Established in 1721, in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, the massive production facility which today is known as the Raketa Manufacture is the oldest factory in the country.
Founded by no less a legend of Russian history than Peter the Great, the Imperial Lapidary Work of Peterhof was originally established to produce exotic, lavish stone works and carvings for palaces, state buildings, churches and of course the nobility of the time, and remarkably, across the centuries, and through the shifting sands of political and societal change, the company has endured by adapting to the times, evolving away in 1917 from providing luxury to the few towards essentials for the masses, and in particular the production of components for the forces on land, sea and air.
Resurrected from its physical ruins following WWII in 1945, Soviet leader Stalin decreed that the factory should return to glory as the nation’s principal watch company. Under its new identity as the Petrovets Watch Company the Pobeda brand emerged, its name translating to the word ‘victory’, and another era commenced, manufacturing millions of Russian made watches each year, in an intensely industrialised operation.
Meaning ‘rocket’ in English, the Raketa brand was established in 1961, as the company and indeed the country embraced the greatest challenge of that time to mankind, the international space race. A matter of great nationalistic pride, it was of course Russia who first achieved the seemingly impossible, and astonished the world by putting Yuri Gagarin into space to orbit around the globe, creating the first human space traveller, and then bringing him safely back to earth, and into the history books in one of the greatest feats of humankind, and one great victory of technical advancement and national honour over Russia’s arch adversary.
With its wide portfolio of styles and definitions Raketa epitomised the Soviet era as a symbol which was all things to all people. For some a token of status, for others like the aviators, mariners and explorers a hard wearing professional instrument, from celebrating her country’s sporting achievements to the pride of her high arts of ballet and theatre, Raketa was part of the fabric of Soviet life and culture.
However, with the fall of the Soviet ideal, and the opening of her nation’s frontiers to international brands, the Petrovets Watch Company soon found itself well behind in terms of quality when compared to Swiss standards, and outmoded in its operation, with over 6,000 employees producing five million watches each year by the end of the eighties.
A difficult transition period ultimately required an substantial overhaul throughout this famous company, as for almost thirty years, it existed as a mere relic of its illustrious past.
The new millennium initially saw little change, but with a resurgence in interest and an insatiable demand for quality mechanical timepieces which echoed right around the world, this sleeping giant was slowly and carefully awakened, and in 2011 reemerged into the daylight as a much streamlined and efficient manufacturing organisation, complete with experienced industry-wise management, massively improved production standards, and an eye for an international market.
Using much of the company’s existing tooling and knowhow, and so retaining the spirit of its history, Raketa recruited from the highest echelons of Swiss watchmaking, importing specialist expertise and technical innovation to once again create its own movements fully inside its Saint Petersburg manufactory, and this time produced to the uncompromising standards of C.O.S.C. chronometers and with meticulous attention to the finish and detailing of its collections.
Unveiling its Raketa-Avtomat in 2014, this all-new self-winding movement cemented the return of this great brand, and provided the foundation on which it would build its portfolio of watches for the twenty-first century, with three distinct families of tool watch, avant garde curiosity watches and classical collections.
And so finally, in 2020, and on the eve of its three hundredth anniversary, this grand old name is finally officially available on a truly international basis, with the establishment of its European headquarters, so watch collectors around the world can now discover a maker whose watches are distinctively cool and appealing, with their signatures of outgoing Russian styling and delightfully quirky dials, and all backed up with reliable chronometer standard movements which are entirely produced within the ateliers of this extraordinary company.