Two of my friends became interested in Soviet vintage watches after I showed them a Raketa World Time. There is something about this watch that just captures your attention and makes you want to acquire one. Right now.
Perhaps an excellent wrist presence at 43mm? Or a perfectly legible beautiful dial? What is sure is that this model is becoming more and more popular, and there are less and less samples in good condition. In this article we’ll go through the main characteristics of this watch and give you some buying advice.
Intro: are we talking about a real worldtimer?
As you can imagine, Soviet designers didn’t invent the concept of a worldtimer watch: it existed since the 1930’s. Worldtimer mechanical watches feature complications that allow you to determine local time in multiple locations and are considered really high-end timepieces that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Raketa Goroda (Города: cities), on the other hand, has no complications at all, besides its rotating bezel. One may even think that it turned out to be less complex than initially planned: the dial has a 24-hours indication, but the movement installed in the watch is a regular 12-hours 2628.H. Was it decided to replace the movement in order to make the production of the watch cheaper or the indications are there to facilitate the usage of the rotating bezel? I’m afraid we’ll never know. What is sure however is that you’ll have a hard time using the Goroda as a traveller’s watch.
This being said, you can still use it to determine approximate time difference between cities. Let’s imagine it’s midnight in Moscow. If you turn the bezel to set Moscow to 12 o’clock, you will notice that Buenos Aires is located at 18… And this is correct, as Buenos Aires is 6 hours behind Moscow. More often than not though, there will be no exact match due to Daylight Saving Time adjustments and historical changes. Feel free to check it out by yourself, that’s a fun exercise! You will find a translation of all the cities in the end of this article.
Elements of the Raketa Goroda
This watch was produced in the 1980’s. References can be found in various catalogues from this period.
The dial is the first weak point of the Raketa World Time. It’s rarely in flawless condition, with either patina spots, sun burns, cracks or simply missing paint. So you need to look for the best possible condition.
Dial color & hour markers
Dials on Raketa Worldtimers come in different colors:
- Blue (most common)
- Bordeaux (less common)
- Green (even less common)
- Chocolate brown (rare)
All dials feature 24 hour markings at the edge, the “Raketa” inscription and “made in USSR” (СДЕЛАНО В СССР). There is a framed window for day and date.
- “Raketa” can be written in italic (“hand-written” version) or in capital letters (capital letters were used on later models). See the green dial above for an example.
- The dial may feature the State Mark of Quality. See blue and bordeaux dials above.
- Hour markers (and the window frame) can be either golden or silver in color. In principle, the color of hour markers should match the case.
- Inscriptions can be in English (this is the “export version”). In this case, cities on the bezel and day of the week are also in English.
The second weak point. The case on this watch is either chrome-plated or gold-plated and is tricky to find in good condition. More often than not, some plating is lost either on the sides or at the back of the case. Ask for pictures of the sides and of the back to evaluate the damage.
Note: on the latest models, the case can be with titanium nitride coating (check out Lucidor’s watch, aimed at the Italian market yet with cyrillic writing).
Worldtimers with blue dials can come in chrome-plated or gold-plated cases (hour markers and hands will match the case). To my knowledge, bordeaux, green and chocolate brown are encountered only in gold-plated cases.
Hands always have the same design, as seen on the photos above. They match the case color (chrome-plated cases with nickel-plated hands & gold-plated cases with gold-plated hands). Watch out for hands from other models.
Raketa Goroda is powered by a manual-wind 19 jewels movement Raketa 2628.H with 18,000 beats per hour, stamped “SU” as Soviet Union. This is a very sturdy and simple to service mechanism which usually has quite a high level of precision. Power reserve can exceed 40 hours!
First position of the crown lets you wind the watch. Second position allows you to set the time. If you pull out the crown to the third position, the date will advance. The day of the week is set by simply turning the hands until you have the correct day.
The usual caseback does not have a serial number. It has the following markings: “Пылезащищенные” (dust-proof) and “Противоударный баланс” (anti-shock balance). Later versions have a more elaborate caseback with a serial number, a dome, and markings “Сделано в СССР” (made in the USSR) and “Ракета” (Raketa).
How to buy a Raketa World Time?
I hope you are convinced that Raketa Goroda is a great watch to have in the collection. Here is a checklist in case you wanted to buy one:
- Dial: is it the correct design? There are so many listings on eBay where the dial has been replaced. If the dial is correct, carefully examine its surface for defects and damages.
- Bezel: try to find an unscratched one.
- Case: check the sides and the back for possible losses of plating.
- Colors: color of the case should correspond to the color of hour markings and hands.
- Language: bezel, markings on the dial and the week day should be in the same language (Russian or English).
- Movement: 2628.H as pictured above, stamped “SU”. As usual, ask for service history.
- Caseback: does it look like one of the versions above?
- Bracelet: I don’t think that there was a specific bracelet for this watch. In catalogues it is shown on leather straps of different colors. I find that it’s easier to wear this watch on a vintage Soviet strap (like in the first photo of this article), but it looks great on any quality leather.
I hope you found this article helpful. As usual, this is a work-in-progress, so if you notice any discrepancies or want to add some information, please get in touch or leave a comment below. Also feel free to show your worldtimers in the comments area!
While doing research for this article, I came across some interesting variations of the Worldtimer. All of them seem to be legit:
- Early version with day only (no date), powered by a 2625 movement. Source: Vilos / forum.watch.ru.
- Version with a white inner bezel with red numbers. Source: Alchron / forum.watch.ru.
- Export version in a black chromed case and Cornavin branded dial. Source: Alexander Brodnikovski collection.
Catalogue scans from 1985
Translation of cities featured on the watch
- Рейкьявик: Rejkjavik, Iceland
- Дакар: Dakar, Senegal
- Лондон: London, UK
- Женева: Geneva, Switzerland
- Москва: Moscow, Russia
- Горький: Gorky, Russia (Soviet-era name of Nizhny Novgorod, from 1932-1990)
- Свердловск: Sverdlovsk, Russia (Soviet-era name of Yekaterinburg from 1924-1991)
- Ташкент: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
- Новосибирск: Novosibirsk, Russia
- Иркутск: Irkutsk, Russia
- Якутск: Yakutsk, Russia
- Владивосток: Vladivostok, Russia
- Магадан: Magadan, Russia
- П-Камчатский: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russia
- Анадырь: Anadyr, Russia
- Самоа: Samoa
- Гонолулу: Honolulu, Hawaii
- Аляска: Alaska
- Сан-Франциско: San-Francisco
- Денвер: Denver
- Чикаго: Chicago
- Нью-Йорк: New York
- Буэнос Айрес: Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Рио де Жанейро: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
(Credit goes to BlueSmokeLounge)