Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Raketa 24 Hour Watch Review

On a new black, curved-end, leather band

On a bund strap

The movement

This is the first watch I have gotten since I was a child that required me to learn how to tell time again. I have pretty much mastered it now but it took a while before I could quickly glance at it and read the time. The trick is to remember that each quarter of the dial represents six hours, not three as it is on a conventional watch face. The watch came to me by way of a trade with a fellow member of the Poor Man’s Watch Forum. This particular model dates from Soviet times but is in nearly flawless shape and modern versions are readily available today. As such, I believe that this example will pretty fairly represent what current Raketa 24 hour watches are like.

The Raketa 24 hour is a visually striking watch that really looks like nothing else I have ever owned. The watch measures 39mm in width (42mm including the crown), 42mm lug to lug, 12mm in height and uses an 18mm band. The watch wears larger than its dimensions would suggest, however, due to a very thin chrome bezel (really almost an all-dial design) and the relatively thin 18mm band width. The watch face has no lume and the hands are very thin. Water resistance appears to be non-existent, a common trait among Raketas (Someone once commented that if a Raketa says “Water Resistance 30 Meters” on the back, it means don’t get it within 30 meters of water.) In addition to its 24 hour time scale, this model also has an internally adjustable chapter ring that is marked with several world cities (and a rather odd assortment at that-Novosibirsk for instance) as well as the names of the ice research stations of Antarctica. (When was the last time you thought about McMurdo Station, if ever.) The chapter ring is adjustable via a second crown at the 4:00 position. The Raketa’s case appears to be made of chrome plated brass with a stainless steel back. The domed crystal appears to be acrylic and is mounted as a unit in a removable chrome plated bezel piece.

The Raketa 24 hour is powered by a 19 jewel model 2623h hand wound movement. Accuracy for this example is pretty good (considering its age again) at about +30 seconds daily. The movement itself has a completely unadorned appearance, even more so than in most Russian watches.

I have read that 24 hour watches are popular in Russia because the country is so large that it has over a dozen time zones. Its easier to remember where one day begins and another ends in such an environment if you use a 24 hour scale. Additionally, much of Russia lies in the arctic circle where conventions like am and pm don’t have much meaning. That also, needless to say, applies to the poles as well. It is also a useful convention for both pilots and the military (although I am not aware of Raketas being used by either the old Soviet or current Russian armed forces.)

The Raketa 24 hour is undeniably an unusual piece. It isn’t every day that you find a watch with Ekaterinburg written on the dial after all. I wouldn’t personally use it as a daily wearer although it would work fine in that role (just be prepared to mentally translate the time to the 12 hour scale if someone asks you for it.) It appears to be quite well made (Raketa movements are anecdotally reputed to be among Russia’s best) and as long as it is kept dry, it should last for a long time.
free web counters