Raketa Soviet Polar Watch LE

Raketa Polar watch

Anyone remember The Cold War? The world was divided into two teams: the United States and the Soviet Union. It was “cold” because the two superpowers didn’t nuke each other, but the Arctic regions certainly came into play. Like the Rock Hudson hit movie Ice Station Zebra, the Raketa Soviet Polar Watch evokes really cold Cold War nostalgia. From the watchmaker’s website . . .

In 1969, the Raketa Watch Factory was asked to design and produce a special watch for the polar explorers of the 16th Soviet Antarctic expedition . . . This design was officially approved & signed on 10 December 1969 by V.M. Rogachev, second-in-command of the Soviet Antarctic Expedition, who also stamped it with the official seal of the USSR “Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute”.

Original Raketa Soviet Polar Watch

I don’t think the Raketa watch factory was “asked” to produce the original polar watch (above) as much as “ordered.” The 16th Antarctic expedition was a PR exercise, celebrating Russian explorers’ discovery of the polar continent. In Communist Russia, when the Party parties, you party too!

The first Raketa Soviet Polar Watches went to a handful of polar explorers and a p’yanitsa of well-connected comrades. No doubt the 35mm timepieces were made in the great Soviet style: brick shit house construction, limited quality control. Aesthetically, the Polar Watch wasn’t a million miles away from khrushchyovka – Soviet apartment block architecture.

Thanks to the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), the Raketa Watch Factory is the midst of a renaissance. They now make quality timepieces for capitalist pigs like you and me – Internet-age marketing and all.

The Raketa Soviet Polar Watch LE is the Russians’ latest foray into the profitable world of premium-priced timepieces for the terminally nostalgic. Like so many examples of the current crop of retreads, it’s only somewhat faithful to the original.

While the 35mm case, lugs and dial are identical to the first production run, Rekata added Super-LumiNova to the hands and slathered the dial with Sunray Super-LumiNova. To stop the watch from falling apart, Rekata altered the width and the shape of the old Polar’s organic glass and changed the construction of the crown.

Raketa Soviet Polar Watch LE front and back

Reketa went back to the old drawing board – literally – to recreate the 2623 manual movement designed for the first polar watch. Designed for but never implemented. After missing the deadline, Raketa slot the 2623 into subsequent watches. That continued until 2014, when the Russian watchmaker switched to an all-Avtomat, all-the-time strategy.

Just so we’re clear: the new commemorative Polar watch has a recreation of the movement that should have gone into the original Polar watch, but didn’t.

The new old 2623’s hour hand makes the same progress as the old movement: one revolution (so to speak) per day. The factory claims the new old movement’s accurate to -10/+20 seconds per day – assuming 24 hours per day.

Raketa Soviet Polar Watch LE

Unlike the standard issue Polar watch – whose decorated engine “reminds you of polar northern lights that you can see in the arctic sky” – the LE’s movement shelters behind a closed commemorative caseback.

Whether or not collectors will stump up $1,250.94 for a small watch celebrating the 150th anniversary of Antarctica’s discovery by Russian sailors is an open question.

Meanwhile, Rekata keeps cranking out their popular Avtomat-powered Big Zero watches and a range of other designs. You don’t have to pass an ideological purity test or know a Politburo member to own one. A fact that warms my freedom-loving heart.

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One comment

  1. I have mixed feelings about soviet memorabilia. My aunt married a Polish defector in the early 90s who went on to write one of the most cited scientific papers of all time, and his hatred of Russia to this day still impresses me, as they were responsible for the disappearance of his father and a few others in his close family.

    My dad got me a Vostok watch about 20 years ago on a business trip to Moldova. I asked my uncle him to translate the case back Russian, which he was forced to learn. I remember him saying it was a piece of garbage and I should get a Casio instead (he had a Subaru SVX at the time, which was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen). He was right, as water got in the Vostok washing dishes shortly after I acquired it, and it went into the trash bin.

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