The Peterhof Watch Factory has been counting its history since 1721, when Peter the Great signed a decree on the founding of a lapidary mill-factory, and watches have been made here since the 50s of the 20th century - more than a modest age for a watch manufactory.
One way or another, the clock was traced in the history of the plant from the very foundation: in the 18th and 19th centuries, the lapidary mill was engaged in stone carving and helped build St. Petersburg. Columns, caskets, vases, as well as stone cases for imported clock mechanisms were made here. In Soviet times, the plant refocused on the production of technical stone: it grew artificial rubies for the needs of the military industry, including for watches. And after the war, the plant gained a name and fame: the Pobeda and Raketa watches were made here for the entire Union. In the peak 70-80s, 5,000,000 hours were made annually in Peterhof. At the same time, "Rocket" was actively sold abroad: the trademark was registered in 41 countries - from Japan to Cuba ⓘ .
The 90s brought decline, the plant's territory was reduced to several workshops, and, like other Soviet watchmakers, Raketa was on the verge of bankruptcy - until it was bought by the French, who believed in the brand. Today the plant is located in two cities: in Moscow, there is a creative department of 15 people, in Peterhof - about 100 people at the manufactory. Several workshops remained from the enterprise of the allied scale. Nevertheless, Raketa manages to produce unique novelties every year, produce parts for premium watch manufactories and even machine tools for other industries.
Manufactured in Russia
The key value declared by Raketa is manufactured in Russia. Let's add from ourselves: and designed in Soviet Union. All the developments of the glorious Soviet past - the production base, drawings of mechanisms and design - are preserved, polished and exposed to the light.
The creative department basically does not develop a new design: "Rocket" picks up Soviet developments from huge archives, adapts the design and puts inside a modern mechanism of its own production with automatic winding. The stars of the assortment are models dedicated to Russian ballet, the Soviet avant-garde, space exploration, brave pilots and sailors. Raketa purposefully revives images with great export and tourism potential, which sell well both on the foreign and domestic markets, including those who buy “the same Rocket” – grandfather clocks that work no matter what .
Celebrities are traditionally involved in the promotion. But if the classic brand ambassador is a mannequin with a watch, then at Raketa he is the creator. So, Natalia Vodyanova updated the design of the Zvezda watch, Emir Kusturica refreshed the Avangard line, soloists of the Bolshoi Theater - the Premier watch. With compressed advertising budgets, this is a skillful tactical move, so almost every collection has its own local or global designer-ambassador: these are ballet dancers, cosmonauts, and the Ilyushin aviation complex. Most of the models are limited, produced in quantities from 100 to 300 pieces, with the expectation of collectors. Some lines sometimes do not reach stores: they are sold out on pre-order. Another skillful move that has been used by all watchmakers since tsarist times is to gain a foothold as a supplier of premium watches.
Raketa also has watches with complications — the main thing that distinguishes ordinary mechanics from premium ones. The most famous complication of the plant is the “Russian Code” model, in which both the numbers and the hands behave in reverse. The second hand is made in the form of the Moon, which revolves around the Earth in an astronomically correct direction. In general, on the "Rocket" they like to change the appearance of the arrows: on the "Avangard" - this is the Lissitzky triangle, on the "Copernicus" - the celestial spheres. Another characteristic sign of Russian vintage watches is “0” instead of “12” on the dial. It first appeared in the 50s, and just like then, today "0" symbolizes the resurgent factory. All this allows the "Rocket" to go beyond the traditional field of comparison according to the classic watch criteria to an area where it has no direct competitors: it is not so important whether the factory has a model in platinum,
According to the witty remark of Manuel Emch, a Swiss consultant for Raketa, the past in Russia exists as the present. Raketa confirms this thesis in production and assortment policy, but goes even further, capturing the area of the incredible: the engineer who created the Russian Code reverse mechanism has been working at the plant since 1957. This is Lyudmila Yakovlevna Voinik, who heads the production and technical department.
The mysterious soul of Russian luxury
In the eighties, every 3rd resident of Peterhof worked at the Rocket. Today it is every 805th. Nevertheless, labor dynasties survived here: Zimins, Morins, Levins, some of them worked at the cutting mill-factory under Peter. Raketa maintains this continuity and has opened an internal watchmaking school for young employees, with an average training period of three years.
David Henderson-Stewart, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Rocket, explains: “Most of all, we value people. I graduated from the Sorbonne, Oxford, and there is an opinion that if you are not a banker or a lawyer, you are not successful in life. This is a big mistake. Our watchmakers have a greater responsibility than any banker. Being a banker is very easy, being a lawyer is not so difficult. Any of us could become a banker in 6 months. And to work as a watchmaker, you need many years of training and a colossal responsibility. If the banker does his job poorly, nothing bad will happen. And if the watchmaker makes a bad detail, the watch will not work.
The Raketa is also actively implementing the Swiss experience. A few years ago, the watchmaker Xavier Girodet came here, who had previously collaborated with top Swiss manufactories: Jaeger-LeCoultre, Blancpain, Parmigiani. He is not the only one who is attracted by the mysterious Russian factory: for two years now, Raketa has been consulted by Manuel Emh, in the past - CEO of Jaquet Droz, CEO and creative director of Romain Jerome - two more celestials of the Swiss sky.
These and other foreigners were attracted by David Henderson-Stewart, who 10 years ago, together with his partner Jacques von Polier, invested in the plant. They made the Russian soul of Raketa a key value, although they transplanted it onto Swiss soil: all the trademarks of the plant are registered in Switzerland. When reviving production, the partners expected to rely on state support, which in Europe is actively provided to those who are reviving historical production. However, in the watch business, especially in Russia, everything moves slowly, and the planned plans are achieved at a much more leisurely pace. Paulier left the project last year, and David continues to lead the board of directors. He believes that Russia should have its own international luxury brand, and that is Raketa. Consultant Manuel Emh is of the same opinion.
According to both, a luxury brand is first and foremost a handmade product. At the Raketa, everything is done by hand, the way the watch manufactories in Le Locle worked 50 or 60 years ago, until robots replaced people. Each watch bears the imprint of the craftsmen, from machine operators to engineers, because Raketa is one of the few factories in the world that produces all the parts in-house within the same production. And one of the four factories in the world that does not buy, but makes a balance spring - one of the most complex parts of the mechanism. Apart from Raketa, only Swatch Group, Rolex and Seiko do this. Other manufactories are forced to buy it, mainly from the Swatch Group. By the way, this is one of the backup strategic plans of "Rocket" for earnings: to sell an important and expensive balance-spring to European manufacturers.
Raketa, which ten years ago was reluctantly taken to multi-brand stores, began to open its own points of sale in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Paris.
300 year old startup
In the near future, Raketa will develop a new item from the mandatory program of the luxury brand: models made of precious metals — and this will be implemented as a co-branding story with the Russian jewelry house. In the same year, Raketa did something that was not typical of a watch house: it opened workshops for visitors: production, washing, assembly, including traditionally secret departments where the most complex details of the movement are assembled.
It is surprising that a factory with a 300-year history, which produced 5 million items annually, is today in fact in the position of a start-up. This position allows us to take into account the mistakes and experience of European colleagues, progressively building a strong strategy.
In order to maintain demand, watch manufactories are forced to constantly release novelties, simultaneously cutting their circulation, and to increase service in order to compensate for the falling interest of collectors - world watch exhibitions clearly demonstrate this. Against this background, the actions of the "Rocket", drawing inspiration from the past and wrapping it in small print runs, look like a good strategy. At the same time, Raketa does not play in the field of premium watches, where it has a weak position (it balances between the Russian middle market and the European luxury market), but in the field of premium accessories with a vintage character inherent in “mysterious Russia”.
At the same time, the manufactory sets itself the goal of producing the most accurate mechanism in the world. A few days before the publication, the plant received the results of tests that were carried out among pilots of aircraft bombers. Thus, the Tissot watch has a deviation of 2.8 s, and that of the Raketa is 1.2 s after the watch has overcome supersonic sound three times.
The first batch of Raketa watches was published in 1961. The brand was named after Gagarin's flight , but in Western Europe and America, the name was more associated with Soviet missile weapons.
The Petrodvorets Watch Factory created a single mechanism for all Raketa-2609NA watch models, on the basis of which more than two dozen modifications of Raketa watches were produced: automatic, calendar, anti-magnetic, for the blind (2610NA), with a 24-hour scale (2623.N) - for people working in difficult conditions, where it is difficult to distinguish day from night: polar explorers, submariners, etc.
The first watches under the brand name "Rocket" were the models "Russia", "Record", "Petrodvorets". The Record watch was the second original design, at 2.7 mm thick, and remains the flattest of all made in the USSR and the thinnest mechanical watch in the world with a second hand. In 1965, the Record watch received a gold medal at the international Leipzig Fair .
Mass production of Raketa watches began in 1964 , and by 1980 the factory was producing 4,600,000 Raketa watches annually.
In 2000, the head of the Petrodvorets watch factory "Rocket" Oleg Grigoryevich Tychkin, who led the factory from the 1960s to the early 1990s, died. With the deterioration of the economic situation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the company had to drastically reduce the number of products produced. Some of the buildings and premises belonging to the plant were rented out for offices and shops, including the Raketa shopping and entertainment complex. However, despite all the changes that have taken place, the employees of the Watch Factory managed to maintain production and unique equipment. The plant continued to produce watches on special orders, thanks to which it was able to maintain its own production.
Since 2010, the Board of Directors has included Rostislav Rostislavovich Romanov , one of the heads of the Romanov Imperial House. He was also the chief designer of the plant.
In 2010, model Natalia Vodianova joined the Rocket commercial . This is the first Russian brand she works with. In 2011 and 2012, the Raketa watch was presented at the Baselworld exhibition.
Clock in Detsky Mir department store, Moscow
In 2014, Raketa began creating monumental clocks for the Central Children's Store on Lubyanka in Moscow. The clock will enter the top 5 world mechanical clocks such as Big Ben, Kremlin Chimes, Prague Tower clock and Ganzhou clock. The device, located in the atrium of the Central Children's Store on Lubyanka, was installed in December 2014.