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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 kilometers 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 the 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. ZIF (ЗИФ) stands for Завод имени Фрунзе, or ‘Factory named after Frunze’ (Mikhail Frunze was a noted Bolshevik hero and the factory was named in his honor in 1933). ZIF-branded watches were produced only from 1938 until the beginning of 1940.

(Source: 1, 23)

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