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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I quote here a conversation I had with Mr. Corrado Ricciardi, who was the head of the distribution of Raketa and Vostok watches in the U.S. in the late 80s. A very interesting, yet long story, unfortunately without happy ending. It's surprising to see big companies involved, to give the picture of the huge interest in Russian products in the late '80s.
I have translated it with Google, making some basic corrections, sorry if it's not very precise. Enjoy the reading.

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I was in the United States since 1981, where I worked for the U.S. branch of the Italian brand Robe di Kappa , and then, after the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, i moved to New York where I founded two companies involved to coordinate production (mainly clothing and accessories) for U.S. companies in Italy and for Italian companies in the U.S., on behalf either of big American buying groups of department stores and Italian brands, creating a system of counter-trade industry.

In early 1989, some friends of Turin (my origin) who worked for the Armando Testa advertising agency, signaled the explosion of the phenomenon of "Russian watches " fashion in Italy, and after some comparisons on the opportunity to evaluate the distribution for the U.S. territory, given our entrature with the U.S. Department Stores , we made a meeting prior Milan, with Mr Occhipinti and Airoldi, who were heads of the Mirabilia company, responsable for distribution of Paketa for the European territory.

The Visio company, official importer of various Russian brands in Italy that also registered several brands outside of the Soviet Union itself, had specifically granted the continental distribution of Paketa to Mirabilia, and of Vostok (Boctok) to Time Trend company.
It was originally an initial work done in common between the 3 companies in creating all the marketing , packaging and any work in Italy .

We decided therefore to set up a separate company for the US market, called Time Exchange, which was supposed to take care of the distribution of watches, accessories and clothing that had been developed by Visio. One of the initial problems was that the marking in the Cyrillic " Caerano CCCP " was not accepted by the U.S. Customs and therefore we had to create a special marking "Made in USSR " in order to distribute the product .

I was the CEO and majority shareholder of Time Exchange and the other members were Americans . The Visio had no stake in the company .

Once organized sales network and contacted the various specialist buyers , the Armando Testa advertising company created a targeted campaign designed for the American market , which was later also awarded for the cultural "message" by the American press. The curiosity was high, but it was clear that once the "fashion " expired, it was possible to continue only if there were strong distribution alliances between American and Russian interests.

With our experience of counter trade, we operated immediately, and taking advantage of the opening of the USA/USSR relations , and at the same time of the fall of the Berlin Wall , we were invited to take part in the first exhibition of American commercial products for the Russian market that was to take place in Moscow.
The products we presented to the Russians were typical American image, James Dean - style leather jackets and blue jeans with glasses.

The exhibition was open only to the top 100 U.S. companies and our stand was literally surrounded by much bigger stands of GM, Philip Morris , Pepsi and Levis, but we managed to draw attention to ourselves by putting only a mannequin of James Dean (dressed as above ) taking Polaroid pictures for the visitors of the exhibition .
It was an incredible success. We had a queue of people who presented himself with children and girlfriends to take pictures , including Russian military who were photographed with the U.S. flag !
When Gorbachev came to inaugurate the exhibition he wanted to understand what was going on at our stand, from the confusion that had been created !

At the same time during the stay in Moscow I met the leaders of Boctok and also went to visit the factory Paketa, with transports that were more reminescent of "Doctor Zhivago". On that occasion I had the confirmation of the operations we should take, in order to survive after the "fashion moment" and after the peak of attention for Russian watches.

In those years, U.S. companies operating in Russia had big problems getting back the profits at home , because the ruble had no international value , and therefore they searched for products that were attractive to U.S. customers to convert them in local currency ( U.S. dollars).
I met in New York with the head of Pepsico Trading, owner of the "Pizza Hut" chain, one of the competitors of McDonalds in Russia, and they were immediately interested in the potential alliance (at that time they imported mainly aluminum from Russia) on most consumer products .
At the same time I contacted Bulova to enable the business alliance with a company that had a strong and stable penetration in the U.S. market .

All of this work continued for the whole 1990 and the exhibition in Moscow had confirmed its feasibility. But at the beginning of 1991 there was the first major financial crisis on Wall Street caused by the first big wave of mergers and acquisitions that took place during the years 1989 and 1990, involving the system of the U.S. Department Stores .

Everything collapsed like a sand castle, leaving us with only the crumbs and memories of historical moments, without even starting the project with Pepsi/ Time Exchange/Bulova . At the same time, the same problems also touched on our core business (trading of clothing) and therefore we were forced to close the company and to start with another business that brought us back to Italy .

I hope this brief summary (indeed i could write a book) gave the history of objects still in my possession.

Corrado Ricciardi


(In the pics below: two Raketa ads for US market (made by Armando Testa).

Poster Hand Finger Gesture Album cover
Poster Text Karate Album cover Font
 

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wow very interesting!
I cant wait until i know more about this! Actually the watches distruibuited by Mirabilia where great! I love the tags they had and i have 2 of those great wooden boxes for the vostok Chronos. As well is worthy to mention those metal boxes for the sturmaskie with the "russain Pilots" and i guess a soldier an a sailor... There where same company?
WE WANT MORE INFO!!!
 

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wow very interesting!
I cant wait until i know more about this! Actually the watches distruibuited by Mirabilia where great! I love the tags they had and i have 2 of those great wooden boxes for the vostok Chronos. As well is worthy to mention those metal boxes for the sturmaskie with the "russain Pilots" and i guess a soldier an a sailor... There where same company?
WE WANT MORE INFO!!!
It seems to me, that the answer is affirmative (but I'm not sure)
Besides "russian Pilots" and a soldier an a sailor, there was also another version with a farmer.

They did a great work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
wow very interesting!
I cant wait until i know more about this! Actually the watches distruibuited by Mirabilia where great! I love the tags they had and i have 2 of those great wooden boxes for the vostok Chronos. As well is worthy to mention those metal boxes for the sturmaskie with the "russain Pilots" and i guess a soldier an a sailor... There where same company?
WE WANT MORE INFO!!!
Here a very old post (almost 10 years ago):
https://www.watchuseek.com/f10/received-today-two-very-special-poljot-boxes-20919.html

Yes, they were made by Mirabilia.
 
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