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Map measure of the month: the Zlatoust curvimeter KY-A

Zlatoust KY-A curvimeter, in the hand
Zlatoust KY-A curvimeter, in the hand

The Russian made KY-A Curvimeter was made for both the civilian market and the Soviet Army at the fabled Zlatoust watch factory in the 1970s. Cheaply made from plastic and metal, it is a robust and reasonably accurate instrument.

The Soviet watchmaking industry began in 1927 and the Kirov First State Watch Factory opened in 1930. The First Moscow Watch Factory was transferred some 1600km away to the industrial town of Zlatoust, in the Urals, in autumn 1941. Production at the new ‘Zlatoust Watch Factory’, known as Factory 834 during the Second World War, began 25 December that year. From the 1950s, the Zlatoust mark of ЗЧЗ inside a pyramid, became prevalent. Almost all planes, tanks, ships and submarines were supplied with Zlatoust clocks and Red Army commanders were given awards of Zlatoust watches for meritorious service. Frequently, the watches were individually annotated with the names of the recipient, however the watches that built the factory reputation were the large, heavy and highly regarded dive watches produced for the Soviet Navy during the 1950s-60s. The practice of giving Soviet Army officers watches ended in the 1970s and the Zlatoust Watch Factory (ZWF) remains one of only two high volume watch factories left in Russia. Every part is made in Russia and Zlatoust watches, stopwatches and map measures are still made today.

Zlatoust Watch Factory, later renamed the Agat Watch Factory

Manufacture of map measures, or curvimeters, at the Zlatoust Watch Factory began in the 1950s however the measure looked at here dates from the 1970s. These measures are still being advertised (2022). The letters CCCP appear on the face of the measure, the lid of the box that contains it and the accompanying documentation. CCCP stands for Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, or, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), otherwise known as the Soviet Union. This was the socialist state that existed from 1922 to 1991 comprised of Russia and many surrounding countries in Asia and Europe.

KY-A Curvimeter with card box, wrapping and passport

The map measure (curvimeter) is designed for measuring length of curve lines on topographical maps, plans and charts

Zlatoust

The Zlatoust Curvimeter KY-A measure has a black plastic case with clear plastic faces over the paper dials. The dished faces are simply push-fitted into the case. The case is in two parts and held together by metal screws with a brass ferrule keeping the two parts of the plastic handle oriented and together. The measure is 89mm in length, 39mm wide and 14mm thick across the apex of the dished dial faces. The handle is c30mm in length and the entire measure weighs 34g reflecting its cheap and lightweight construction.

simple internal gearing
Tracking wheel and simple internal gearing are made from various metals

The measure could be supplied with either one or two faces. The example shown here has two faces. One side of the measure has a 34mm wide paper dial printed in black and is graduated in centimetres from 0 to 100 (one metre). The other face is printed in red and will measure in half inch units up to 39 full “дюймы” or inches, with a further extension to 39.4 inches. The measure is quite accurate in its actual measuring ability and the small finely-toothed brass tracking wheel runs smoothly with no overly intrusive internal resistance. Zlatoust themselves advertised an accuracy of +/- 0.5% over 0.5m. This is not a finely engineered instrument. It is simple, functional and has little to go wrong.

KY-A centimetre face
KY-A centimetre face, with CCCP mark
KY-A inch face, with Agat ‘stopwatch’ logo

The map measure has an accompanying leaflet, or ‘passport’ originally supplied in its box or case. Both original leaflet and a Google translate are shown here. This leaflet gives us an approximate manufacture date for the measure itself as it is stamped with a 1975 date. While the number on the box, ‘TY 25-07-1039-74’, may suggest a 1974 date, it is more likely to be the article number.

Front page of accompanying leaflet
Accompanying leaflet
Accompanying leaflet
Accompanying leaflet
Production date and inspectors mark are stamped on the back
Google translate. Leaflet page one
Google translate. Leaflet page one
Google translate. Leaflet page two
Google translate. Leaflet page three
Google translate. Leaflet page three
Google translate. Leaflet page four
Google translate. Leaflet page four

The Zlatoust KY-A curvimeter was sold in various boxes or pouches. The example shown here is in a small card box but it was also available in both a leather slip case and in a shaped plastic case for storage. The factory offered a 40 month warranty for this instrument.

Zlatoust curvimeter KY-A in shaped box, image from eBay
Zlatoust curvimeter KY-A in shaped box, image from eBay

The image on the box in which the curvimeter was sold is not a curvimeter, it is a stopwatch. From the 1960s Agat was the domestic name given to the stopwatches produced at the Zlatoust Watch Factory. As sales of these increased, especially overseas, the factory was again renamed, this time as the Agat Watch Factory. Agat is now the only manufacturer of mechanical stopwatches in Russia and this name is also shown on some examples of the KY-A curvimeter. I include an image of another Zlatoust curvimeter from my collection that has this name on its dial face, albeit in Russian- агат.

This second example also has a Russian Standard number on its face. The word ГОСТ is Russian for GOST, an acronym for gosudarstvennyy standart, ГОСТ = государственный стандарт, which means state standard or governmental standard. The first of these standards was published in 1969 and most date from the period of the Soviet Union, so this second example is unlikely to date after 1991.

KY-A curvimeter, Agat model
KY-A curvimeter, Agat model

Despite the mostly plastic construction, this now quite old model design has held up well and it is unsurprising that few changes have been made to the design over the decades. The KY-A curvimeter is readily available on the second hand market as new old stock, possibly even as new new stock, but does not justify the inflated prices that some vendors ask. The Zlatoust factory has produced other curvimeters and Three Points of the Compass may look at a model from either the 1950s or 60s in a future blog in this series. Links for other map measures looked at already can be found here.

KY-A box, on passport

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