Pereztroika – Moscow – 2019

Remember the time before travel restrictions? I do – all too well – as I love to travel. For the past year, I, as so many of you, have been restricted to one and the same country and I can not wait until travelling is possible again. The other day while browsing through my iPhone photos, I came across my 2019 Moscow trip to attend the second international Paneristi Russia GTG. For some reason, I totally missed to share this amazing experience with my readers. I absolutely love Moscow! I had attended the first GTG back in 2018 and must say, the city is truly fascinating and the people I met are open-minded and genuinely nice.

In May 2019, I travelled from Malaysia to Europe, first to attend the watch auctions in Geneva, Switzerland and later to meet the son of an important Italian Gruppo Gamma frogman in Gallipoli, Italy. The latter was a truly inspiring experience which I shared on my website at the time.

Read more: A Journey To The Origins Of Panerai’s Egypt Chapter


After Gallipoli, I went to Barcelona, Spain to spend some time with my parents. It was here were I got my Russia visa and from where I flew to Moscow, with a short layover in Munich.

Boarding the plane to Moscow in Munich, Germany


The plane landed in Moscow Demodedovo Airport after a short three hours flight.

Arriving at Demodedovo Airport in Moscow


Demodedovo Airport is one of three international airports in Moscow. Except for a few clouds, the weather was mild and welcoming.

Moscow Demodedovo Airport


My ride to downtown Moscow, arranged by my good friend Anton.


On the way to the hotel we passed the iconic Ministry of Foreing Affairs of Russia building which is one the famous Seven Sisters, a group of seven skyscrapers designed in Stalinist style and built between 1947 and 1957.


After checking-in at my hotel at Tverskaya Street, Anton picked me up to go for dinner at a near-by restaurant that has a great selection of wine.

Lefkadia wine from Crimea


For the next day, the Russian Paneristi had planned a visit to the Russian Navy History Museum located in the outskirts of Moscow. The main attraction is a decommisioned diesel-electric Russian attack submarine of the Tango-class which can be boarded. We were very excited.

Once arrived at the museum, the first thing that caught my eye was not the submarine though, it was this formidable monster. A Soviet Ekranplan also known as ground effect vehicle.

Soviet Ekranoplan A-90 Orlyonok at the Russian Navy History Museum


The Ekranoplan was basically a flying ship that used a cushion of air that occurs when a wing is travelling close to the ground. The A-90 Orlyonok exhibited at the museum is the smaller version of the so-called Caspian Sea Monster, one of the largest and heaviest aircrafts ever built.

Another super interesting vehicle exhibited at the museum is a mid-size amphibious assault GUS class LCAC hovercraft which was decommisioned in the early 1990s.

GUS class LCAC hovercraft


These things are massive and were powered by three 780 hp gas turbines, one for lift and two for propulsion.

Three-bladed variable pitch propellers


As with everything man-made, nature will claim it back, sooner or later.


Next we took a tour where we learned interesting things about Russian submarine development.

Submarine development of the Russian Navy


Always fascinating to see submarine escape suits which were used by survivors of disabled submarines to escape the vessels from more or less shallow depths.

Submarine escape suit


The museum exhibits also some bits from the Kursk K-141, the nuclear submarine that sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000 and was raised with international help.

80 mm thick rubber hull cover of the Kursk which prevented detection by sonar


Time to enter the submarine, shall we? See the flag in the front? That is the Russian naval jack which is typically displayed at the bow (front) of Russian Navy vessels.


We entered the submarine through the torpedo compartment, which is probably the most exciting part of the vessel. The torpedo tubes operate with high water pressure. Once the torpedo is loaded into the tube and the breech door is shut and locked, the tube is flooded. The torpedo is then launched by thrusting a large volume of water into the tube at high pressure.


The torpedo stowage compartment, also known as Bomb Shop, with intricate loading system. These torpedoes weigh several tons.


Watertight compartment door with list of signals to be used between compartments in case the door needs to be locked.


Next up the control room, more specifically the pilot’s seat where most of the steering is done. Keep in mind that B-396 was decommisioned long before computer screens made their way into modern submarines.


See the silver gauge that displays the submarine angle? That is a so-called clinometer or inclinometer.


G. Panerai & Figlio, the original Panerai company from Florence, was a manufacturer of gauges and instruments for the Italian Navy. Among other things, they also made clinometers for submarines.

G. Panerai & Figlio submarine depth gauge and clinometer (1940s)


The radar and sonar station.


Beautiful intercom made of bakelite.


Ok, enough of the submarine. See the flag at stern? That is the Russian naval ensign.


Wait, who that all smiles? Seems like Rifat really enjoyed the submarine tour, as did I.


Alright, what is next? Sergio and Anton discussing…


Surprise, surprise! Next stop was the Panerai boutique in Moscow.


It is always fascinating to walk into these boutiques where they proudly display the history the brand. The thing is, the information on the wall is incorrect. See the 1936 item in the picture below? That is a watch that was assembled in the early 1960s. The 1940 entry is wrong as well. Those watches were made by Rolex after World War 2, between 1953 and 1955 to be specific.


Inaccurate is also the 1950 story. The tritium-based luminous coumpound named Luminor was introduced in the mid 1960s, not in 1950. The first watch to ever feature the iconic Panerai crown-protecting device was the GPF 2/56 from 1956. The Rolex-made Ref. 6152/1 with the iconic cushion case received the crown guard modification only in the late 1950s.


Moving on, here are three cool dudes! Serge, Rifat and Konstantin.


Sergio next to Panerai boutique manager Julia who knows how to look after a large group like ours and was very welcoming indeed.


After the boutique visit, it was time for the main event, dinner at Andy’s & Friends.


Andrei aka Andy is very passionate about Panerai, so much so, he created a special room in the basement of his restaurant which is inspired by the Orologeria Svizzera shop from the late 1920s.


The Russian Paneristi were among the first to acquire one of my Panerai Time Machine prints. It was nicely framed and hangs inside the Paneristi room.


The dinner at Andy’s & Friends was great fun as usual. Here we see Oleg giving a speech.


Let’s look at some watches now. This is Rifat’s stunning Pre Vendôme Panerai Luminor Logo 5218-201/A from 1993. Contrary to popular belief, these watches were not designed by Bettarini but by the Swiss watch manufacturer Guenat SA Montres Valgine who was also responsible for their production.


Here is another beauty, Sergio’s PAM 232.


And of course the obligatory table shot.


Great mood during the lucky draw.


Aside from a few posters for the lucky draw, I also brought a little present for Andy’s Paneristi room. A large reproduction of a 1943 brochure illustrated by Vittorio Pisani.


The print was nicely framed in the meantime.


The next day, Anton and Sergio agreed to show me the famous Hotel Ukraina, one of the Seven Sisters skyscrapers designed in Stalinist style. But first, Anton and I met with Rifat for a farewell lunch as he was about to return to Istanbul. Below you see Anton’s 026 (left), my Eterna SuperKontiki with double scale no-deco bezel issued to the Marina Militare in 1964 and Rifat’s Luminor Logo.


Since it was a beautiful day, we walked to the Hotel Ukraina along the beautiful Garden Ring boulevard. One of the buildings along the way has an interesting structure atop. The tower reminded me of the Tatlin Tower, a Russian Constructivist design from around 1920 by Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin. Tatlin’s tower was planned to be 400 meters high, much taller than the Eiffel Tower, but was never built.


As some of you may know, I studied architecture before getting sucked into advertising. I am still very passionate about design and architecture. The building in the picture below is also one of the previously mentioned Seven Sisters. The Kudrinskaya Square Building with a height of 176 meters.


On the way we also passed the old U.S. Embassy of Moscow. It is said the Soviets filled the building with covert listening devices and from 1953 and 1976, they irradiated the structure with microwaves. A new building was errected in 1979 but short after in 1985, it was found that the colums, which had been built by Soviet workers, were riddled with listing devices.


After turing to the right and passing the new U.S. Embassy buildings, we finally reached the Hotel Ukraina. An imposing structure, almost 200 meters high. The Hotel Ukraina is the second tallest of the Seven Sisters. The tallest is the Moscow State University.


View from the restaurant on the top floor. The white building in the front is the White House which houses the Russian Parliament. In 1993, the White House played a major role during a constitutional crisis. Army tanks surrounded the building and fired at the upper floors.


The view from the Hotel Ukraina is absolutely amazing. The next picture shows the Moscow International Business Center (MIBC) which is also known as Moscow-City.


The OCD is strong with this one…


Next up, Sergio wanted me to see a nuclear bunker complex that is situated deep beneath Moscow and has become a tourist attraction known as Bunker 42. To get there, we took the metro. The old metro stations in Moscow are absolutely gorgeous. The stations were nicknamed “palaces of the people”. The picture below shows the Kiyevskaya (Filyovskaya line) station which opened in 1937.


Most stations are deep beneath the surface, 30 and more meters deep. They were used as shelters during the war.


Leaving the metro through the Taganskaya vestibule.


Ready for the bunker experience? The original entrance was masked as an old building.


The facility was built in 1950 as a communications headquarters in the event of a nuclear attack and is located at a depth of 65 meters. That is a long way down, especially since visitors need to use the stairs. The once-secret facility consists of four parallel bunkers that are interconnected through smaller tunnels. The latter are lined with thick steel plates which results in a unique and somewhat menacing look.


The main tunnels are enormous. They were built by same workers that constructed the Moscow Metro and used the very same techniques.


The Soviets detonated their first nuclear bomb in 1949. A mock-up of the first device is exhibited in one of the tunnels.


The next day, I met with my friend Denis who had offered to show me some interesting buildings in and around Moscow. Denis owns a PAM 360 Paneristi Special Edition. A great looking watch without silly .com address on the dial.


The first building we looked at was built in 1925 and served as headquarters of the Izvestia newspaper, which was the very first Soviet newspaper. The building, initially planned as 12-storey tower but redimensioned during construction following the passing of new height restrictions within the Garden Ring, is a masterpiece of Russian Constructivist architecture.


Next something truly weird. A 400 meters long building from 1986 that houses nearly 1,000 apartments. The moscovites endearingly call it house-boat or horizontal skyscaper.


Right across the street is the Danilovsky market that resembles an oldschool UFO from far.


The Danilovsky market has become a veritable food haven.

Next another masterpiece of Russian Constructivist architecture. The Shukhov Tower, a 160 meters high broadcasting tower erected between 1920 and 1922.


On the way back to the hotel I arrived at the beautiful Mayakovskaya metro station which was put into service in 1938.


When I finally arrived at the hotel, Anton was waiting at the reception and asked me to follow him. He brought me straight to another reception near the old KGB building where whistleblowers ask for political asylum 😀


This was my last evening in Moscow. Anton actually brought me to Andy’s & Friends where the guys surprised me with a farewell dinner and a fantastic little present:

From Russia with love. Russian Paneristi.


Thank you very much my friends. I am looking forward to the next GTG in Moscow, or St. Petersburg?

On my way back to Malaysia, I had a few hours in Paris which I used to have a closer look at this watch.


I hope you enjoyed this little travel report. Thank you for your interest. As mentioned earlier, I already travelled to Moscow in 2018. Please find the link the below.

Read more: A Journey To Mockba (2018)

2 comments

  • Great story and great pictures. I miss the travel and comradery with other watch and watch history enthusiasts. Cheers to getting back to “normal” soon!

    Like

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