My newest acquisition has one of the thinnest movements you can buy, as long as you’re not looking at the extremely expensive, modern models like the Piaget Altiplano. In the ’60s, Soviet engineers worked on producing the thinnest watch movement they could possibly make. Their first attempt resulted in the Poljot 2200 movement, a technically very impressive piece. Its downfall was that it is so thin, it could actually bend and deform while simply being worn. This means the 2200 was still a technical feat, but also a rarity: very few were produced once they discovered this issue and even fewer actually survived. Their next attempt, the slightly thicker 2209, was much more suitable for actual use.
To engineer these thin movements the Soviet engineers redesigned the traditional watch movement layout. In the 2209 movement many parts that would normally be layered on top of each other were instead moved and placed alongside each other, requiring less total height. The entire 2209 movement is an impressive 2.9mm thick.
The 2209 movement was produced for almost twenty years, from 1961 to 1979, and throughout those years was used in a variety of brands. Most of them share the same thin case, with slim lugs and a highly domed plexiglass crystal on top, but vary in their dial and hand designs. The watches are 7mm thick, with the majority of that height caused by the dome of the plexiglass. There’s no model name that , but collectors commonly refer to these Soviet 2209 watches as ‘ultra-thins’. One collector, from WatchUSeek, took the following picture of his varied collection of 2209 watches – keep on scrolling:
Brands like Poljot, Luch and Wympel released watches built on the 2209 movement in the USSR, while export brands like Sekonda and Cornavin released them to the West. I found my model, made by Luch, on eBay and for 30 euro – including shipping! – it was headed my way from Russia. It’s not a particularly clean example, with quite a few scratches and dents in the case and one lug where the gold coating has basically disappeared. But that’s the kind of character that makes it fun to wear vintage watches.
It looks pretty damn good on the wrist too. One thing you need to know before you start hunting for a 2209 ultra-thin of your own: the model numbers the USSR used for their movements were not unique to each design. Instead, movement numbers were coded to describe certain combinations of functions. This means that the 2209 designation exists for 3 different movements in total, none of which are remotely similar beyond them all having an hour, minute and second hand. The most common watches you’ll find with these other 2209 movement are those by Vostok and Raketa. The Raketa might be confusing, as they are still fairly thin dress watches – though not nearly as thin as the watches we’ve been talking about in this article. But luckily, you probably won’t be confused by the Vostok watches, as they’re divewatches that look like this:
Yeah… You can probably spot the difference. Good luck in finding your own ultra-thin!