Third State Watch Factory / 3ГЧЗ Пенза
Prior to World War II, during a period of rapid industrialization in the Soviet Union, the Soviet government sought international funding and expertise in the development of a domestic watchmaking industry. Eventually, the French watch manufacturer LIP was chosen. LIP was having financial problems at home in France, and in 1936, technical director Fred Lipmann signed a deal with the USSR to export technology and parts.
In April, 1935, the Third State Watch Factory was formed in Penza, a city 625 kilometres southeast of Moscow. This factory was reconstructed from the remnants of the Frunze Bicycle Plant using the newly-acquired tooling from LIP. LIP engineers and technicians were also responsible for supervising the installation of all equipment and for training Russian engineers. The watches they produced were small, modern wristwatch designs based on the LIP caliber T18.
The T18 movement, after slight modification by the Soviets, was renamed caliber 1802. This caliber was revolutionary in many ways, but most importantly, in 1947, it was the first mechanical watch movement ever produced on a modern assembly line. With the help of LIP, the Soviets pioneered mass production of watch movements several years before the Swiss.
The first 1802 wristwatches bore no name on the dial, followed by those marked ZIF, then those with the 3ГЧЗ factory logo, and finally those branded Zvezda. 3ГЧЗ Пенза stands for Государственный Часовой Завод Пенза, or Third State Watch Factory Penza. 3ГЧЗ-branded watches were produced only at the beginning of the year 1940.
Caliber: 1802 (15 jewels) Year: 1940 Notes: Ladies watch, Zvezda predecessor, based on LIP T18, Penza Watch Factory
Caliber: 1802 (15 jewels) Year: 1940 Notes: Ladies watch, Zvezda predecessor, based on LIP T18, sterling silver case, Penza Watch Factory
Caliber: T18 (15 jewels) Year: 1930s Notes: Zvezda predecessor, ladies watch, sterling silver case