Raketa: New Models, New Attitude and a Battle Against Counterfeits
24 Sep 2014 by Editor, RussianWatchGuide.com
In recent years there has been plenty of rumor and mystery surrounding the famous Raketa brand. Communication from the company was virtually non-existant -- not surprising since the factory never had an English-speaking employee in 300 years. But that has all changed and Raketa is back on the scene and anxious to rebuild its brand and extend its legacy.
Find out what's happening at Raketa -- including plans for new models and Raketa's battle with counterfeit sellers -- in this exclusive interview with Count Jacques von Polier, Head of Design and Propaganda at the Petrodvorets Watch Factory (Raketa).
Raketa is one of the most famous Russian watch brands with an impressive history and very unique watch styles. I'm glad to see the brand active again.
Thank you very much for inviting our old factory for an interview on your dedicated site. We have to admit that our factory has not been very good in communicating the last 15 years and as a consequence many false rumors have been circulating on Internet. Also you have to understand that within the last 300 years, our factory never had a single employee speaking English, so that the communication with the western world was very limited. This has changed; we have now a dedicated Propaganda department with 2 nice girls speaking Russian, English, German and French.
Are all Raketa watches manufactured and assembled at the Petrodvorets Watch Factory?
The Petrodvorets Watch Factory – Raketa is one of the very rare manufacturers producing its own movements from A to Z. Even in Switzerland, watch brands producing their own movement from A to Z - including hair spring and escapement – are very rare! I would say they are no more than 5 or 6, and these famous Swiss brands sell their in-house made watches for astronomic prices.
A year ago, we almost decided to do as most watch producers do: close the factory, buy movements from ETA, or Maktime and print "Raketa – made in Russia" on the dial. This is easier and cheaper to do. Eventually we took the risky decision to maintain our factory as it is. We employed new very high qualified engineers whose task is to adapt the production process to modern quality standards and to the new Russian economical environment. We bought new equipment to ease the work done on our old machines that still work perfectly.
We also re-opened in collaboration with the "Kotin Engineering Institute of Leningrad" the "Petrodvorets Horlogical School", to train young watch masters. Our masters getting older, we wanted to make sure the Russian watchmaking know-how and tradition is transmitted to future generations. We have already 9 students who have started their training.
Of course our production cost for one movement is higher than buying a Swiss movement from ETA and of course the price of a Raketa watch has increased, but we sincerely hope our clients will appreciate that we maintained our full in-house movement production, and we hope they will forgive the consequent price increase.
On the other hand our watches are still much cheaper than any comparable watchmaking brand producing its own movement 100% in-house.
From the old Soviet watch factories, we are the last one producing our movement from A to Z. All the others have either died, or sell watches with supplied movements from ETA, Maktime or even from China. Vostok might be the second fully integrated factory that will survive; it seems they found new investors a few months ago. We sincerely hope they will not die, it is always sad to see such an incredible factory disappear. The "1st Moscow Watch Factory-Poljot" for the moment is in stand-by, it was bought by a Russian oligarch 2 years ago, but it seems they plan to produce very expensive watches in Switzerland, so that we will have to wait a few more years to see real Poljot watches again on the market. And finally the "Moscow 2nd Watch Factory-Slava" has been sadly dismantled last year.
Which watches and movements are you currently producing?
We are actually producing the Raketa 2609HA, Raketa 2614, Raketa 2628, Raketa 2623, Raketa 26690 and Raketa 26691. We are now working on putting back to production the Raketa Automatic 2627 and it should be ready for next year.
My dream of course would be to put back to production the legendary Raketa 3031 with double date and alarm clock, we still have all the technical documentation for it in our archive, but this will take a few more years.
Concerning finished watches, we are producing and selling a very limited temporary collection, while we all wait for the new collection to be ready, we hope before the end of the year. Aslo of course we produce watches for the GosZakazi (Government Orders).
Could you tell us a little about Raketa's history during the past few years? There seemed to be a period where there was no information and no new production from Raketa. Was the factory closed?
For most Soviet/Russian factories, the Privatization period of the 90’s has been very painful. No one was prepared for the new economical and political rules and most factories could not adapt and eventually closed. The Petrodvorets Watch Factory-Raketa was not an exception. Businessmen who privatized our factory were not interested in watches but in the rich real estate that the factory owned. Their business plan was to make fast millions by selling our real estate that we used to own in Saint Petersbourg. For their personal ambitions they bankrupted the factory so that they could extract from the balance sheet the real estate. And it is a miracle that some courageous factory workers in this very chaotic period could save the factory in itself. It is a wonder that despite all this they never stopped production. It is thrilling that we are still alive and still reside in our historical building where the factory was founded 300 years by Peter the Great. Of course the production unit has been reduced, and out of the tens of building that used to be the Factory, we have one building left. In other words you may say that we are a miniaturized factory from what it used to be in the 70’s.
The factory survived the Napoleon wars, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Second World War and the Privatization and we are proud we did and now we are about to survive the wild capitalism! You may call us "The Survivor".
You are right when you say that there was no - or almost no information about the factory during these difficult years, but the factory has always been producing. Most of the production was for government orders, not for the general public. The factory produced for the Army, the Milicia, the Interior Ministry and other government bodies. And thanks god, the factory had these government orders, without them, the factory would have closed long time ago.
Today things have changed; since we started communicating more actively, many government entities and Russian celebrities are getting interested in the fate of Russia’s oldest factory. And we sincerely hope the general public will support us and appreciate our work. Our budgets are very limited, and we have no dedicated budget for advertising so that the task is not easy.
What future plans does Raketa have? Will you have any new designs?
Our short term plan is to come out with a new collection, whose quality standards have been adapted to modern quality standards. Designs have been updated and adapted to modern trends. Though each of the 15 new models have very strong roots in historical designs. We are happy to have one of the world’s richest design archive, with thousands of designs from the 40’s to nowadays.
In the new collection you will have a Polar expedition 24 hours watch that was redesigned based on a design from 1969. We will come out with a redesigned "Perpetual Calendar" that first came out in the 70’s. Some other models take their inspiration from historical models from the 60’s and 80’s. The ones knowing historical Raketa models will recognize the Raketa lines in the new models. We want to step into the XXIst century without cutting our rich historical roots. Raketa is and has always been Russian, we are proud of that, so do not expect us to copy Swiss watches.
There has been some talk about counterfeit Raketa watches being sold on the internet. How can a person identify a fake Raketa?
There have not just been some talks about counterfeits; they are mountains of counterfeit Raketa watches on the net. I can say that 99% of the new Raketa watches sold on the net are counterfeits. They are of poor quality and it is a real problem for us. The worst is that some of these counterfeits may contain some original details. But is not because a bridge in a counterfeit movement is original, that the watch in itself will be original. We have been collaborating with ebay on this matter. And they have helped us to delete more than 500 posts advertising counterfeits. More and more sites are now collaborating with us. We are also in a discussion with google so that they no longer accept adds from counterfeit sellers. We have established a black list with all the counterfeit sellers know to us. Anyone can ask for the list and its updates, and before buying a Raketa on internet we strongly recommend the buyer to send us the link (firstname.lastname@example.org) before buying. Generally a new Raketa for USD 50 does not exist. Also we are now closely collaborating with the Russian Police department fighting economical crimes, and we are slowly establishing the list and location of the counterfeit producers and sellers, and once this preliminary work will be ready, the police will enter in action. The law in Russia concerning counterfeit production and selling can be very painful for counterfeit dealers once the police decided to enter in action. And it seems the government is willing to help us, it is a question of time.
Also most tourist shops In Moscow and Saint Petersbourg sell counterfeits that is be on old Arbat or on the Ismailovo Market. In both these tourist shopping venues I think they do not have a single new Raketa or Poljot, it is just a mountain of fakes sold to poor unaware tourists. The situation is simple either we do nothing and we will die, or we act against the criminals and they eventually go to jail. It is not to late for counterfeit dealers to get clean, some of them not even knowing there shops were offering counterfeits decided to do so.
Many of these "fake" watches seem to have original Raketa movements. Why is that? Where are they made? Are they counterfeit watches or are they in fact "gray market" watches being sold by unauthorized sellers. Or are they old stock?
There is no "Grey Market". A Raketa is either genuine or counterfeit. Generally when a seller is talking about old Soviet stocks then you may be sure you are in front of counterfeits. It is true that Soviet factories had sizable stocks of details, but not of finished products or movements. And that is why some counterfeits may have a movement that looks original. These specific counterfeit movements are partly assembled with original details. But that does not make them genuine. They had no quality control. Often genuine details are assembled with counterfeit details that do not even match together.
These counterfeits have not been, or poorly been plated – so that your counterfeit movements will sooner or later rust and corrode. A good plating cost to the factory about USD 12 per movement, how can you expect a finished watch with a good plating to be sold on internet for USD 35. It is technically impossible. In that case your movement is either a counterfeit, or coming from a big scale Chinese production.
All famous brands are facing such counterfeits partly assembled with genuine details. Rolex has the same problem. If you stick on your car an original Mercedes star, your car is still not a Mercedes. If you buy legitimate Mercedes details, assemble them in your basement with Chinese made details, then you don’t have a Mercedes, but a counterfeit. It is the same for Raketa.
But Raketa are not the only Russian watches subject to counterfeits, Poljot has the same problem. Poljot whom we work in close collaboration concerning our fight against counterfeits, have another problem. Some Russian brands that appeared the last 10 years are being sold as if they where Poljot, or equipped with a Poljot movement, that is also false and misleading for the final client. Most of these new brands use Maktime assembled movements. These might be good movements, but these are not Poljot movements.
Where are the best places to buy genuine Raketa watches?
We are rebuilding our distribution network from scratch, and it may take some time to build up. Generally we are much stricter than before concerning resellers we will work with. We will not work with shops selling counterfeits or giving misleading information about their items. If a seller is selling watches equipped with a MakTime movement and pretending it is a Poljot movement, then we will not work with him.
While we build up our new distribution network, you may buy Raketa watches directly from our Factory in Saint Petersbourg, or in Moscow from our Raketa Creative Studio. By the way, anyone is welcome to visit our creative Studio in Moscow or our Factory in Saint Petersbourg. Both are very interesting to visit, especially for watch lovers, both are comparable to living museums.
In Moscow we have opened 3 new shops, on in the Marriott Avrora Hotel, one in the Savoy Hotel and one in the Park Hyatt Hotel. In Europe we have just open a representative office in Paris, and for now it is the best place to order in the western world, they have the best and the fastest delivery service.
In the coming days we are about to open a corner in a shop in Singapore and one in Tokyo. We believe that within half a year we will have shops and corners in each major city around the world.
On Internet we are very careful with whom we work, but you may expect within a month a dedicated Raketa shop, that will make worldwide delivery.
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