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Luch One Hand Watch - Free Yourself from the Digital Age with these Vintage-Style Minimalist Watches

Posted on September 24 2020

 

Mechanical watches are a throw-back to an earlier era. As pieces of technology, they’re outdated. First quartz, then phones and smartwatches surpassed them at time-keeping. Whatever complication you use on a mechanical watch - a chronograph, alarm or moon phase - your phone can do it better and cheaper.

But we cling to our watches because we love the history, the mechanical innovation and the workmanship. We are moved by their beauty, and marvel at the works of art carried around on our wrists. Even at the cheaper end of the watch market, there are interesting brand stories and unique designs.

Belarussian brand Luch represents the extreme end of this phenomena. They produce quirky one-handed watches in the same way and with the same parts as they have done for more than half a century. These aren’t reissues of old models. Rather, they are watch models that haven’t been updated in decades. Let’s take a closer look.

The History of Luch Watches

 

Luch traces its history back to the creation of the Minsk Watch Plant by the Soviet Union in the early 1950s. Having trained up staff at the Minsk Polytechnic, the plant was able to work on producing its own movements and watches. The early 1960s saw the development of Zarya, Minsk and the Russian designed Vympel models.

 

Minsk Watch Plant

The factory began branding the watches as Luch, and to date has produced more than 1700 models, including quartz, automatic and the handing-winding watches that they’re best known for.

2010 marked a new and exciting phase for the company. Swiss watch manufacturer Franck Muller bought an 80% stake in the Minsk Watch Plant. Following this, Luch began to open its own shops and now has nearly thirty in Belarus.

 

The Luch One-handed watch


In the west, the One-handed Luch watch is the design we’re most familiar with. Its appeal is obvious. It has a minimalist, almost Bauhaus (more here), design. Runs by hand-winding its in-house mechanical movement and is very cheap.

I’d suggest there are some other subtle reasons that this watch has proven so popular with watch fans in the West. It represents more than just a vintage aesthetic - in a sense, it is a rebellion against the digital age we now inhabit.

 

We like mechanical watches despite them not being as accurate as quartz models. As I noted here, we may want a watch capable of going to the bottom of the ocean, despite never taking it anywhere but the office.

The Luch wins me over for one reason. It only roughly tells the time. Without minute or second hands, you’re unable to get a precise time. Forget how many seconds a mechanical watch may lose in a day - the Luch One-handed watch has markers around the dial showing five minute periods. That’s the best you can get - the time, give or take five mins.

You wear a Luch when every second doesn’t count. When the design of your watch is more important than the exact time. When you have the freedom to not be a slave to the clock.

With that in mind, I’ve highlighted some of the various versions of the one-handed watches that Luch now do. They’re fun, quirky and mostly cheap enough to be bought on a whim.

 

Luch One-Hand Watch 77471760

 

 

This is the original Luch One-Hand watch.

It has a simple, dateless, uncluttered dial and one hand. There are variations of this model, with black or silver dials and with the logo and text in Cyrillic or English. For me, this is the most authentic version - a white dial and Cyrillic text.

One of the first things you notice when you see this watch in the flesh is the size. It’s 38mm and slim in profile. Although Luch produce watches specifically for women, I’d suggest that this makes for a suitable unisex piece.

Indeed, it has a small Luch mechanical movement that was originally created for small women’s watches. It’s hand-winding, so if its the vintage aesthetic that appeals to you, you’ll love the ritual of winding the watch each morning.

Remember though, this is a cheap watch and has been built to a budget. So it does have a real leather strap, but the case is brass with a chrome coating. For me, that isn’t a deal-breaker. It just means that the watch is built the way that it always was - if anything it adds to the charm

  • Luch 77471760
  • 38mm Diameter
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Chrome Plated Case
  • Handwinding Mechanical movement
  • Mineral Crystal

 

 

Luch One-Hand Watch 77497580

 

This watch contradicts everything I’ve said regarding the history and charm of Luch’s single-hand watches. It’s the most up to date, highest spec model that the Belarusian’s manufacture. I’ve highlighted it straight after the original model to amplify the contrast between the two.

How does this watch differ to the first?

At 42mm, it’s significantly larger. Rather than using an in-house handing winding movement, it houses a Miyota, Japanese made automatic. This is visible through the exhibition back. There are other design touches that the increased price allows for. The crown is signed for example. It has some modest water resistance and a sapphire crystal. The beefed-up strap also includes a neat deployment clasp.

In a sense, you still get a niche mechanical one-handed watch with cool Cyrillic text - it is a watch that you’re unlikely to see on someone else’s wrist. But whether it has the same authenticity as the original would be up to the buyer to decide.

What is clear, is that it’s a very good watch for the money.

  • Luch 77497580
  • 42mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Miyota Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 

Luch One-Handed Watch 91950789

 

This watch represents something of a middle ground. The essentials are there. It’s under 40mm in size and is powered by Luch’s own 1801.1 hand-winding movement. The sunburst dial is spartan and shows only what you need to tell the time - again no date window.

However, there are a few noticeable upgrades. The dial is protected by a sapphire crystal, and rather than a plain case back, there is an engraved back with a small window to see the inner workings. The basic leather strap has been replaced by a stainless steel Milanese style bracelet, although the case is still brass.

Luch watch case back

There’s enough of the old to please the purist, coupled with some small upgrades where needed.

 

  • Luch 91950789
  • 38mm Diameter
  • 7mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Handwinding mechanical movement
  • Sapphire Crystal

 

Luch One-Hand Watch 011221757

 

This model is a smaller, slight variation on the original design. Marketed specifically to women, it is a modest piece, coming in at 30mm. The strap is on the little side too - it’s 16mm. Aside from the sizing and the crown position, it’s all quite familiar.

As with many of the more recent variations, a touch of colour has been added. In some models that has meant a colourful dial or strap. In this model, it’s the more subtle green hand. It makes for a contemporary aesthetic, with the emphasis more on the minimalist and Bauhaus side of the design.

The case is still brass and the movement is the same hand-winding 1801.1 calibre. Like the previous model, there is an engraved case back and exhibition window. All for less than £100.

  • Luch 011221757
  • 30mm Diameter
  • 16mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Handwinding mechanical movement
  • Mineral Crystal

 

Luch One-Hand Watch 71951778

 

The final watch is another contemporary take on the original design. It takes the older chrome plated case and adds the exhibition case back. The dial and hand are updated to a busier, more sporty look and that is enhanced further by the racing leather strap.

For me this is a ladies watch, but the sizing is the same as the standard one-hand watch. The black version of this ‘Speed’ model is more masculine - but currently out of stock.

It’s a nice watch to see out the list - a perfect marriage of Luch’s older designs and contemporary marketing.

  • Luch 71951778
  • 38mm Diameter
  • 7mm Thick
  • 19mm Lug Width
  • Chrome Plated Case
  • Handwinding Mechanical movement
  • Mineral Crystal

 

Conclusion

 

Luch is a quirky Eastern European brand, not widely known outside of the watch collecting community. I’ve concentrated on one style of watch - the one-handed models that the brand is most associated with. But that isn’t all that they do.

As noted, they’ve produced so many designs that they can now be counted in their thousands. In terms of watch production, the Minsk Watch Plant currently produces in excess of 150,000 watches a year and employs several hundred staff. So this post just touches the surface - I recommend digging a little deeper yourself.

If you’d like to add your own thoughts, comment below.

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