Russia, a country with a more than memorable history, now ruled with an iron fist by a one-of-a-kind government, has played an important role in the watchmaking sector for years. This country today represented by a charismatic and mysterious leader that many distrust has developed a true knowledge of watchmaking during its prosperous years, knowledge that still exists today through workshops of passionate artisans. When we think of Russia, we often think of Red Square, war, the USSR, the cold, communism, politics, and shirtless Vladimir Putin in a bear. But for connoisseurs, Russia is also a multitude of original and interesting watches that are worth a visit. These are some of our favorites.
Raketa is arguably the most famous and influential brand in the industry. The factory that produces clocks on the St. Petersburg side with origins dating back to 1721 and then employed bricklayers. The brand was born in 1961, the year of Youri Gagarin’s first flight into space. The name Raketa actually means “rocket” in Russian, and this link between the brand and space conquest continues today. The factory is called then “Petrodvorets Watch Factory “. It will become a giant of Russian industry before collapsing with the fall of the USSR.
Around 2010, French with Russian origins Jacques Von Polier and New Zealander David Henderson-Stewart took over the brand and offered a high-end movement of the products offered while keeping the machines of the great era. In 2014 Raketa introduced its own automatic movement that is still used today in most of its models. Raketa watches range from simple vintage-inspired 3-hand classics to chronographs with multiple complications, not more original pieces like the Raketa Copernic with its circular hands or sports models of all kinds with divers, pilot watches and others. The brand’s strategy seems to be turning more and more towards export and it is now possible to get hold of many of its models steeped in history.
For more information on this monument of the time, visit our brand page Raketa.
The Petrodvorest watch factory is somewhat behind the scale of Russian watch culture, but it was not the only one. In 1930 Stalin ordered the creation of a Russian watch factory in Moscow. She took the name “Первый Государственный Часовой Завод – 1ГЧЗ”, which means “Watch factory number 1“He worked with machines imported from the United States and personnel trained by American technicians. Beginning in 1946, certain stamped watches Pobeda The brand that was born in the factory that produces Raketa, also came out of this Moscow factory, powered by K-26 movements, which were actually based on the French R26 caliber developed by LIP. In 1959, the company began to export models under the name of Sekonda, which means “second”.
As previously mentioned, 1961 marks the first flight in the Youri Gagarin space. On his wrist was a watch called Sturmanskie which means “navigator”, and which comes from the Moscow factory. Then, in 1964, the watches in this factory took the mark Poljot, which means “robbery” in Russian. In 1965 the cosmonaut Alexei Leonov He becomes the first man in the world to do a spacewalk outside of any vehicle. He was wearing a Poljot watch called the FMWF Strela which means “arrow”. The brand was very active until the 90s. It also suffered the collapse of the USSR, like the rest of the country, but did not give up.
It was bought in the 2000s by a Russian businessman, but the production of wristwatches seems to have stopped around 2004 due to the new owner’s problems with fairness. Some of the machines were bought and used for the production of a new brand called Maktime However, the Poljot company still has a production unit, which today focuses on two different tasks: the production of decorated dials for entry-level clocks, and the design of magnificent mechanical marine chronometers for ships of the Russian National Navy. , which are sold for several thousand euros. It may be interesting to note that each ship in the Russian Navy must have one of these timers. Poljot, as the creator of the measuring device, is therefore not ready to shut down. A great way for the government to protect historical experience and help a company keep its head above water in the face of international competition.
Born in Moscow around 2004, it was made up of a large number of ancient artisans and watchmakers from Raketa and other factories in the country, including the one that Poljot produced. In fact, it is on the latter’s premises and with the machines on site, which were purchased by employees, that the Maktime story begins. The production will be moved to different locations in the southeast of Moscow. The 3133 caliber continues to be produced under this new brand for a few years. They are worn on certain Maktime patterned watches, but many are sold and used for the creations of the Aviator, Buran, Sturmanskie and other brands that have tried to claim Poljot fame before yesteryear by calling themselves Poljot Trade, Poljot International or other Maktime It will cease its activity in 2011. Some of the brands we have just mentioned are still active, but the models are powered by ETA, Miyota or the Chinese movements.
The brand Vostok It is produced by a factory established in 1942 in Christopol, and has always focused on the production of military and diving mechanical watches. Vostok means “East” in Russian, a name that also refers to a Russian space program. All of their watches were originally reserved for the Russian Army. The brand is also in charge of producing an ultra-precise and rugged mechanical watch for Russian submarines.
More contemporary, Konstantin Chaykin It also has an interesting history. In his forties, he works with twenty watchmakers under his command in a workshop in Moscow, and offers some pretty crazy exclusive pieces. In 2018 he received the Geneva Watch Grand Prix in the “Audacity” category. This speaks volumes about the quality of its products and the recognition it receives from the largest in the global industry. He is notably the creator of the Joker, and would work with his team on a kind of GMT watch that would simultaneously indicate time on Earth and Mars, to equip the first individuals to fly to the red planet. Definitely, space conquest is really something that seems to fascinate the Russian people and their watchmakers.
Fight It is a Belarusian brand, a country independent from Russia since the dismantling of the USSR in 1991, but which has maintained very strong ties to the country of Vladimir Putin. Thus, Luch is not, strictly speaking, a Russian watch brand, but is clearly an heir to Soviet watchmaking culture. It was in 1953 that a watch factory was founded in Minsk and produced many watches under the brands. Fight Y Zarja. It has done well in offering gorgeous jewelry watches for women and ultrathin watches for men. It also produced high-end watches for Poljot that were stamped Poljot de Luxe and added to the manufacturing of the Moscow factory.
Luch survived the Soviet hecatomb of 1991 and is still active, producing several thousand watches per year, offering quartz and other mechanical models, animated by locally produced calibres and by some imported from Japan based on models. Luch watches were considered luxury products in the 1970s, but the current brand focuses on watches that are very affordable and of good quality, with more than respectable finishes. Value for money seems to be at the center of your concerns. It now distinguishes itself with some very successful one-handed models, but especially with shutter clocks fitted with a glass that opens to allow the wearer to touch the hands and the dial with Braille inscriptions.
The origins of Molnija, which is pronounced “Molnia”, dates from November 17, 1947, in the city of Chelyabinsk. The main activity of the brand at that time was simply the production of equipment for the Russian army, even that. Molnija supplies the Red Army with pocket watches, some wristwatches and, above all, measurement tools and watches intended for use in tanks, planes and war submarines. It will also produce space capsule watches of the time. The trust of the army and the government has given a strong image to the brand, which has invested massively in research and development to produce equipment that meets the expectations of its demanding customers. The brand was quickly inspired by mechanical concepts borrowed from Swiss watchmaking, in particular the Rolex brand.
The brand is still active and a large part of the products are partly made by hand. The watches remain available at affordable prices and offer a certain quality, with a more than assertive Soviet spirit.
Don’t underestimate the Russian watch
These are some of our favorite Russian brands and their stories. Russia has a true watchmaking experience dating back to the USSR era, and some watches from this great country are worth examining. A serious history of watchmaking, clean production processes, manufactured movements, and sometimes fully created internal quality standards based on military products, all features that indicate that the Russian watch should not be underestimated. Some passionate collectors look for rare pearls from the great era, but other more contemporary pieces are also desirable watches that convey interesting emotions. If Russian watch companies continue this trend, some pieces may become essential among international collectors in a few years.