On Soviet Time

By Andrej Mrevlje |

It’s rare to find anything positive about Russia these days. But I found one story that I think is interesting, if for no other reason than because it’s about Russia’s industrial history and the transfer of technology without eliminating jobs or creating market friction. It’s a story about how, when the market crashed in 1929, the Soviets bought a bankrupt watch manufacturer from Ohio and transferred it to Russia, which was in its second decade of its socialist revolution. Back then, Russia had no history in watchmaking, but the country soon revolutionized the obsolete technology that they had bought from the United States. From loud tick-tock watches, Soviets started to make more sophisticated, silent, well-designed watches. Perhaps because they needed to measure the time until the Soviet Union reached communism? It never happened, and after they became the world’s best watchmakers for a couple of decades, the Swiss — who were already known for making the world’s best chocolate — started to make even better watches. And while the world’s best watches left, communism never arrived.

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