Octagon from Russia

Featured this watch on “What’s on the wrist, this week” but thought I’d post it here as an update as it’s just that little bit unusual.

My Octagonal Russian Raketa

My Octagonal Russian Raketa

An unusual and stylized Raketa, made in USSR probably in the 1980s from the Petrodvorets Watch Factory in St. Petersburg.  This manufacturer started to produce their own movements and this brand name Raketa from around 1961/2, though the Company is in fact much older, starting life in 1721 under Peter the Great as the Peterhof Lapidary Works.  Such was the popularity of Raketa, they actually manufactured over 4.5 million watches a year even in the 1980’s and exported all over the world.

Unusual textured face and octagonal case, Day and Date watch.

Unusual textured face and octagonal case, Day and Date watch.

Now I’ve always liked Russian watches basically as they are really quite different from the Swiss mainstream, are often of unusual design and have that Russian lettering on the face – and not everyone has that!  And whilst they may at first glance appear a bit rough, in fact rough and ready some would say, certainly the vintage ones, they are often remarkably well made internally (certainly those from the better makers) and all the models I have keep remarkably good time.  They also represent extremely good value in comparison to many, especially when you consider these are mostly mechanical, not quartz.  In fact to buy a Swiss watch of the same mechanical quality it will cost you considerably more. A friend of mine used to say that most of his Russian watches looked like a pair of Levis – they were made to look “worn”.  His new Russian watches looked like his old Swiss ones after being in the cutlery drawer for a year or two!

But seriously, they may often look a little rough around the edges, but don’t be fooled – you want a good solid mechanical watch?  You could do a lot worse I assure you!

Why can't they all have this niche to get the back off?

Why can’t they all have this niche to get the back off?

This model features the  mechanical hand wound Raketa 19 jewel 2628.H movement, which keeps really excellent time.  In fact this is a feature common to many Russian models I’ve found over the years and watches from the old Soviet block were and are very much underrated.  The modern collections are somewhat better cosmetically I suppose, better access to quality metals and machine technology and so on, but the vintage mechanical ones for me are something special.

Raketa 19j 2628.H movement

Raketa 19j 2628.H movement

This model has a window @3 for the day and date, the latter adjusted by pulling out the spring loaded crown – each pull changes the date by one.  The day is set by moving the hands.  It also has a shock proof balance and dust protection case.

About one of the only negatives I’ve found with the older Russian watches are the straps and bracelets used.  I often, though not always, find them quite poor and so it was with this one,  the original bracelet was an inflexible steel strap affair that was very difficult to put on, being so stiff, and the clamp length adjuster virtually impossible to manage.  It was also one of the most uncomfortable straps I’ve ever worn.

The Raketa Octagonal (my name for it) - unusual, different - I wear it!

The Raketa Octagonal (my name for it) – unusual, different – I wear it!

So I fitted a simple black quality leather strap, which compliments the watch style nicely, matching the black colored top casing surface.  The case by the way is steel and the upper and lower lug areas have polished black inserts added to the top surface, as shown in the above image, which protect partly what looks like maybe a perspex glass box like octagonal shaped crystal.
The dial is composed of two different textures, one horizontal, the other vertical with applied gold colored square minute markers plus printed application numerals at 12 and 6, with a Day and Date window @3.  The hands are straight silver toned and the seconds sweep hand colored black.  It all works rather well funnily enough and the watch face is easy and very clear to read.

The watch back is a snap fit steel with a opening “niche” to make it easier to remove and a feature I wish others would emulate.

So all in all an excellent USSR made Raketa and one which I’m very pleased to have in my “Russian” box.  But it is also a watch I find myself wearing remarkably often as it does what it’s supposed to do very well.  It keeps VERY good time, it winds easily and firmly, it has a surprisingly good power reserve and it’s never let me down in all the years I’ve had it.

What more can I say?   Well it won’t be the last USSR watch I get – of that I am very sure!

Categories: Watch reviews

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