU. Many of these recruits were suffering deprivation from the depression affecting the west, some were idealistic socialists. But the plan failed generally; for one thing the Swiss authorities made emigration difficult, for another the promised Soviet utopia failed to materialise, making life harsh for those watchmakers and their families that had emigrated. In the period leading unto WWII the vast majority returned having all their possessions and funds confiscated at the border.
Pruss was fundamental in this recruitment as he was one of a few Russians with good contacts in Switzerland. He was still convinced that the pocket watch technology approach had been a mistake. In the end his attempts failed and because of his association with foreigners it possibly contributed to him facing a trumped-up charged of spying, for which he paid with his life.
During the early part of the 20th century 'Dollar Watches' were popular in America and made the ownership of a timepiece available to the masses. One such basic pin-pallet movement was offered by the Ansonia company at 99¢ and it would have seemed logical for the Soviets to adopt this Ansonia model. In 1957 a British delegation visiting the Moscow and Penza watch factories (see appendix) discovered that no pin-pallets were made at all. Some time ago, they reported, a pin-pallet wrist watch was put on the Soviet market but it was not successful and apparently "would not sell, even to a timepiece hungry population". The Dollar Watch was a disposable item in a non-disposable economy and I think the term "would not sell" probably got misinterpreted.
Romanov tells us: Amtorg entered into negotiations with a watch works (possibly New Haven), to train 200 of our engineers and technicians, they consented on the provision that the USSR would buy 200 thousand pieces of cheap "dollar" watches. 20 thousand watches were purchased and sent back to the USSR for feedback on their quality. Reviews were negative. These dollar clock were inaccurate and resisted repair.
The country needed a reliable watch with a long life, so the question of the production of "dollar" pocket watches in the USSR was withdrawn from the agenda.
For an understanding of the different early Soviet movements take a look at the guest article, at the end, written by PMWAS. Unlike me, he is able to explain the technical details in some depth.
This situation is further highlighted by the document below. Hand, Mainspring, Hairspring and Jewel manufacture was being introduced gradually and 1GCHZ management are tersely stating that without the import of these components production would cease.
I'm grateful for the co-operation of Marco Stella for his interpretation and understanding of this document.
Later in the evening the workers and engineers of 1GCHZ gathered in the social club for a conference, to take stock and to discuss their progress and the forthcoming year of 1932, the last year of the First Five Year Plan.
The chairman of the factory committee Sokova (Salkova) welcomed their guests from the 2GCHZ who were, in addition to electric clocks and other timers, now producing alarm clocks and table clocks using the parts and machines from the American Ansonia company.
On on October 1st 1930, "the day of the hammer" we started up the plant. The first year was a learning year for us. We did not fulfil our financial plan, we have made only forty-two thousand pieces of watches. Machines were breaking down and there was no repair shop. There was a shortage of skilled workers. Elaborate rules were not yet established. What rules there were lacked teeth and there was not enough detail. What about the second year? We have solved our bottlenecks one by one. We now have an excellent repair shop and the machines are repaired. Our teaching schools give us trained and well prepared youths. Three thousand rules of operation are now available. By December our plan was fulfilled by 135 percent. These figures, comrades, must be music to our factory!”
“We got an order from the trust to release in 1932 sixty thousand watches. However, the factory workers have put forward a counter-plan for seventy thousand watches, of good quality!”.
I have greatly reduced and simplified the content, which goes into far more detail about the production of watches and discusses the workers inventiveness. Overall I found the book informative, but it isn't possible not to be a little cynical - such as with the last quotation above.
Two reason why these watches may have not survived.
1). In Romanov's 1981 book on the history of watchmaking he seems to imply that the fledgling industry has troubles enough producing one type of watch. Much of the material was still either imported or not up to the standard used in the US factory, making production difficult. Some of the Canton workshops had not been sent to Moscow leaving gaps in manufacturing facilities. Taking on 4 types was curtailed and the vast majority of effort went into the Type-1.
2). There is anecdotal evidence that during the Great Patriotic War many of the women who wore Type-3 & 4 watches were communist party activists, probably given them as rewards. Ownership of these watches would be a 'poisoned chalice' marking out a wearer, making them especially vulnerable to capture by Axis forces resulting in almost certain death. Once this was recognised many women would seek to discarded their treasured watches and this may well account for the lack of surviving models. Indeed the very early Type-3 and 4 would have been handed out to very high ranking party members as they were ultra scarce. The Zvevda ladies watches from Penza made after 1936 would have been more numerous.
During the 1920’s the range of articles produced by Artel (Artisan) co-operatives was very extensive; they produced not only consumer goods but also factory equipment, tractor parts and precision instruments. The 1930's saw a change towards confining Artel production primarily to consumer goods. This curtailment allowed the highly centralised 'Command Economy' to replace co-operative production.
These two pages are from the 1932 catalog shown on the USSR Watches website of Dmitry Trošinu
A collection courtesy of Pmwas (WUS/f10 and NAWCC forum). He has reinstated them whilst retaining their originality.
A collection courtesy of Alex Ballod. Types 2/3/4 have Hampden movements, the Type-2 being a 'Viking' movement, the Type-3 a No. "400" and an "8.0" movement in the Type-4.
PKK (РПК), another Artel, but possibly one that was hastily organised at the start of the Great Patriotic War rather than one in the accepted sense of the Artel movement. Type-1 watches were produced/finished-off/assembled in Pushkino a town located at the confluence of the Ucha and Serebryanka rivers, 30 kilometres northeast of Moscow. Surviving examples are uncommon.
The eventual fate of the watchmaking Artels is elusive but as a child of Lenin's 'State Capitalism' policy they may have struggled to survive Stalin's 'Collectivization' period which extended up to the start of the Great Patriotic War.
The Type-17 'Brick'.
Still on the subject of Artels, the first watch thought to have be wholly designed and manufactured in the USSR was designated the Type-17 and it is the rarest watch I own. It's not clear if the Type-17 ends as seventeen or in effect Type-1 version 7. If it is the former then it means there are 13 unknown types, between the Type-4 (above) and the Type-17.
|Type-17 dial fonts, hands & logos|
|TYPE-1 MODIFIED STOPWATCHES (likeness courtesy of chasy.ru)|
Many dials are plain, especially true of wartime watches. Dials with pictures of tanks, planes, subs, hammer & sickle, Stalin or Lenin are tourist/fantasy fakes.
Other points about dials...
Some dials have a 12 hour chapter ring some have an extra 24 hour ring.
Reverse designs of black dials with white lettering were made for instances where that arrangement aided visibility or stealth.
There are serial numbers stamped into some dial, most likely for military issue.
Radium was used to highlight numbers, hour spots and hands, in the dark.
Most dials are metal (brass), painted and screen printed, however, there were some early paper covered dials.
In my experience factory logo's only appear on the dials of the first four factories to produce Type-1's (see above) and not on the other satellite factories (movements are different, they do all have distinct stamps). Many Type-1's do not have any dial markings at all. In addition I have not seen an authentic Type-1 with a 1st Moscow Watch Factory logo, or 2nd Moscow Factory logo. My observations only.
- First State Watch Factory (1ый ГЧЗ).
- First Moscow Watch Factory (1ый МЧЗ).
PMWAS discusses the differences in Type-1 movements from factory to factory in his guest article section towards the end.
One way collectors ensure the watch is not a franken (enthusiasts word for a watch made up from different watches - from frankenstein) is to cross reference the logo on the dial with the movement stamp or style. However, there are exceptions, for example when the Second State Factory started Type-1 production, they used movements supplied by the First State Factory.
It was in April 1935 that a third factory, 3GCHZ, was formed in Penza, a city 625 kilometres southeast of Moscow, from the remnants of the old Frunze Plant, using tooling acquired from Lip. The watches they produced were small, modern wristwatch designs which would later be branded under the name Zvezda (Star). Type-1's were never made at Penza.
On April 21st 1935 a decision was made by the Council of Labor and Defense that instructed 2GCHZ to also assemble pocket watches from parts made at the 1GCHZ.
I wonder if these latter events don't conveniently coincide with the assignment of the Kirov name to 1GCHZ Was this perhaps by way of a placation?
1GCHZ - 1930 - 194
2GCHZ - 1935 - 1941
Zlatoust - 1941 - 197(inconclusive)
Chistopol - 1941 - 195(inconclusive)
Factory 53 - 1943 - 1945
2nd State Watch Factory 2GCHZ
Researching the history of the Soviet watch industry is not easy, access to documentation is very limited. As a consequence parts of the Type-1 story has been the most difficult to assemble. In addition to the general lack of written evidence, all this happened during a time of what could only be described as organised chaos. Much of what I write is conjecture on my part, combined with valued observations from other enthusiasts. Indeed discussions regarding the Great Patriotic War period are evolving constantly. It does appear that whilst the need to evacuate expanded the number of satellite and new factories, workers were still able to keep the original Moscow factories active, as the threat to Moscow alleviated. Factory 53 (or 853) is probably one of the most difficult area to research. The majority of this information has been derived from the Slava (Second State Watch Factory) site history and I must thank Dorofey Goremykin for her assistance with the translation.
November 26. People's Commissariat of General Engineering of the USSR transformed into the People's Commissariat Mortar Weapons of the USSR.
Typical clockwork activated fuses. Left: VZD-6CH TIMING DEVICE. Right: 1936 (40 second) artillery shell fuse.
The English version was greatly facilitated by Marco Stella.
By 1943 the Red Army was on the offensive and the Moscow factory was re-established. This probably coinsides with the time 'State' was replaced in the title with 'Moscow', thus becoming the 'First Moscow Watch Factory - Kirov (logo 1МЧЗ or 1MCHZ in English). The proliferation of factories that occurred when the Zlatoust and Chistopol units were established during WWII may well have prompted the need for a name change. In the excellent Russian Times web site you can find a chronological series of movement logo's with 'State' still being referred to in 1942 but by 1945 they have become "Moscow". In addition, I have a document from 1942 which orders aircraft clocks from 1GCHZ (then in Zlatoust).
To date no documented proof of the name change is readily available, perhaps one day one will surface. What is for sure is that a number of cataloged watches, said to be First Moscow, all have First State logo's and I think that speaks for itself.
The Zlatoust factory was responsible for manufacturing Agat Stopwatches and these had their own movement stamp. This stamp can also be seen on later Type-1 movements. The Agat named lived on and still today markets watches (including a good replica's of the Soviet Navy Divers - Vodolaz).
Directors at Zlatoust.
- 1941 - 1948 Ivan Bocharov.
- 1948 - 1954 Nikolay Gurevich (director of the Chelyabinsk watch plant 1954-1969).
- 1954 - 1961 Alexey V. Kazantsev.
- 1961 - 1967 Boris Potapov
- 1967 - 1968 Boris Prokopevich Klimov
- 1968 - 2000 Anatoly I. Goncharenko
Once again the majority of this information has been derived from the Slava (Second State Watch Factory) site history and I must thank Dorofey Goremykin for her assistance with the translation.
The factory was given the number 835 and indeed did not exclusively become a watch factory until after the end of the war.
In reality there was a whole raft of other work going on behind the Vostok doors. Much of this was electronics research and manufacture for the USSR military. With the break-up of the Soviet Union watch stocks were used as payment to some of the sub-contractors. One such supplier was a Lithuanian research institute which sold the watches on the local streets to pay the wages of their employees. This same institute later became Vostok-Europe which perpetuates the brand today.
Please look in the appendix, where you will see a 1957 US article about the state of the watchmaking industry in the Soviet Union. It reports on a visit by a British horological delegation and contains interesting facts and figures.
- Penza Watch Factory (Пензенский Часовой Завод): for a few years from 1945
- First Moscow Watch Factory (Первый Московский Часовой Завод): 1946 to 1953
- Petrodvorets Watch Factory (Петродворцовый Часовой Завод): 1946 to current time
- Chistopol Watch Factory (Чистопольский часовой завод): 1949 to the c.1950
- Second Moscow Watch Factory (Второй московский часовой завод): 1953 to 1964
- Maslennikov Factory - ZIM (Завод имени Масленникова): c.1951 to 2004
There is a nice 'Guest Article' about the Lip company, just scroll down.
|I am not a Soviet watch collector per-se, my watch accumulation simply reflects my interest in the Hampden legacy. |
There are two exceptions however, my wafer thin Luch 2209 Vymple and a Zvevda Tank, based on the Lip T-18.
|So far 4-59 is the most recent Type-1 domestic watch I've seen (the Vodolaz Type-1's went into the 70's)|
Circa 1970 Volodaz watch with fused bridges. The watch, compass and depth gauge are from my collection.
|Left. Cockpit clock from the I-16 Ishak (Little Donkey). Right. KV-1 heavy tank showing clock in centre.|
|Thanks to Phil at Russian Times for the use of this picture|
|Mantle clock. The milky white translucent glass is not adequately captured by photographs|
MY HUMBLE COLLECTION OF TYPE-1'S, TYPE-4, TYPE-17 AND OTHER VARIANTS
Contact me if you wish to contribute to this project
He has left us the legacy of his 1937 "Practical Guide to watchmaking, parts 1-4" ONTI NKTP USSR, Leningrad, Moscow, 1937. These publications have stood the test of time and are still used for reference by watchmakers today. Previously, Kann had written two other reference books "A Brief History of Watchmaking" (1926) and "Watches and their application" (1928).
“Its time to shake things up, and we understand that we can become a serious competitor in international watchmaking. However, we must not close our eyes to the fact that the current standard of watchmaking abroad is at such a height that it will require considerable efforts to catch up. We are late starting in the industry, very late, but it is not hopeless, because on our side we have the advantage of a large domestic market. The current consumption of our watches, and all kinds of movements, is negligible compared to the potential future demand. Our people certainly have the innate abilities and talents needed for planning and developing a great watch industry, running like clockwork. At this time our craftsmen are not good enough watchmakers and we need to support them by providing them with the modern means of production and the necessary materials. The State Trust of Precision Mechanics should, first and foremost, serve the watchmakers and meet their immediate needs, by supplying them with materials for manufacturing and repairing watches from our own resources. Currently, this is their most important task as it will free us from buying from other watchmaking countries. With this I conclude in the hope that my modest work, together with the respective authorities in the Russian Federation, will combine to do everything in our power to uplift and develope some of the finest timepieces in the world.”
|Fred Lipmann, born 2nd Nov 1905; died 9th Nov 1996|
|T-18 movement which became the Zvevda|
What you see above is a late Hampden 16 size movement, from 1930 on known as the Type 1.
This one has a setting pusher installed outside of the factory, no doubt.
|Detent stem this time.|
|The Type-17 with it’s bizarre design.|
I hope you found this write up – covering most early Soviet calibers – at least a little interesting, thanks for reading.
A COLLECTORS PERSPECTIVE
Written by Hunter Oatman-Stanford.
"A few years ago, amateur horologist Dashiell Oatman-Stanford (who happens to be my brother) unknowingly fell down a rabbit hole into the world of Soviet watches. He has since become part of a small, tight-knit community of Soviet-watch collectors, with more than 1,000 specimens in his personal collection, which ranges from the years preceding the Soviet Union’s founding to the period just after its collapse. Dashiell meticulously restores and researches each of his watches, striving to learn about each product’s unique past and prior owners.
I recently spoke with my brother to discuss the Soviet industry’s prowess and the lasting appeal of vintage mechanical watches..."
The February revolution was in fact the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. It was centered on Petrograd, then the Russian capital. The revolution was confined to the vicinity of the capital and lasted less than a week. It involved mass demonstrations and armed clashes with police and the last loyal forces of the Tsar. In the last days, mutinous Russian Army forces sided with the revolutionaries. The immediate result of the revolution was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire. The Tsar was replaced by a Russian Provisional Government, an alliance between liberals and socialists who wanted political reform. They set up a democratically-elected executive and constituent assembly. At the same time, socialists also formed the Petrograd Soviet, which ruled alongside the Provisional Government, an arrangement termed Dual Power.
We know that after the Civil War Bodrov was rewarded for his loyalty to the Party by becoming the Director of Tochmekh. We have also learnt about his efforts to establish the watch industry. By late 1930 he was transferred to the new State Bearing Plant in Moscow where he again becomes the Director. This was a prestigious appointment in a key industry and one that would require much political diplomacy as at the time different factions were vying for control of decision making. Bodrov was a member of both the local Moscow MK (MGK) committee and so nailed his allegiance to them (which may have been the thin end of a wedge, with the more centralised Politburo becoming more prevalent).
From 1936 he was the Director of the secretive Plant No. 192, where radio control devices for torpedo's etc, were being developed. It was possibly factional infighting that led the ever paranoid Stalinists to associate that the lack of progress at the Plant with sabotage. All of Bodrov's appointments were clearly political, he was neither an academic or an engineer. During the purges, loyalty, ideology and conscientiousness were no protection and along with many many other Bolsheviks and non Bolsheviks he paid with his life. He was arrested, tried and executed within a month, during the Fall in 1938, on the pretence of participating in counter-revolutionary organisations.
1914 - 1917. Putilov Factory& Okhta Gunpowder Factory.
1917 - 1924. Revolutionary & Civil War Bolshevik.
1924 - 1930. Director of Tochmekh.
|Kenneth with his wife to his left.|
Kenneth Edwards, (known locally as Kenneth Vladimirovich) now 100 years old, suffered a stroke over 10 years ago which left him unable to communicate with his Russian family and children. 'I am having to learn Russian all over again', he said in a halting American accent, in Zlatoust an industrial Ural Mountains outpost where he worked, for 60 years, at the Zlatoust (AGAT) Watch Factory.
At home in Zlatoust, his wife Zoya, 84, said 'I say something in Russian to him, and he replies in English,’ 'I only understand what he wants to say by his intonation’.
He rarely used English after his wealthy, idealistic, father Willard moved the family from Alabama to the USSR, believing the future lay with Communism. This was in 1934, the year after Franklin D Roosevelt came to power and Kenneth was just 18 years old.
Kenneth's parents and siblings found a way to escape back to the U.S., but he was stuck because his father had insisted his eldest son should give up his American citizenship and hold only a Soviet passport. Willard himself fled as early as 1935 realising his hopes of teaching in 'progressive' schools under Stalin was fantasy. The commissar who recruited him was later shot as an enemy of the people, during Stalins infamous purges. Detroit-born Marjorie, Kenneth's younger sister, managed to get a job with the U.S. embassy during the Second World War and found a way to flee back to America at the end of hostilities. But she could not secure her beloved brother's release.
Early on he joined as a mechanic at the 1st State Watch Factory-Kirov, whose equipment had ironically been purchased from the United States in 1930. In late 1941 during the siege of Moscow, he along with the complete factory was evacuated to Zlatoust. Kenneth lived through the Great Patriotic War (WWII), as a watch factory worker.
Asked at the time if he had regrets, Kenneth said: 'Those are very hard questions. 'I went to school. I learned a trade. I went to the institute. 'I met my wife here, we had two children. Of course, we had many difficulties.'
His return to speaking English instead of his word perfect Russian had stunned local doctors. In 1992, when he had a reunion in Moscow with his sister Marjorie, he had trouble speaking to her because he had forgotten much of his English. He told her: 'I have a Russian wife and Russian children. I speak only in Russian. I think only in Russian.'
Among his neighbours, he is admired. 'He never drank or smoked and he swam each day until he was 90,' said one. Locals say he has managed to retain a respect for both the U.S. and Russia.
These extracts have been compiled by the author from many sources including a Daily Mail (UK) account of 2011.
November - 1957
These links are either the sources of material or just great horology...
- Arnold, Robert F. and Hernick, James L. Hampden Watch Co.
- Blair, Harry. Mr Horology - The Life and Times of Henry B. Fried.
- Gibbs, James W. From Springfield to Moscow.
- Harrold, Michael C. American Watchmaking.
- Sterling, Ronald E. Canton, Ohio (Images of America).
- Watkins Richard and Jacques, David American and Swiss Watchmaking in 1876