Until 1969 USSR space program has always been one step ahead compared to NASA. The first satellite in space, the first man in space, the first EVA walk,.. And then came 1969 and the first man on the moon made by NASA. Having lost the race to the moon in that year Soviets actively focused their attention on sending a mission to Mars. Their Mars program already existed since 1960 but had been unsuccessful. That changed on December 2nd, 1971.
On May 28th 1971 a Soviet robotic space probe called "Mars 3" was launched to Mars. Its primary purpose was to study the topography of the Martian surface, analyze its soil composition, take pictures of the Martian landscape and measure the various properties of the atmosphere.
Unfortunately at the time when Mars 3 reached the orbit of Mars, planetary scientists were surprised to find the atmosphere was thick with 'a planet-wide robe of dust, the largest storm ever observed'. The surface of Mars was totally obscured. Unable to reprogram the mission computers, Mars 3 immediately dispatched its descent module. It was released at 09:14 UT on December 2nd, 1971. Despite the extremely rough meteorological conditions the lander achieved a soft landing 4 hours and 35 minutes after being released. It started transmitting to the Mars 3 orbiter 90 seconds after landing. However, transmission stopped after only 14 seconds. The cause of the the failure lies in extremely powerful Martian dust storm, which may have induced a coronal discharge, damaging the communications system.
During the 14 sec transmission, the lander managed to send an image of Mars landscape - a grey background with no details. The large dust storm explains the poor image. This was the first picture ever taken of Mars from Mars!
Soviet authorities put the picture away for more than 10 years believing it has no scientific value. It was shown to the public only in the 80's.
The Lander was lost until 2013 when NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took the picture of the Mars 3 Lander hardware - the parachute, retrorockets, heat shield and lander. The discovery what is on the pictures was done by a Russian amateur space enthusiasts looking through publicly available archived image!
The story told was almost forgotten. But 50 years later, a very unusual coalition between The Limited edition company, Scottish Watches and Raketa watch company was created with a goal to create a very special watch which would celebrate fiftieth anniversary of this first step towards the exploration of the Mars. The result of that collaboration was a Raketa Mars 3 watch which was limited to just - how convenient - 50 pieces.
Raketa Mars 3 watch is in general based on Raketa Space Launcher. The important differences are in the dial, the glass, the bezel and the movement decorations. Namely all those stated parts were used for a tribute to Mars 3.
Let's start with the most noticeable feature - the dial. The team had a brilliant idea to use an already mentioned first photo from the Mars for the dial basis. They have gone even further. Dial is an exact reproduction of the photo. As you can see from the picture on the right side, dial is a laser engraved reproduction on a bronze plate, partially cut to make the round dial plate. The dial was then given rusty/copper color by hand operated etching process.
The next important decision was unusual. Dial stayed clean, without any hour markings, inscriptions. Nothing. Instead of putting all those markings on the dial, they rather use glass for that. So all what you see on the watch face is printed on the sapphire glass above the dial and not the dial itself. Technique to put something on the glass instead on the dial was used already on the Space Launcher, but there we were talking only about one text. Here, everything is on the dial so the fear of destroying the glass is here even more exposed.
The final result is stunning! The dial is one of the most beautiful dials that I have seen. Its color looks different from every angle.
The next feature worth mentioning is the bezel. It indicates the Martian time :). Martian time is called 'sol', what is written also on the bezel. The Martian hour is 1 minute and 30 seconds longer than hour on Earth, what ends in approximately 40 minutes for the whole day. And the bezel incorporates the difference and 24 lap ends between 0 and 1 of the next lap. Useful? Not at all :)! Interesting? Very!
To be honest, I almost never use bezel functions, the only really useful thing for me is using it for a different time zone. So if bezel would have any other function implemented (such as compass, tachymeter,..), it would be equally useless in practice as this one is. And since Martian and Earth time are so close to each other, this one can still be used as a different time zone here on Earth as well.
The bezel is bidirectional, rotates freely without any clicks. For serious use this is not very good, you can change the bezel position accidentally.
The last part of the watch, which is dedicated to Mars 3, is the movement decoration. As you can see, rotor has a picture of the Lander and inscription Mars-3 with the date of the landing. Bridges have the picture of the constellation.
On the outer ring all partners in the project are stated, together with the serial number and declaration that the watch was made in Russia. I must admit, 'Scottish watches' and 'Made in Russia' together written on the same watch looks unusual. If you don't know the story behind, that two things make a lot of question marks.
As said, the rest of the watch is the same as on the Space launcher. Well if you remember, Space Launcher has a very specific straps. This watch has two straps as well, but just one standard leather brown and one rubber black with red stiches.
Oh, yes, not to forget. Raketa has finally put some good hands on the exclusive watch. You can actually see what time is it, what was quite a task on Space Launcher or Leopard (at night). And additional fun is to see minute hand running below the numbers. Very unusual feeling.
The package of the watch is again extremely well. This time the box is black with red brown text. Inside is a nice and useful booklet, which gives you all the information about the Mars 3 project. The entire historical first part of this article, which is marked in italic, is basically a transcript from that booklet (now you know why it is in italic) and also the pictures were taken from the booklet.
It also seems that it has become a practice for all special series of Raketa watches that Raketa adds a picture of one of the workers which were included in the watch assembly. For the lady in the picture it is stated that she has put the jewels into the movement....
Since the case s is the copy of the Space Launcher there is of course no surprise on the wrist.
Fun thing is that even though this is Raketa made watch, you will not find this watch in the Raketa shops. The exclusive seller of this watch is The Limited edition company. When launched at the end of 2021, the watch costed 1680 GBP - almost 2000 EUR (without EU taxes). Seems that marketing for this watch was not very successful or the price was too high, or the attack to Ukraine made Russian watches unpopular, since one year later watches are still available. Now selling goes through chrono24.com and for much less - for just 1250 GBP. Which is less than almost all regular Raketa watches. So if you do consider buying one of the Raketa 24h watches, this one is a great candidate, while it is available.