Showing my age, but I remember clearly growing up under the shadow of the Soviet Union. Perhaps the most clear visual to me are the Ice Hockey players I used to watch on tv, with their red tops and CCCP printed on the back. Of course, all of our literature, tv and movies in the west were all about Russian villains at the time. What was also apparent was the nuclear arms race, and general army escalations between the east and the west.
As a child, it was hard not to think about what were things actually like over there? Not just in Moscow but everywhere else? Were they watching the same Bond movies as us? Were they taught that we were the enemy as well?
Eventually of course, 'The East' opened up and much was revealed. There were cars modelled on western versions, the awesome MIG planes, stunning cities and nature and naturally – wrist watches.
Now the year is 2020 and being able to pick up a manually wound Raketa wrist watch, manufactured in St. Petersburg is genuinely amazing to me. Even communicating with somebody in Russia, to do with postage and freight times etc….yep, still feels almost forbidden to a child of the 80’s. Well, communicate we did and I eventually settled on an orange, manually wound watch with a map of Antarctica on it. Oh, and also…it’s a 24 hour watch.
Now, what’s the point of that you might ask? Well, in theory, let’s say you used this in Antarctica where it would be pitch black for 2-3 months of the year, it’d be hard to work out if it was in fact night or day. So this would help. Not that it has any lume, nor is it particularly legible, and you had better remember to wind it…but you know what I mean. If I’m being honest, I really chose it since I had the privilege of travelling to Antarctica a few years ago and I like the map.
When receiving the watch, it was in fact new. They are sold as ‘unused stock’ so one suspects that there are a number of these manufactured as homages to original designs. It did come in some bubble wrap with a strap that was so bad that even though I genuinely hate wastage, went straight in the bin. So there was no wearing it for a while, until I could find a nice NATO strap (the irony) that matched the colour combination. I found a black and orange one from Watch Straps Australia at $20, both the price and the availability of 18mm strap width worked out.
This is a two hand 24 hour watch which is a bit weird to work out at the start. I had always imagined a 24 hour watch as one hand that moved slowly around the dial. This one however, the minute hand moves as per a normal watch (so 1-12) whilst the hour hand follows the 1-24 on the dial.
So in short, the hour hand could point to 18 (where you’d normally find the 9) and the minute hand could also point to 18 (which would make it quarter to). It’s a bit odd at first but you do get used to it. There is also an inner ring that is relevant to the minute hand only, it does help with some more visual indicators of what's going on.
Above the 6 o’clock location, the following text can be found, CAENAHO B CCCP. Yes. This is what I want to see. I truly hoped that would mean Made in USSR and it does indeed. Hockey Players. Iron Curtain. Memories.
On the opposite side of the dial we have Antarctica in Cyrillic and in the middle, a nice large map of Antarctica (and a couple of random penguins that are not to scale). It appears to have all the research stations indicated by grey dots on the map which is a nice touch I think. It definitely has the look and feel of an old map.
The lines that come out around the map of Antarctica seem to have been designed to illustrate that this is after all, the south pole and where longitudes start.
The dial of the watch is covered by a domed, box crystal. It has sharp edges and protrudes from the case a few millimeters, it’s actually surprisingly nice with some light distortion on the edges.
The case itself is reminiscent of old cushion watch designs. It’s made of metal with very slight lugs sticking out. In fact, one problem with the lugs is that there is so little space between the holes for the spring bars and the main part of the case that it was very challenging to fit any type of band to the watch. It’s practically, ahem, anti-NATO….The back of the case has no markings what so ever, just polished.
Now to the movement. It’s a hand wound mechanical movement. I read a little bit about how to identify actual Raketa watches and apparently, the movement is a giveaway. There are imitations that can be worth less and not function particularly well. I didn’t pay much for this watch so the main thing I was interested in was that it works at all.
The movement is marked with 2628 which appears to be a genuine Raketa movement (unless the numbers have just been added from someone in the know, or just a general imitation). The movement has come into its own and now keeps good time. I did have some issues early on where the first 10 mins just went too fast and then it settled in, but this seems to have gone away now on its own.
It does not hack (seconds hand does not stop when setting the time) but the crown has a satisfying, albeit a little loose, movement so setting the time and winding up the watch is easy enough.
Again to re-state, there is no lume on this watch and the hands are black…attempting to tell the time in the dark with the watch won’t get your far (without a torch). The seconds hand is also black with no visual indicators to help you identify it, ie a ‘lollipop’ or the likes. This seems like an oversight that should have been re-designed.
Nato black and orange strap
18 mm Lugs
39 mm width
The watch is not practical, it’s not particularly legible, it doesn’t really sit particularly comfortably on the wrist and the cushion style design, short crown and very short lugs aren’t going to win any beauty contests.
So what exactly is the point of it? It is for lack of a better word, cool. It’s not trying too hard to be anything but a Russian wrist watch that pays tribute to the Soviet Union’s many achievements in the southern hemisphere. Whether this is a genuine Raketa watch or not, it definitely draws attention to that brand’s long and proud history (est. 1721!) with some very nice watch designs.
There are tons of vintage Soviet watches around and I think it makes sense to get one that’s new and works, unless you’re in to restoring older watches. It is also a mechanical, handwound watch and the 24 hour dial design is unique enough to stick out in the pub amongst your apple watch wearing friends.
Can you ask it what the weather will be like tomorrow? Well I guess you could, but you’d be better off pointing out the Cyrillic on the dial and go on about your Antarctica trip…
Did you enjoy this review? Coffee fuels my night time ponderings.