A Unique-Looking Russian Woodie from Raketa

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A Unique-Looking Russian Woodie from Raketa

Postby Mortuus » February 22nd 2015, 2:53am

Note: This submission (which, for whatever reason, sounds so much better than "post") appears in the two other watch forums I belong to, where I've been doing monthly presentations of one of my almost-too-numerous-to-count ( :shock: ) vintage watches. I also like to post them here, though under a different title and thread category. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed putting it together. If not, then I blame Conjurer, whose ancient, wonky and highly unpredictable bowels will often produce things that make even Stephen King's writing read like drivel...in fact, you may just want to head out to the garage and look for that old paint fume respirator of yours before you start reading -- just in case, you understand. Not that it'll help much, mind you... :?


Hello, all, and welcome to Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month for February 2015. As most of you well know, I very much enjoy taking one of my vintage wrist-tickers and giving it something of a review for your perusal and comment each month. In fact, I enjoy it enough to almost always get it finished well before the month to which its title refers. However, nothing in life always goes according to plan, as proven when I encountered some unexpected personal issues this month; even the dead (like me) have the occasional "bad hair days," though they're far more rare than those experienced by the living. As a result, we're well past the mid-way point of the month and I've only just now sat down to put together said-same semi-review. Doggone things do take a bit of time to be properly put together, so I'm doubly behind the old eightball on this one. (Or even triply, when you consider that this is, of course, the shortest month of the year, and not even a leap year at that.) Anyhow, please excuse my tardiness this time around. I'll try not to let it happen again.

Okay, whining's over...for now, at any rate.

This month's moldy manicle is courtesy of the former Soviet Union, and it's so unusual that I honestly can't decide if it's woefully ugly or strangely beautiful. The brand name is Raketa (Russian for "Rocket"), and it is -- according to my research -- one of only 5000 made, back in 1975, when the Cold War was in full swing, and there was no telling just who might win. Let's have a look:

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As can easily be seen, the main case material is wood, specifically a beautiful mahogany in this particular version, perfectly shaped to accomodate its mechanical movement. But Mort, you ask -- or maybe you don't ask; who knows? -- you don't like wooden watches, right? Correctomundo! I wouldn't be caught alive wearing one of those silly WeWOOD watches, that's for sure. So, given this horological wood bigotry, why would I pick up this particular Raketa?

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Great question! Let's have a look at the technical particulars, while I figure out my answer...

Technical Particulars

Brand: Raketa ("Paketa" in Russian cyrillic)
Country of Origin: Russian SSR
Maker: Petrodvorets Watch Factory, Moscow
Year of Manufacture: 1975
Movement: Raketa 2609.HA, 19 jewels, mechanical
Power Reserve: ~35 hours
Case Dimensions: 49mm x 39mm, thickness 12mm
Dial Diameter: 31mm
Lug Width: 18mm
Crystal: "Organic Glass" (AKA acrylic, AKA polymer, etc.)
Caseback: Stainless steel
Case: Mahogany with polymer coating
Misc. Notes: Originally sold with an ornate, sometimes hand-painted leather strap from the Balkans; later sold without a strap, though custom versions were offered seperately and can still occasionally be found.

Appearance

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Given the measurements of the case, this watch would almost certainly be considered "overlarge" by most collectors of antique and vintage timepieces (oh, dear! He used that eeevil word!), though, given it's 1975 date of manufacture, large (and mostly ugly) watches were the "in" thing at that time, albeit the vast majority were quartz vice mechanical. At any rate, it's not hard to imagine someone mating up this bit of Russian woodski with a wide, thick leather bund-style strap back then; it would certainly go well with all those awesome, heavy corderoy-with-imitation-fur-lining jackets and gum-soled wallabee shoes most of us wore back in the day. (Dang, I can almost hear the Eagles singing "Take it Easy"...)

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However, if you put an 18mm leather strap on it, the look is a bit more appropriate vis-à-vis a vintage watch. Granted, the case still comes across as big, but there is some precedent for that, as can be seen in these examples from la collection de montre-bracelet de Mort:

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(L to R: Raketa "Woodie," Edox hi-beat, Zodiac hi-beat, Croton Aquamatic)

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Irrespective of how you might choose to kit this watch out, it still looks pretty doggoned good. The high-shine of the case really sets off the wood beautifully, and the gold dial hardware and small bezel really hold their own and look great with the color and grain. Of course, a goodly number of these watches featured more ornate and/or different colored dials, but to my way of thinking, the plain dial looks just fine and needs no "tarting up."

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Engineering

In researching this edition of the MMMMotM, I discovered that the Raketa 2609.HA 19-jewel mechanical movement is used in a great many Soviet-era wristwatches, and not just from the fine communists at Raketa Watches, but other brands like Pobeda (Поъеда), Vostok (Boctok), Luch (Луч) and Chaika (Чайка), as well. Interestingly, this last name conveniently translates to "Seagull," which makes me wonder if those clever Russian communists borrowed the movement design from their equally-clever Chinese communist brethren (and sistren) who built the venerable Seagull ST5. It is, at the very least, an interesting coincidence, especially since the Soviet 2608.HA is seen in USSR/CCCP watches with about the same frequency as the PRC's ST5 movement appears in Chinese watches from roughly the same period. (I dunno; maybe I should ask George Noori or Art Bell or even, if the planets align just so, Valiant Thor...the next time one of them comes down from their zinc mothership, that is...)

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Seagull ST5

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Raketa 2609.HA

In a very strong nod toward common sense and high build quality, the designer(s) included some unique hardware to ensure that the strap is held firmly in place by means of a system of custom "roller" friction pins that are seated into U-shaped steel attachments. These attachments are then connected directly to the north and south (or "poles," if you prefer) of the case. I suppose they could have ignored this seemingly time-consuming and relatively expensive manufacturing step and drilled directly into the wood, but that would have certainly limited the case's lifespan due to excessive wear and tear. Unless, that is, they had gone with natural hardwoods, such as the European oak, Asian teak, or even the plentiful-in-Russia yellow birch. Of course, hardwoods are -- and were back then -- very expensive to obtain and far more difficult to work with, so the metal attachment system would seem far more cost effective in both the long- and the short-term for Raketa.

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Overall, the watch functions quite well, losing only about 25 to 30 seconds per day, which, given the relatively inexpensive pricetags on many 2609-equipped Russian watches, isn't too bad a delta from "true time." The 35-hour power reserve (which I've checked and confirmed) is pretty impressive, as well. Also, and as noted above, this piece is solidly built with no corners cut along the way. The comfort level is very high, as well, due largely to its light weight and gently curved case. In short, it's a damned good watch all around.

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(Note the wooden cabouchon.; some pretty damned good attention to detail, IMHO.)

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Mort's Miscellany

I have, over the last few years, seen multiple versions of this watch for sale, mostly on feeBay, where I happened to purchase this one, and I've seen the price come down from the low $500's to as little as $195 per copy. (Admittedly, this latter one was sold under the Cornavin {Корнавын} moniker {see below}, but it is well-known among most collectors of Soviet-era watches that it was built by Raketa; as if you couldn't tell just by looking...duh!) So, like a typical WIS, I finally laid out the cash only when the price looked to be at or near its nadir. I did pay a little extra for this mint-condition original, but it was well worth it.

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(Photo courtesy of moscowwatch.com)

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Still, the question remains, is it ugly or beautiful? Like the vast, vast majority of vintage pieces I encounter in my travels, I think it's absolutely beautiful, but I'm willing to admit that it's certainly not everyone's cup of tea (even if it is from a gen-u-wine Russki samovar). After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etcetera. Nonetheless, like all the other Soviet-era watches I've purchased since that first one (a monochrome, bas-relief floral-dialed Vostok) a while back, I am fascinated by its provenance, not to mention feeling a bit wistful and even nostalgic for those pre-terrorist days when all we had to worry about was being vaporized in a nuclear (or "nukuler," for you folks in Rio Lindo) apocalypse. Of course, given the rather frosty relations between the USA and the USSR back then, odds were pretty good that I'd probably never see, much less own a cool watch like this. Well, it's cool to me, anyhow, and that's why I picked it up.

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As always, please accept my sincerest thanks for taking the time to have a look at this installment of the MMMMotM. As we've all heard at one time or another, time is the most important thing we can spend, and I genuinely appreciate your spending some of that priceless commodity here with the dead guy. I do hope you were pleased with my work. Be safe and well, and have a great rest-of-the-month, such as it is.

Mortuus Praesepultus, Rancho Santa Fe, California, 21 February 2015
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Re: A Unique-Looking Russian Woodie from Raketa

Postby hcharles » February 22nd 2015, 4:31am

Great review and amazing pictures of a Rooshian woodie. Imagine how many liters of wodka were consumed in the manufacture of this post Tsarist beauty. How many purges this bad boi went through in the execution or executions of fellow comrades. The stories this Bolshoi beauty could tell. Brings me back to the good ole days, when we were waiting for a mushroom cloud to blast us into eternity.
I spent many an evening walking guard duty, defending the good ole USA, with my empty M16, sipping schnapps to keep warm whilst walking my post. Oh, yes, the good ole days. Darn you Mort, I'm getting nostalgic in my older years. Prost.
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Re: A Unique-Looking Russian Woodie from Raketa

Postby biglove » February 22nd 2015, 12:50pm

Of all the wood watches I have looked at, the finish and grain on this one is outstanding!

There is just something about the leather and wood combo that feels right.

Thanks for sharing and great photos!
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Re: A Unique-Looking Russian Woodie from Raketa

Postby foghorn » February 22nd 2015, 1:27pm

Great post fir sure. My siblings,Hazel and Filbert, are looking to branch out and expand their collections and are looking at locust alternatives to the usual fare. They want to spruce things up and are pining for unique, less poplar brands.
As their older brother yew can bet your white ash I'll do all I can to help them, even though Hazel can be a real birch at times.
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Re: A Unique-Looking Russian Woodie from Raketa

Postby jason_recliner » February 22nd 2015, 1:32pm

Mort, that is absolutely outstanding! What a gem - I think this might be my favorite from your collection.
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Re: A Unique-Looking Russian Woodie from Raketa

Postby Ofcmark » February 22nd 2015, 2:50pm

Nice article Mort I bet it would even give Conj a woody
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