Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Raketa 24 Hour Watch Review

On a new black, curved-end, leather band

On a bund strap

The movement

This is the first watch I have gotten since I was a child that required me to learn how to tell time again. I have pretty much mastered it now but it took a while before I could quickly glance at it and read the time. The trick is to remember that each quarter of the dial represents six hours, not three as it is on a conventional watch face. The watch came to me by way of a trade with a fellow member of the Poor Man’s Watch Forum. This particular model dates from Soviet times but is in nearly flawless shape and modern versions are readily available today. As such, I believe that this example will pretty fairly represent what current Raketa 24 hour watches are like.

The Raketa 24 hour is a visually striking watch that really looks like nothing else I have ever owned. The watch measures 39mm in width (42mm including the crown), 42mm lug to lug, 12mm in height and uses an 18mm band. The watch wears larger than its dimensions would suggest, however, due to a very thin chrome bezel (really almost an all-dial design) and the relatively thin 18mm band width. The watch face has no lume and the hands are very thin. Water resistance appears to be non-existent, a common trait among Raketas (Someone once commented that if a Raketa says “Water Resistance 30 Meters” on the back, it means don’t get it within 30 meters of water.) In addition to its 24 hour time scale, this model also has an internally adjustable chapter ring that is marked with several world cities (and a rather odd assortment at that-Novosibirsk for instance) as well as the names of the ice research stations of Antarctica. (When was the last time you thought about McMurdo Station, if ever.) The chapter ring is adjustable via a second crown at the 4:00 position. The Raketa’s case appears to be made of chrome plated brass with a stainless steel back. The domed crystal appears to be acrylic and is mounted as a unit in a removable chrome plated bezel piece.

The Raketa 24 hour is powered by a 19 jewel model 2623h hand wound movement. Accuracy for this example is pretty good (considering its age again) at about +30 seconds daily. The movement itself has a completely unadorned appearance, even more so than in most Russian watches.

I have read that 24 hour watches are popular in Russia because the country is so large that it has over a dozen time zones. Its easier to remember where one day begins and another ends in such an environment if you use a 24 hour scale. Additionally, much of Russia lies in the arctic circle where conventions like am and pm don’t have much meaning. That also, needless to say, applies to the poles as well. It is also a useful convention for both pilots and the military (although I am not aware of Raketas being used by either the old Soviet or current Russian armed forces.)

The Raketa 24 hour is undeniably an unusual piece. It isn’t every day that you find a watch with Ekaterinburg written on the dial after all. I wouldn’t personally use it as a daily wearer although it would work fine in that role (just be prepared to mentally translate the time to the 12 hour scale if someone asks you for it.) It appears to be quite well made (Raketa movements are anecdotally reputed to be among Russia’s best) and as long as it is kept dry, it should last for a long time.


Blogger John F. Opie said...

Hi -

Great post as usual. :-)

I've got 4 24-hour watches: a vintage Elgin military, a modern Shturmanskie that died on me after the warranty ran out, and two Raketa, one of which is one of the special antartica models.

It is a tad difficult at first, but I used the Shturmanskie as a daily watch for about 4 months or so and then very often on and off for another year. It does take some getting used to, and it does drive people crazy when they ask you the time and you simply show them the watch because you are talking to someone else. Or have your mouth full: I had one lovely young thing say "that can't be the right time" and then give me the most exquisite blank stare when I said it's a 24-hour dial.

And you know me as JohnF on WUS. :-)

1:21 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Glad you liked it. It does take some getting used to though.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was really glad to read your review of the Raketa 24 Hour. I just bought a very similar watch a few months ago, not because I am a connoisseur, just because I thought it was fun, unusual, and seemed to work. Mine also has the cities of the world listed on it, including Ekaterinburg. I do have a question for those of you who may be much more educated about these watches than I am. I am wondering how I might find out a little more about my particular watch - it still as the original watch band on it - with a picture of Yuri Gagarin under a little clear button type of thing. I was wondering how I might discover the approximate value of the watch and band. I was also wondering how I might find out the age of my watch. The only thing on the back is a number -598. Does that mean something? My brother really loved my watch and I was thinking about giving it to him for Christmas (I guess it really is more appropriate for a man than a woman.) But, he didn't like the band, which I think it really kind of fun - so I'd like to find out a little more before I'd part with my fun conversation piece watch. (P.S. I had to ask a bunch of people before I could find a person who could identify the picture on the band as Yuri Gagarin - a Polish/Russian doctor friend of mine finally solved the mystery for me!) Joy joy.bianchi@abbott.com

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Raketa watch from the Cold War era. I've currently posted it on Ebay without doing any research into it. I picked it up years ago from Hanoi (Vietnam) from an old man who said that it came down to Vietnam during the Vietnam War and was a trade between a Chinese and Russian Soldier. Can you tell me anything about the watch?
Any information would be great as I am now regreting posting it.
Please email me, Jonathan, at jonofinchy@hotmail.com

12:11 AM  
Blogger Silva1 said...

Hi Ed, you seem to know a lot more about soviet watches than me! i would like to have some advice. I like this watch but am not sure if it is a real or repro Soviet era watch, any advice would be great! its on ebay so you never know!


Kind regards


7:05 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

That certainly appears to be a Raketa and I have little doubt that it was assembled at their Petrodvoretz factory. As for whether it was assembled before the wall came down, thats harder to tell. The dial is marked CCCP but the overall condition of the watch suggests that it is newer than that. Raketa was hard hit by the fall of the Soviet Union and apparently went into a period of dormancy (for lack of a better term) during which time they sold off old stock and assembled new watches from already manufactured parts. I have a feeling that the Raketa in that auction was built after the fall of the Soviet Union from old parts built before the fall.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Silva1 said...

Hi thanks for the info, I was thinking the same! well for the price you can't really go wrong, i think i'll get one... Seeing that it is well built although after the fall of the soviet union which is a shame.. Thanks for your advice!



12:15 PM  
Blogger Silva1 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:16 PM  

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