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One of the popular genres of fiction is alternate/alternative history (or simply althist). Works in this genre answer the question "What if?" — they show the reality as it could have been if history at one of its crucial points — bifurcation points — had gone the other way. And what would have been the alternative history of watchmaking in Russia if at the most important Russian point of bifurcation — in 1917 — the Bolsheviks had not won, but the monarchy had remained, or the Russian Republic had continued to exist? Pre-revolutionary watch brands would have survived and successfully developed — Paul Buhre, Henry Moser, William Gabus, Heinrich Kann, August Ericcson, Friedrich Winter, Tschetounoff Frères... Over time, new brands would have appeared — maybe even known to us in "our" reality, such as Kirovskie, ZiM, Salut, Svet... But their history would have been completely different. What could it have been?
Alternate History in Literature

The Roman historian Titus Livy is considered the founder of this genre. In real history, the most powerful empires of antiquity — the Roman one and the Empire of Alexander the Great — never collided. Titus Livy described the alleged history of the confrontation between Rome and the Empire of Alexander, based on the assumption that the latter did not die in 323 BC, and continued to live and rule.

The most famous alternate historical works:
  • L. Sprague de Kamp — the novel Lest Darkness Fall (1939): an archaeologist who comes to Rome of 535 and seeks to save Italy from plunging into the Dark Ages. One of the most famous works of the genre;
  • Paul W. Anderson — famous novel series Time Patrol: some (for example, Delenda est) describe alternative historical worlds;
  • Philip K. Dick — The Man in the High Castle (1964): The Axis countries won World War II. Based on the novel, an equally popular television series was filmed;
  • Harry Turtledave — many alternate historical series;
  • Harry Harrison — A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (1972): Americans lost the War of Independence, and the main world powers are now Britain and France;
  • Nikos Kazantzakis — The Last Temptation of Christ (1955) is one of the most scandalous novels of the 20th century, which tells about the life of Jesus Christ: during the crucifixion on Calvary, Satan deceives Jesus convincing him that he is not the Savior, but God was simply testing him. He agrees to "descend from the cross" and then lives the life of an ordinary person;
  • Stephen King — 11/22/63: an alternate story if President Kennedy had survived the assassination attempt.

Russian authors have also created quite a few works in this genre. The most famous of them:
  • Vasily Aksyonov — The Island of Crimea (1979): Crimea is not a peninsula, but an island. As a result of the Civil War, an insular enclave of Russia with a different political system arose near the USSR (by analogy with the PRC and the Republic of China in Taiwan);
  • Vyacheslav Rybakov — Gravilyot Tsesarevitch (1993): Russia retained an autocratic form of government, the communists abandoned revolutionary violence and formed one of the confessions of the Russian Empire. There have been no wars since 1870, so the borders of states, as well as the forms of government, have remained the same;
  • Mikhail Pervukhin is one of the first Russian authors to write in this genre. The story The Second Life of Napoleon (1917 — how different the occupations were for different people in this severe year!): Napoleon flees from Saint Helena and creates a new empire in Africa; the novel The Victorious Pugachev (1924): leader of a Russian peasant uprising Yemelyan Pugachev reigns on the Russian throne;
  • Holm Van Zaichik (collective pseudonym of two writers, one of whom is Vyacheslav Rybakov) — a cycle of ironic stories There are no Bad People about the country of Ordus.
Alternative History of Russia

For our country, one of the key moments in history, of course, is 1917 — the year of the February and October revolutions (or coups — depending on the point of view). The events of this year, the subsequent Civil War in Russia and the formation of the USSR — all this had a huge impact on the entire world history. But what if?..

Indeed, after all, events could have taken a different path — already in February-March 1917. For example, Tsar Nicholas II abdicates the throne not in favor of his brother Mikhail (who, like other members of the Imperial family later, refused to accept power), but in favor of his son — Tsarevich Alexei, more acceptable to the majority. Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich in this case becomes regent. This reduces the degree of tension in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, as well as in the army, and ultimately leads to the preservation of the monarchy in Russia, of course, with its transformation into a constitutional monarchy similar to the English one. In October 1917, instead of the Bolshevik revolution/coup, a Constituent Assembly convened for this very month took place. And already in 1920 the First World War ends, Germany surrendered, Russia, as part of the Entente, was among the victors. Of course, there was no Civil War. The Second World War might not have started at all, or it might have turned out to be less severe and destructive for, among other countries, Russia. As a result, by the beginning of the 21st century, the Russian Empire is a thriving democratic state, one of the world leaders along with the United States, the British Empire, Europe, Japan and China. There is nothing incredible or fantastic in this. This is certainly no more incredible than to suppose in 1914 the creation of the USSR in just 6 years... And no more fantastic than to suppose in 1986 its rapid collapse in 1991.

The authors of this project (Russian language, can be translated via Google), Dmitry Kazantsev and Anton Kazakov, go even further into the past. They are developing an alternative history of Russia in a world in which the First World War did not take place at all — everything turned into a series of local conflicts and a couple of civil wars after them. But without a destructive meat grinder for the entire region with catastrophic consequences, which was the First World War. In Russia, therefore, there was no Revolutions of 1917, no Civil War, and no World War II either. As a result, by the end of the 20th century we also get an interesting and attractive alternative world.
What would happen to Russian watchmaking?

Our project is an illustration of an alternative history of watchmaking in Russia, as it could have been if the Bolsheviks had not won in 1917. Old Russian watch brands live in the alternative history of our country! What have they become?

Firstly, in the alternative watch history, a transition to domestic movements and cases (as well as other elements of external design) took place much earlier. This process in the real world was interrupted first by the First World War, and then by the Revolution, Civil War and the destruction/nationalization of all pre-revolutionary watch firms and the emigration of their owners (except for Heinrich Kann, and that's another story). Just before these grandiose events, the largest Russian watch firms of that time were on the verge of own watch production (assembly and small production of cases in Russia already existed at that time).

Secondly, large old Russian watch brands ("trading houses") have survived in the alternative watch history — Paul Buhre, Henry Moser, W. Gabus, Heinrich Kann… The first three in "our" reality have been revived by the new owners of the respective brands, and even are on the market. Unfortunately, they are not made in Russia and/or they use foreign movements — therefore, alas, they cannot be considered Russian watches . The task of our project is to create truly Russian watches, while reviving such glorious names as:

  • first of all, of course, Heinriсh Kann — one of the main watch trading houses of the Russian Empire, a supplier of the Imperial Guard. It produced, among other things, prize watches and insignia for the military;
  • August Ericsson — since 1899 the firm was continuously supplying the Court of His Imperial Majesty. It produced especially precise watches, marine chronometers and pocket watch chronometers, its watches adorn the collections of the State Historical and Polytechnic museums;
  • Friedrich Winter — the company supplied clocks for railway stations, pocket watches for railway workers, fulfilled orders from the military department, became famous for its incredibly accurate wall clocks, installed clocks on the buildings of the St. Petersburg railway station (1852), the Admiralty (1869), on the tower The City Duma of St. Petersburg (1884) and others. Winter's tower clocks have repeatedly become winners of various competitions and exhibitions — the error of the course was no more than two seconds a week!
  • Tschetounoff Frères (Chetunov Brothers) — the trading house is mainly known as a manufacturer of inexpensive wall clocks, although it was engaged in a wide range of activities, not limited to the supply of simple household clocks. Tschetounoff Frères also produced exclusive pocket watches by special order, including ultra-high-end chronometers, such as the fusee tourbillons or the Grande Sonnerie chiming watches.

Thirdly, in "alternative watch Russia", of course, new brands would appear. Perhaps, ironically, they would have coincided with the well-known Soviet watch brands, although, of course, they would have had a completely different history... We will also revive them! This applies to such well-known Soviet brands as ZiM, Svet and Salut.
What do you have to do with all these brands?

What we have with "all these brands" is that at present they are dead and no one cares for them, while we have set as our goal their revival — and we will do it. Moreover, we are talking about the revival specifically in Russia — we will not (as many do) put a famous name on Chinese (or even Swiss!) mass consumption goods. In addition, the preemptive rights to use all the above-mentioned trademarks belong to the Russian Watches LLC, the operator of this project. Currently, the development of designs for future watches is underway, the release of prototypes is being prepared. In general, this all is no less relevant to "all these brands" than the new owners of many luxury Swiss brands had to them (take, for example, Breguet, Blancpain and Ulysse Nardin): they just bought/registered the rights to the dead (at that time) trademarks, and began to create them anew based on the historical heritage. There are such examples among modern Russian watch brands too — Poljot, Slava, Sturmanskie, pseudo-Russian German-Chinese Strela, etc.
Friedrich Winter
Tschetounoff Frères
Heinrich Kann
August Ericsson
Sacco & Vanzetti