Watch designs from Raketa in the store window at Freret-Roy


READY FOR TAKEOFF: Historic Russian watch label Raketa is gearing up for international domination. The brand, which stems from Russia’s oldest factory, the Petrodvorets Watch Factory in St. Petersburg, is banking on a renewed appetite for Russian labels and has opened what chairman and head of design Jacques von Polier describes as “our first corner beyond the Iron Curtain.”

On Thursday, the label celebrated its introduction at high-end watch store Freret-Roy, just off the Rue de la Paix and around the corner from Place Vendôme, with a cocktail party.

Polier took over the company in 2010, employing Swiss engineers alongside the local production team. He has spent the past few years rebuilding and repositioning the brand in line with his belief that there is a place for Russian labels on the global luxury market.

“Russia has a great international culture, but doesn’t have many brands,” he explained. “After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russian people dreamed of the West, but I’ve always believed that was temporary. We can become for Russia what Louis Vuitton is for France.”

The brand has forged links with celebrities — Russian model and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova, Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica and Bolshoi Theatre dancers Anna Tikhomirova and Artem Ovcharenko have all designed timepieces for the brand.

It has also built on historic links with the Russian military and aviation, collaborating with the Russian space agency RosCosmos, aircraft companies Sukhoi and Tupolev, and creating watches designed with polar explorers and submarine fleets in mind.

Raketa has strong brand recognition in former Soviet countries, he said, but is little known internationally, and he is planning to change that.

“We are one of only four or five companies worldwide that manufactures our own movements,” Polier said.

The brand has been seeing annual growth of around 70 percent since it was taken over, said Polier, who declined to reveal sales numbers.

Its timepieces are priced between 500 and 1,800 euros, or $557 and $2,004 at current exchange, which he said is significantly below that of equivalent Swiss watches.

The country’s first-ever factory, founded by Peter the Great in 1721, initially made a wide variety of items, mainly luxurious furniture. It only began making watches in the late 19th century, and launched the Pobeda, or “victory,” line at the end of World War II. The Raketa, or “rocket,” brand was introduced in 1961 and was the first watch to journey into space, with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Both brands are still manufactured at the St. Petersburg factory, which also houses a museum open to the public.

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