If you follow at least a bit russian watch industry, you might have heard that in 2015 Raketa announced a production of a new automatic movement and a series of new watches based on that new movement. But the announced prices for those new watches were quite high - especially for collectors of USSR or Russian watches which used to be "spoiled" that this watches are cheap. I believe a lot of collectors have a second thought about buying a Raketa watch priced in a 1000 EUR range or more. I admit I also was one of those guys who hesitated about purchasing a new Raketa. But this year's black Friday gave me the opportunity to "pull the trigger" and to buy one. I choose Raketa Baikanur to be my first "new" Raketa. Those who know my collections can sure understand, why. Namely it fits to my "Space" and "Russian" collections.
As said Raketa developed or better said refreshed it's automatic movement 2615 in 2014. The version with 24h complication (from Baikanur watch) is called 2624, both nominations still follows ex. USSR clasification of the movements. Also the version with date exist but this version does not have 2627 nominaton what would be standard in this clasification but remains clasified as 2615. Strange and unusual.
2615 movement has more than 240 parts and Raketa claims that every single part of the movement is made by them. So entire movement and also entire watch is made strictly by Raketa, what is very rare in today's watch industry. They also claim that production is almost entirely manhand controlled....
Raketa was very ambitious about new movement. They wanted to compete with ETA 2824 and wanted to penetrate to microbrand watch industry offering this movement as better and cheaper alternatve to ETA 2824. I will quote what Raketa has claimed on their official web site:
1. The winding speed of Raketa Avtomat is higher than ETA 2824. According to Cyclotest watch tester, Avtomat speed of movement is over 3.4 against approximately 2.5 in ETA.
2. Raketa Avtomat is equipped with a stopper of self winding unit, which is activated during manual winding (unlike ETA movements, the reversers are locked while the movement is manually winded). This reduce noise during manual winding process and prevents wearing out the reversers.
3. Unlike in many swiss automatic movements, Raketa Automat movement's reversing system is wear resistant, for it has no micro-teeth (being extremlely sensitive, micro teeth are worn out easily.
4. In the Raketa Avtomat the rotor winding is bidirectional. I.e. the oscillating weight winds the barrelr egardless of the oscillation direction. (while ETA's Valjoux 7750, the most popular of Swiss chronometers used by Breitling, Panerai and other brands, is unidirectional).
In 2019 they made one step forward and almost all movements are now decorated. What is unusual is that movements are decorated differently in different watch models, so decoration depends on watch to which the movement will be inserted. Some decorations are nice and well but on some decorations Raketa simply step over the limit of the good taste. At least for me those decorations are childish! Few examples from Raketa's booklet:
Of course, since movements are decorated wathes with those movement have glass on the case back.
From the entire collections I must admit several watches drew my attention. To name just few of them - all Amfibija versions, Baikonur, Ruskij kod. Primarely my focus was on the watches with leather or rubber strap. I preffer those type of straps agains bracelet, I feel more comortble wearing them and usually rubber/leather straps versions are cheaper than bracelet versions. But very few shops in EU offers Raketa. Except factory web store in Paris, I found UK based PageandCoopers, German Watchbandit (only few models) and Timedix in Bulgaria. Where Timedix at least at the time when I send the initial enquiry did not want to send to western Europe, they just gave me the link of the official store and claimed to be representatives only for Eastern Europe. To make things worse, they all have the same price and nobody was willing to offer any discount in the last two years. Prices have even increased in the last year.
Well, on this years BlackFriday Watchbandit offered 20% on all watches in their offer, Raketa including. So I grabbed this opportunity. Off all watches I was interested in they had only Baikonur on bracelet so on last day of the sale I decided to take it. At the time being Timedix also offers 20% on all models, I was able to negotiate also to now send it my country, so soon another Raketa's will be on my wrists (and maybe a short introduction here will follow). Even though I bought a Baikonur from Watchbandit, I received a watch just one day after the order from Bulgaria and stamped by Timedix. So it seem that Watchbandit is a subdealer of Timedix and not directly Raketa.... That made me think to try I arrange next purchases from Bulgaria directly.
First I have to mention boxing and packaging. Everything very proffesional, you receive a booklet with interesting informations about Raketa history, all existing models, explanation why all modern Raketa watches have 0 instead of 12 at the top of the dial (I can reveal this to you as well. When Gorbachov was in Italy on the official visit, he has worn Raketa Big Zero watch, which of course had a 0 instead of 12. When they asked him, why 0 instead of 12, he explained that this shows the spirit of perestrojka and the change in way of thinging in Soviet Union. From than Raketa decided that 0 will replace 12/24 in all their watches, not just Big Zero model).
Box is again extremly colorful, too much for my taste. Again childish but in a way typical russian. If you are a Ussr or russian watch lover, you know what I am talking about. Colorful dials were highly common in USSR watch industry.
First impression was very positive. Excelent diameter of 43mm, extremly good bracelet far beyond everything what used to be known in the old USSR watches. Saphire glass on the top of the watch and on the backside, Crown big, maybe too big, Titanum lunette, bidirectional, rotates smoothly without clicks. That showes to be a mistake in my opinion since it rotates without control. On the lunette azimut or compass. On the wrist watch sits nice, bracelet does not pull the hair arround the wrist.
The dial is a special story. I fell in love to this dial after the first look.
Numbers are glued and beautiffull relief is achieved. As already stated like all new Raketa's Baikanur also starts the dial numbers with 0 instead of finish it with 24. Watch has obviously 24h complication...
If one looks on the watch from an angle, the numbers shine in a light blue colour. I tred to catch this wonderful shine in the photo, hope you are able to see it.
Luminova on the hands and on the dial is very specific. At first you have an impression that luminova is almost non existing. But what is strange is that it has the same power after 5 minutes and after 5 hours. At first you critisise it then you praise it. But to be quite clear - this is not luminova you can get from some diver's watches not to mention the Seiko ones.
Watch was suppposed to be developed for the use of kosmonauts and with the help of kosmonaut Sergej Krikaljev, who has spent in space 803 days, 9 hours and 39 minutes alltogether. Impressive! But to be quite honest, I really don't see what his added value was in this watch. Why a kosmonaut needs a lunette which turns freely and can not be locked and equiped with azimut?? Maybe to orient how to walk home if he crashes in the middle of Siberia or some village in the middle of nowhere as Gagarin? Why would this be helpfull in the space? Ok, 24h complication, that I can understand. Even Carpenter suggested to Breitling to upgrade Navitimer with this complication and because of this Navitimer Cosmonaute was developed, so 24h complication can be understood as reasonable. But you don't have to spent 3 years in space to give that kind of advice. That watch can be hand winded since due to no gravitation in the space automatic does not work? Ok, reasonable request but that is nothing special and I don't think that hand winding is possible only beacuse of that advice. So except good marketing move, I really can't find anything else that would suggest that watch was developed with the help of the most expirienced kosmonaut. But if that gave Raketa the chance to write "Developed specially for russian kosmonauts", decorated the movement with the constellations and put spaceman and Gagarin's famous word "Poehali (let's go) on the rotor, that was worth cooperation with him.
If we put aside this marketing trick, I was positively shocked by the watch. I must say the watch by far exceeded my expectations, I simply did not expect such quality from the russian watch regardless it's high price. I can easily compare the quality with Poljot International watches where also russian decorated and upgraded movements are used. Of course also prices are close. But if I already compare it with Poljot International - the fact that Raketa produce every part by itselfs gives a big plus to Raketa. Movement is declared to be within the range -10s/+20s per day, but at the moment in four days it gained only 5 seconds.
At the end, I have to comment the price since it was pointed out several time during this review. Basic price for this model is 1350 EUR, with the leather strap 1250 EUR. With the stated discount I paid 1080 EUR. For one which has prejudice about russian watches - very high, too high. I don't have any prejudice about russian watches (what can be clearly seen on my web page...) but still a lot. If I would not be attracted by the space story, I might not buy it. But watch is really a good one and I have asked myself: "why is it normal for me that some noname microbrand watch with Selitta 200 can reach a 1000 EUR price rang and on the other hand it is unexceptable for me that one fully manufacture made Raketa with the same or better quality can't reach this price range?" The problem is that Raketa in fact competes with the bunch of watches using Seiko, Miyota or even Seagull movements and those watches are much cheaper. And that implicate the logical question - who is or can be a Raketa buyer for this price? Problem is the history of this company, the mass production with relatively poor quality and cheap price. Raketa will need a lot of time and good marketing if it want's to go out of it's shadow. At least in the rest of non-Russia the world. And Raketa is simply not doing that. I am quite sure that Raketa does not have stated problems in Russia and that the russian market is for now more than big enough, financially strong enough and with well protected watch market to absorb all Raketa's production and maybe that is the reason that Raketa's presence in rest of the world is so poor.
I of course don't expect that anything will change soon and that this article will attract more non-russian buyers to Raketa or that Raketa will do something about bigger push to world markets. But I personally decided that by all means will go for other Raketa's which I like as well!
First published at "Portal Satova" watch forum on 9.12.2019