A Russian Polar Watch? Now, in the middle of the summer from Hell, in the middle of the Russo-Ukrainian war? Da! As far as I can tell, most of y’all have AC and most sellers are Ukraines and Poles, who could really use the money. Thanks to our proxy war, the watches are even more nedorogoy (cheap) than before. Any good?
In the main, the 24-hour time Raketa Russian Polar Watch runs on their 16-jewel 2623 mechanical (above) and 2624 self-winding movements. Operating at 2.5Hz (18,000 bph), it boasts a power reserve of 42 hours.
As you’d expect from the land of the Kalashnikov, the Raketa engine isn’t krasivaya (pretty). Russian watchmakers sacrificed artifice for affordability and durability.
That’s a good thing, not a bad thing; these watches are easy to fix.
If you buy from eBay or Chrono24 (our sources for this article), you’re assured of getting a Russian Polar Watch that works, or your money back (unless specifically sold “as is”). As Russian Ramones fans say, hey ho, let’s go!
The Original Russian Polar Watch
The Raketa (“Rocket”) brand launched after Yuri Gagarin drew first blood in the Space Race as the first man in space (onboard the Vostok 1). Raketa quickly expanded their portfolio to build watches for the Red Army, the Soviet Navy and, in this case, Mother Russia’s polar expeditions.
First produced 1970 for the 16th Soviet Antarctic expedition (original watch above), Raketa designed the Polar to withstand the continent’s deep freeze (temps down to -89°C) with a multi-part case.
The money shot: to deal with the long polar night/day, the movement rotates a full 24-hours. The same mechanism Raketa used for watches designed for daylight-deprived submariners.
Repro Russian Polar Watch
There are loads of Raketa riffs on the original Polar Watch, including a more-or-less-historically accurate 40mm re-issue. (We reviewed it here.)
They launched the retro recreation in 2020, before the Ukrainian shit hit the fan. Raketa sells these new old ones direct to capitalist pigs for $1366.
Personally, I think they’re ugly, expensive (for a Russian watch) and not particularly Russian-looking. If semi-originality is your jam but money’s too tight to mention, you can buy a refurbed re-issue for $435.
Dress Russian Polar Watch
I prefer this example from a Ukrainian seller. It’s yours – complete with Russian text (CCCP is Russian for USSR) and a polar bear – for $200.
It’s not stated in the listing, but you’re looking a 38mm dress watch that hates water. Close enough for government work? Sure, if you stick to more temperate continents.
There are plenty of choices dress Polar Watch-wise, including the same Ukranian seller’s blue-dial version of the same timepiece for $320.
Tacky Russian Polar Watches
As Raketa milked the 24-hour polar theme for the greater glory of her Communist masters, the watchmaker never met a gimmicky design they didn’t like – as long as it was patriotic!
This gold-plated 34mm watch could be a real ice breaker as a gift to a member of the fairer sex, assuming she’s a horologically-inclined Russophile.
Maybe the heat’s getting to me, but the Russian Polar Watch looks cold – in a good way. At a paltry $300, buying it won’t generate heat from your significant other. In theory.
Prefer an aircraft carrier with a jet streaking into the sky? It’s tacky AF and the bracelet looks like shit, but $210 for a Raketa Russian Polar Watch says WTF.
OK, sure. You may think this isn’t the time to celebrate Russia with a watch trumpeting their achievements. When was? Unless you buy direct from Raketa, and maybe even then, what harm does it do?
To quote the old Russian proverb, if you like to sled, you have to like to drag the sledge. Or something like that.