Raketa Watches - From Russia's Oldest Watch Factory
There are few undiscovered stories in watchmaking these days, the modern digital era of the internet has seen to that, but there are still mysteries, and uncovering these mysteries in the world of horology is our lifeblood here at Page and Cooper.
So it was with excitement we received a call from Raketa, the legendary Russian Watchmaker from St. Petersburg. The world of Russian watchmaking has been established for many years but, of course, due to its birth in the 1960’s, watchmaking in the heart of the Soviet era, there is a lot that has still to be told. We can tell you one thing. When we mentioned Russian watchmaking to our most respected horological experts, we were told quite firmly that true Russian watchmaking was of a quality well on a par with the Swiss. In fact in some cases we are told better, and let’s be blunt, in the days of the Soviet era, failure was not an option. A Russian wanted his watch to work in all conditions and for years.
But let’s step back in time. Raketa (Russian: Paкéтa, IPA: [rɐˈkʲɛtə], "Rocket") wristwatches, have been manufactured since 1961 by the Petrodvorets Watch Factory in Saint Petersburg. The Petrodvorets Watch Factory is Russia's oldest factory, founded by Peter the Great in 1721. To give you an idea of the scale of Raketa’s importance, it is a fact, that by the early 80’s Raketa was making five million watches a year, just reflect on that figure, 5,000,000! So key was the Raketa Factory, that it employed over 6000 people, had its own housing, schools and even its own nuclear shelter. Raketa supplied its watches to the Russian Army and Navy as well as several Polar Expeditions. Raketa has produced more than two dozen versions of its mechanical movements with a plethora of features such as automatic winding, calendars, 24-hour models for polar explorers, anti-magnetic watches (for use in case of a nuclear attack). Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the factory faced an uncertain period. However a key number of staff remained at the factory and guarded all the key technical drawings plus the highly specialised machinery. Some of these watchmakers were the 2nd and 3rd Generation of Raketa family watchmakers and this was their legacy. In 2011 Raketa launched a modernisation programme and have elevated the quality, fit and finish of Raketa timepieces. Raketa is one of the rare manufacturers capable of fully producing its watches including movements, hairsprings and escapements in-house, together with watch cases, case-backs, even bracelets and straps are Russian made Recently, in a fascinating turn of events, Raketa is beginning to supply some Swiss watch brands having difficulty acquiring Swiss ETA movements.
To hold a Raketa watch in your hand, or indeed on your wrist will confirm the quality. The current Raketa collection holds some fascinating pieces. The classic Avtomat begins the story. A very classic 38mm watch made famous by Mikael Gorbachev. During an official visit to Italy, journalists asked Mikhaïl Gorbachev what Perestroïka meant for the USSR. Gorbachev replied that Russia has embarked on an entirely new start, and using his hands to emphasise his point, he showed the figure “0” marked in place of “12” on his Raketa watch. From that date, the hour figures on Raketa watches always start with 0 – one of Raketa’s trademarks.
Raketa have also collaborated with many Russian Aircraft Manufacturers, as an example, Tupolev Tu-160 aircraft engineers. The blue sunray dial recalls the shimmering of the sky that Tupolev pilots see at altitudes over 50,000 feet. The shock protection system of the balance wheel protects the mechanism from shocks and vibrations. The key features of the dial have luminous paint which ensures that they remain perfectly visible during night flights, and are protected by an ultra-strong sapphire glass. The watch can resist pressure of 20 ATM (equivalent to submersion to a depth of 200 metres).
Of course there has to be a collaboration with space and The Baikonur is just that watch, designed in collaboration with the cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who holds the record for the number of stays in the international space station (6 stays) and for the total length of time spent in orbit (803 days). When the Raketa ''Baikonur'' is used in the space station, the automatic winding will not work in the absence of gravity, and the cosmonaut will therefore need to wind it up by hand using the manual winding function. This function includes a very special system that disengages the wheels of the automatic winding mechanism to avoid their premature use while the watch is in space. This special watch features a 24 hour movement that enables the wearer to tell night from day in the space station and can also serve as a solar compass by pointing the hour hand towards the sun designed if the “Soyuz” space-craft should fail to land at the right spot in the taiga and its electronic compass ceases to function yes this has happened!
The Avant Garde watch celebrates Russia’s avant-garde artistic movement created by the film producer Emir Kusturica, a great lover of Russian art and culture. This watch perfectly captures the spirit of Russian avant-garde art. This watch attracts attention by its minimalism and its expressive lines, like the pictures of Malevitch, Kandinsky and other talented Russian avant-garde artists. The round and triangular hands of this watch are typical images of avant-garde art.
Last but not least we have The Russian Code. A watch for those who think differently. Astronomical laws make the Earth spin around its axis in an anti-clockwise direction, the Moon turns around the Earth anti-clockwise and that the Earth likewise turns around the Sun anti-clockwise? The watch Raketa “Russian Code” reproduces this natural movement of the planets in the Universe: all the hands of the watch move anticlockwise! Now there is a conversation piece!
Page and Cooper are proud to be the Sole AD for Raketa in the UK. We have many examples in stock and even more exciting than that, Raketa will be traveling across to the UK to join us at World Time UK. So don’t take our word for it come and see Raketa watches for your self, it’s a new adventure.