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A small article to introduce you to a Soviet vintage watch highly sought after by collectors: the Raketa Copernicus. A design that has become legendary with its circular needle and an accessible vintage watch.
Foreword on Russian watches
In the world of watches vintage, we often talk about Swiss brands (Universal Genève, Mido), French (LIP, Yema) or even Japanese (Casio, Seiko) … but we don’t talk much about brands from the former USSR. However, there are some Russian watchmaking adventures with a soul and a unique design like the Raketa.
Russia and the USSR have a rather rich watchmaking history, with a large number of manufacturers operating over a fairly long period of time. While most of these brands clearly lacked high-end mechanics and expensive manual finishing compared to their European counterparts, they made up for it with an astonishing array of unique designs and ruggedness.
Soviet-era watches also helped the USSR achieve communication victories during the Cold War, since it’s a Russian brand, Strela (also known as Poljot), which was the first wristwatch to be worn on a spacewalk. And the watch Sturmanskie by Yuri Gagarin, was the first watch to be mounted in orbit around the Earth… long before the much more famous Moonwatches from Omega.
History of the Raketa brand
The brand Raketa was born in the years 1961/1962, produced in one of the oldest watch factories in Russia: the famous watch factory Petrodvoretsfounded in Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great in 1721.
“Raketa”, which means “rocket” in Russian, was immediately associated with the Soviet space adventure but initially produced rugged watches for the Red Army. Subsequently, mechanical watches for civilians were produced in large numbers.
A legendary model: the Raketa Copernic
The Raketa Copernicus, born in the 1980s, is named in honor of Nicolas Copernicus, a Polish Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe placing the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe. The unique design of the Copernic represented the sun and the moon in a simplistic but brilliant way: the hour hand is a golden discrepresenting the Sun, and the minute hand is a black ringr, representing the Moon.
Once per hour, the hands momentarily overlap and form an “eclipse”. It’s one of those watches that you look at not only to tell the time, but also to see if an “eclipse” is imminent. The surface of the dial is slightly grainy (like the surface of the Moon), and the gold applied hour markers catch the sun’s rays quite nicely.
It is one of the rare watches with circular needles and it is this rare design that gives it so much value among collectors who snatch them on the web.
I own 2 Raketa Copernic, wear them often, and it’s clearly a watch that sparks some cool discussions, with most people intrigued by those round hands and that particular design.
Where to find Raketa Copernicus today.
There are 2 convenient sources for finding Raketa Copernicus.
– for models vintagethe most interesting in my opinion, you can easily find some around 150€ in our eBay selection of the best vintage Copernic Raketa on the MBA site (we highlight vintage Raketa Copernic offered on the web by various sellers). Most come from ex-Soviet countries, so you may have to add 20€ customs fees. By clicking on “European Union”, you will see the few models offered by European collectors, but it is often more expensive than the models coming directly from Russia or Ukraine.
– there is also some new models that you can find on Amazon but you will have to add a 0 compared to vintage models: