The release of GMT movements by the Japanese big two makers has pulled GMT's out of a niche and thrust them into mainstream awareness. Vostok has had a GMT movement available since at least 2009 with little if any fanfare.
The traditional procedure when unboxing a Vostok is to:
Take the watch out of the box
Wind it up to see if it actually works
Replace the strap or bracelet with something better
I did not buck tradition and had a nice brown 20mm croc waiting. The woody brown next to the brushed metal reminds me of 80's hi-fi systems.
There is always room in the strap box for a simple black fabric 2-piece zulu:
The default Vostok 20mm bracelet on this 650 case is actually better than some of the cringeworthy metal efforts found on some 18mm and 22mm Amphibian Classics.
Heck, this bracelet even appears to have solid end links. For now the original bracelet remains in its plastic and stays in the box.
Speaking of the box, the Komadirskie automatics seem to come in a red box which is bigger than the black box the Classic Amphibians arrive in. Are the Komi automatics trying to compensate for something?
I set the bezel to show GMT/UTC which was 10 hours behind my local time. I have no pressing need to know the time in Greenwich but I didn't have a pressing need for another watch, either.
I guess the GMT function could come in handy tracking those clandestine numbers stations on the shortwave radio.*
Of course many digital quartz watches less than a quarter the price of the 650539 will do a better job of tracking one or more timezones but if you are reading this then you are interested in an analogue, mechanical alternative.
The Vostok's red GMT hand is slaved to the hour hand and cannot be independently set. This is consistent with the earliest mechanical GMT watches and we can think of this mode of operation as "1st generation".
It seems Vostok could not help being retro (or cheap?) even on one of their later variations in the 24xx series of movements.
I can hear some Rolex GMT Master II owners sniggering in the back of the room. I'll remind them that while they did gain an independently settable GMT hand, they lost a quickset date function in the process.
Since the numbers may not tell the whole story, I'll show the 650539 next to some better known watches I have:
The 650539 gets a lot of visual presence from the sheer amount of brushed 304C stainless steel on display.
It looks and feels like steel but in a few places it feels a bit too much like steel with some sharp-ish edges inside the lugs and at the locating slots for the case back.
Overall thickness is around 15mm which is consistent with other Vostok autos.
East meets Far East
What do these LCD Seikos made almost 30 years ago have in common with the 650539?
Sure, they have a GMT or "dual time" function but there is something else, namely a 20mm lug width:
As Vostoks go, this combination looks almost respectable.
Here we have the curious situation of a bracelet made decades ago for another watch from another country looking more at home on the 650539 than Vostok's own bracelet offering.
The Seiko's folded end links fill the space between the lugs better and the flare on the first links are a fair match to the outside of the lugs.
The crowning achievement of the Seiko bracelet is the all brushed finish. The Vostok bracelet features polished centre links which appear incongruous with the all-brushed case and bezel.
Seiko's all folded-link bracelet is no feat of industrial art but it is a more aesthetically viable option than the supplied Vostok bracelet.
You do not need a supermassive black hole in the sky to bend light, just a nicely made piece of domed Lucite crystal on your watch.
I am not a big fan of domed crystal but I do not dislike it, either. On this Vostok it is a necessary part of its 200 metre water resistance.
I know some of you out there are distortion freaks so here is a pic just for you. Boom-chikka-wow-wow!
Any compelling cold war intrigue, whether book or movie, tended to include at least one cunning deception. The 650539 has its own.
I draw your attention to this pic:
The white printed numerals and hour markers are not the same white as the Komandirskie script or the minute markers or the markings on the seconds subdial.
However, they are a similar shade of white to the lume on the hands and the little lume dots which may lead a casual observer to think there is a lot more lume on the dial than there actually is.
You cannot convince me that shade of white was an accident.
What the Weishi said
Yes, it came out of the box well within factory spec and it may even be within the spec of common Japanese automatic movements but that does not make the result desirable.
To be fair to the watch we cannot know how the package was handled on the long and winding road to my wrist.
My concern is that a watch like this may be somebody's first mechanical watch or even first non smart-watch of any type. What impression would +22spd leave?
I would not want to say to someone "That is a nice new watch you have there. Have you spent extra money at a watchmaker yet? Umm, to make it run properly?"
So, what is Vostok's 2426.12 32-jewel movement is capable of?
That's more like it. There is some jitter in the line but you have to expect that in this price range.
If you want a mechanical watch with a perfectly flat line from one side of the timegrapher screen to the other then you will be spending a lot more.
Reasons to buy a 650539
Costs less than a Seiko or Citizen
It is a bit tooly with bonus 200m water resistance.
It is a Vostok auto that is not an Amphibian or scubadude
It is a Vostok auto that has relatively conventional styling
It is a Vostok auto without a date function
The black, grainy dial will happily co-exist with a variety of strap colours and bracelets
Maybe you just like the 650 case design and the GMT version does not cost a lot more than a basic Komandirskie auto
Maybe you just want some sort of AM/PM complication. When the GMT hand is on the right hand side of the dial it is AM, when the GMT hand is on the left hand side of the dial it is PM. Job done.
Reasons not to buy a 650539
Lume seems to be treated like a contractual obligation. It is no worse than most Classic Amphibian's but no better, either.
The lug-to-lug distance could be too much for some people
You should budget to replace the stock bracelet
Accuracy out of the box may be disappointing
* What is a "numbers station"? This 20 minute video gives the basics and short history:
Like many Vostok watches, numbers stations are cold war relics that still find some use today.