Lucie Wolner - 2012-09-06
As if time had stopped flying, the Petrodvorets Watch Factory in Peterhof, greater St. Petersburg, still manufactures world-famous Raketa watches. Despite its three centuries of activity, Russia’s oldest factory has a promising future ahead.
Peterhof, near St. Petersburg, is known for the sumptuous palace of Peter the Great where the waterfalls and fountains seem to shimmer with gold. But other than the Russians, who has even heard of the factory that created such marvels?
Founded in 1721 by the tsar himself, the Petrodvorets factory began by producing objects made of precious gems. Its most famous creations are the ornaments of the Peterhof Palace, Empress Catherine the Great’s crown, and, in Moscow, Lenin’s mausoleum and the ruby stars above the Kremlin. It weathered the years by adapting its output according to whichever war or revolution was afoot. In 1945 (as ordered by Stalin, who was looking to restrict imports), it became specialised in watch-making. Different brands have appeared since then, including Pobeda and then Raketa which have been seen adorning the wrists of comrades such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Fidel Castro.
During its glory days, the factory’s eight thousand workers produced more than four million watches per year. Employees had access to all of the necessities of daily life: schools, hospital and (!) Soviet-style organisations like the Pioneer Movement. Then came the collapse of the USSR and its rampant privatisations: as many grains of sand in the clockwork. Part of the factory was repatriated to old garages; military contracts kept it going until it was bought by Duraine, an investment fund managed by Frenchman Jacques von Polier.
There have been many new styles since then, all of them manufactured and assembled on site. Raketa watches are even appreciated by supermodel Natalia Vodianova, who has designed a ruby-incrusted watch for them. Let the good Petrodvorets times roll!
Saint-Petersburg Prospect 60
Tel: +7 (926) 633 73 68
Prior booking required for factory visits.