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The flight of time. The Petrodvortsovyi watch factory marks 295 years

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Russia's oldest enterprise, the Petrodvortsovyi watch factory "Raketa", is celebrating its birthday – 295 years. Only Switzerland has companies which can rival this one today. Alexander Odintsov went and found out the secrets of production.

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In this hall off the Petrodvortsovyi watch factory is the most accurate illustration of how the time went on, and how watches had changed to reflect the era. 295 years. From 1721 till today. From a small plant to a giant of watch making.

More than 10,000 “Raketa” watches, of different types and under different names, were made in this factory at Petrodvortsovyi. From 1930s it was called Zvezda, after 1945 - Pobeda - and after the Soviet union conquered space, it was renamed as “Raketa”. That was when number 12 on top of a watch was replaced by the trademark zero.

Ekaterina Mironovich: “Gorbachev was wearing “Raketa” whenever he traveled abroad with a political visit. Italian journalists asked him a question – what does your country plan to do next? And he responded will begin from zero. This marked our rebirth.

In the 1980s there were 5 million watches and watches produced every year. For those working in the North Pole, divers, spacemen, with eternal calendar and even those for the blind. The design was always a reaction to things going on currently. This, judging by the form, is the era of television. Here is a model dedicated to the first woman in space, and in 2013 top model Natalya Vodyanova created her own line.

The “Pobeda” and the “Raketa” are movie stars. And they always got roles without casting. In Soviet cinematography. Nowadays, Guy Ritchie from England re-created the image of a Russian spy with this watch from Peterhof in his “The man from U.N.C.L.E” movie.

The factory has a principle – always limited edition, hand-made. And the main attention is paid not only to the exterior.

Our developers always worked hard, to combine reliability with pretty looks.

Lyudmila Voynik has been working here for 60 years. Today she's in charge of the production-technical department. In essence, the most important at the enterprise. It was here that the accurate mechanism was developed, the correct movement of gears, the right parts were found.

Lyudmila Voynik, head of production-technical department: “It's served as a specific bureau on creating watch mechanisms, they were developed there in full. Starting with drums, all gears, until making it balanced. Everything was calculated, and put together. Blueprints were made. The technology has moved very fast. Watch makers in Switzerland did not expect us to move this far, that we would be able to put mechanisms together by means of automated machines.

Even pioneers of the industry – the Swiss – have only a handful of such companies. The main pride is putting it together from A-Z. The trademark secret, or the most complex detail, is the balance spiral. The heart of a watch is thinner than a man's hair. It's a work of a jeweler, with 200 parts, some of which are less than a nano-centimeter.

Alexander Lanko, head of watch assembling segment: “Platinum is the main part, serving as the basis for all gears and joints. It is connected with bolts. The joints are made of brass. We also have gems, artificially grown rubies.

15 specialists are working here on shifts. Today “Raketa” is far from the output of the Soviet days. But the factory never closed, although went through hard times in the 1990s.

Anatoliy Cherdantsev, CEO of “Raketa” watch factory: “We just couldn't stand by and watch the enterprise vanish. We had a task to requalify such a huge enterprise into a mobile, resource friendly enterprise, with high skills. And we couldn't spend a lot on that either

In the early 2000's the enterprise entered a new stage of its development. For the first time in 30 years and absolutely new mechanism, Raketa-Avtomat, was created in Russia. What watch makers from Peterhof are hoping for is that the rocket will enter new orbits. By the way, the next stop is already known - Champs Elysees. That's where the brand store will be opened.

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