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Hello,

This is David Henderson-Stewart from the "Raketa Watch Factory". I’ve wanted to join your Community for a long time, but for many reasons have only now finally managed to take the Big Step.

For those who don’t know, "Raketa" is a Russian brand created in 1961 in honour of the first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin ("Raketa" means "space rocket" in Russian). Raketa quickly developed into a very large watch factory producing up to 5 million mechanical watches/year.

1(1).jpg

When I discovered Raketa, I was literally stunned by its uniqueness: it was very different from most of what I had seen in the Western world, in terms of strong history, full manufacture and unusual designs of watch models. Some of these models have become quite famous, such as the 24 hour Polar watch with its unique case construction, the Copernicus watch with its round hands or the Big Zero model with its zero on the dial (instead of the conventional "12"):

2polarmin.jpg 2IMG_4353__min.jpg 2IMG_4353_min.jpg

When in 1991, Communism and the Russian economy collapsed, the Raketa Watch Factory gradually shrank over the next 2 decades from a gigantic factory with 7.000 specialists to a tiny factory with 20 watchmakers working in terrible conditions. This was when I first visited the Factory, in 2011. Despite Raketa’s huge difficulties struggling in the new global market economy, I discovered that the production technology, watchmaking know-how and spirit had survived. Based on these elements, the Factory gradually re-built and modernised itself. My life & work have since then been tied to Raketa.

There are today approximately 100 specialists working at the Factory. They are particularly proud of continuing the legacy by still producing 100% of Raketa's own robust mechanical movement and making watches with very strong values.

1.jpg 2.jpg movement.jpg

Today, the Raketa Watch Factory produces automatic watches organized in 3 different collections along the lines of its historic models:

  • tool watches for professionals such as cosmonauts, polar explorers, submariners,
  • curiosity watches that, for example, go counter-clockwise, and
  • classic watches based on the famous Raketa Big Zero model.
2baikonur.jpg 2rc.jpg 2Petrodvorets Classic.jpg

I would love to share with you the passion of Raketa’s designers and watchmakers for respectively designing mechanical watches with a very original identity and producing them using "old school" production methods.

Regards, David

PS: By the way, the Factory is open to visitors. So if any of you ever comes to Saint Petersburg (Russia) - one of the most beautiful cities in the world - you’re welcome to contact me for a visit. The watchmakers will be happy to show you all of their know-how including the most complicated & secret operations relating to the production of the hair-spring of Raketa’s mechanism.
 

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I'd love to see a revival of the classic Big Zero, or the latest iteration with the revised dial design, utilizing the 2609 movement. No use for the automatic with smaller numbers, in my life...
 

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I have some.oldie Raketa. My mother in law lives.in Lithuania and she finds pieces.Here and there.
 

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Hi:) Very Nice way of presenting the factory:) I have read quite al lot about your history, and i really like the idea of a company producing their movement in house. I have started to collect russian watches, and my plan is to buy both vintage and modern day Raketa watches. So far its been mostly Vostok and poljot. My only worry is the quite steep prices. Why is it that these watches are so expensive compared to a brand like Vostok? ( even compared to their exepensive models) I know Vostok has started to manufacture parts in Chine, and i guess this is the case (literally) for you too?
 

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I can recommend St Petersburg, I visited once as part of a trip to Russia with school when I was 15, it's beautiful.

You should put those 2014-ish Atoms back in production with the red & green dials! I have the green one, have been searching without luck for a red now for a year.
 

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What a great post, thank you so much for sharing part of your experience with Raketa. I love Russian watches and hope to someday take you up on a visit to St. Petersburg.
 

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Welcome David. Great to see Raketa as a Watchuseek sponsor.

And look! another new member because if this thread. Welcome kickback72.
 
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Discussion Starter #10
Hi:) Very Nice way of presenting the factory:) I have read quite al lot about your history, and i really like the idea of a company producing their movement in house. I have started to collect russian watches, and my plan is to buy both vintage and modern day Raketa watches. So far its been mostly Vostok and poljot. My only worry is the quite steep prices. Why is it that these watches are so expensive compared to a brand like Vostok? ( even compared to their exepensive models) I know Vostok has started to manufacture parts in Chine, and i guess this is the case (literally) for you too?
We know that is is sometimes an issue because many people are indeed still used to the idea that Russian watches are necessarily cheap watches. I will try to explain Raketa's positioning (without commenting on Vostok because I unfortunately don't know enough about them). Raketa's DNA is "Russian Manufactured": when you wear for example an automatic Raketa "Big Zero" model on your wrist, you wear 242 components, approx. 90% of which are produced every day at the Raketa Watch Factory in Saint Petersburg. Raketa's philosophy is also to produce watches with a high quality standard: Raketa is not using any "old" stocks of components (with doubtful quality) left over from the past. All of this requires very significant investments in continuously trying to modernise the "in-house" production equipment, improve all the production processes and have the best possible specialists. Basically, it's a very expensive privilege for a "small" watch brand to have its own "real" Manufacture producing quality watches ("big" brands with their own real manufacture, such as Rolex for example, can benefit from economies of scale). All of this being said, Raketa's prices are very reasonable compared to other truly in-house manufactured watches that you find on the world market.
 
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Welcome David. Good to have someone from Raketa at the forum. I have been collecting Raketa's for a couple of years now.
Very curious about your re issue of the Raketa Polar...

View attachment 14773231
Impressive: even I don't have such a collection!!!! The soviet polar watch with the triangular lugs is particularly valuable.
 

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Thank you for your answer:) I guess you are somewhat right about the prices.. There is no limit what some brands can ask for their watches, even without a history to it. In my opinion its boring with all these watches having either a ETA, miyota or Seiko caliber. The heart of the watch should be something genuine to seperate them:) Keep up the good work! I hope to be able to visit St. petersburg and see your factory and buy something from your shop. That would be quite an adventure!
 

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Thank you for your answer:) I guess you are somewhat right about the prices.. There is no limit what some brands can ask for their watches, even without a history to it. In my opinion its boring with all these watches having either a ETA, miyota or Seiko caliber. The heart of the watch should be something genuine to seperate them:) Keep up the good work! I hope to be able to visit St. petersburg and see your factory and buy something from your shop. That would be quite an adventure
 

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Hello,

This is David Henderson-Stewart from the "Raketa Watch Factory". I’ve wanted to join your Community for a long time, but for many reasons have only now finally managed to take the Big Step.

For those who don’t know, "Raketa" is a Russian brand created in 1961 in honour of the first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin ("Raketa" means "space rocket" in Russian). Raketa quickly developed into a very large watch factory producing up to 5 million mechanical watches/year.

View attachment 14770299

When I discovered Raketa, I was literally stunned by its uniqueness: it was very different from most of what I had seen in the Western world, in terms of strong history, full manufacture and unusual designs of watch models. Some of these models have become quite famous, such as the 24 hour Polar watch with its unique case construction, the Copernicus watch with its round hands or the Big Zero model with its zero on the dial (instead of the conventional "12"):

View attachment 14770301 View attachment 14770303 View attachment 14770305

When in 1991, Communism and the Russian economy collapsed, the Raketa Watch Factory gradually shrank over the next 2 decades from a gigantic factory with 7.000 specialists to a tiny factory with 20 watchmakers working in terrible conditions. This was when I first visited the Factory, in 2011. Despite Raketa’s huge difficulties struggling in the new global market economy, I discovered that the production technology, watchmaking know-how and spirit had survived. Based on these elements, the Factory gradually re-built and modernised itself. My life & work have since then been tied to Raketa.

There are today approximately 100 specialists working at the Factory. They are particularly proud of continuing the legacy by still producing 100% of Raketa's own robust mechanical movement and making watches with very strong values.

View attachment 14770307 View attachment 14770309 View attachment 14770311

Today, the Raketa Watch Factory produces automatic watches organized in 3 different collections along the lines of its historic models:

  • tool watches for professionals such as cosmonauts, polar explorers, submariners,
  • curiosity watches that, for example, go counter-clockwise, and
  • classic watches based on the famous Raketa Big Zero model.
View attachment 14770321 View attachment 14770323 View attachment 14770325

I would love to share with you the passion of Raketa’s designers and watchmakers for respectively designing mechanical watches with a very original identity and producing them using "old school" production methods.

Regards, David

PS: By the way, the Factory is open to visitors. So if any of you ever comes to Saint Petersburg (Russia) - one of the most beautiful cities in the world - you’re welcome to contact me for a visit. The watchmakers will be happy to show you all of their know-how including the most complicated & secret operations relating to the production of the hair-spring of Raketa’s mechanism.
I like the idea of a watchmaker that makes watches with original identities using "old school" methods. Watches is small pieces of art to me. I want to visit your factory one day.
This is one of the best looking watches that I own:

 
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Discussion Starter #17
Thank you for your answer:) I guess you are somewhat right about the prices.. There is no limit what some brands can ask for their watches, even without a history to it. In my opinion its boring with all these watches having either a ETA, miyota or Seiko caliber. The heart of the watch should be something genuine to seperate them:) Keep up the good work! I hope to be able to visit St. petersburg and see your factory and buy something from your shop. That would be quite an adventure
I totally agree with you: the tick of the movement is like the beat of the heart. To a big extent, the soul of a watch is therefore determined by its movement. We tick to the beat of a Raketa movement! We could actually make this into an ad slogan!
 
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Discussion Starter #18
I like the idea of a watchmaker that makes watches with original identities using "old school" methods. Watches is small pieces of art to me. I want to visit your factory one day.
This is one of the best looking watches that I own:


We don't use any CNC machines - only traditional machines. Most of them date back to Soviet time. Some of them are really unique. All the Swiss consultants/specialists who visited the Factory were incredibly impressed by the ingenuity of Soviet engineers who developed these machines. For example, one of the consultants whom we hired full-time for 2 years at the Factory was the former Rolex director in charge of producing the escapement of Rolex movements - a really important guy. He was stunned by how small & precise was Raketa's machine for polishing the teeth of the anchor wheels - he said that the equivalent machine at Rolex was as big as a car. Whenever a Soviet machine is really too old and worn out, we buy a new machine from Switzerland (we already replaced approx. 10% of our machines).
 

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Interesting to hear about the machine tooling at Raketa. My special interest is Ruhla Watch and Machine Tool Factory in the former East Germany which had a long association with the Russian watch industry. Ruhla made many of its own machine tools and was the first to produce automated watch production and exported to many other countries. Following the war, and the Soviet occupation of East Germany, the USSR and other Comecon countries became some of the leading buyers of Ruhla machine tools.

So, my question is, did Raketa have any Gebrüder Thiel or UMF Ruhla machine tooling?

Welcome to the Forum by the way!

Sekondtime
 

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After reading the story I was compelled to buy a modern Big Zero, damn you David.
(I just which the winding was manual)
 
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