Raketa's stylish 1980s “Big Zero” mechanical watch - like this freshly serviced example here - has an intriguing past, and was known to have been worn by Mikhail Gorbachev during the 1980’s.
The iconic 80's chic hasn't escaped notice, as noted by Worn&Wound in “Affordable Vintage: Raketa Big Zero” - “Dating likely from the early to mid-1980’s, the Raketa Big Zero is a bold watch that does a lot with very little…Clearly what sets this watch apart is the dramatic index design. Massive numerals for 3, 6, 9, and 0 dominate the dial. Between each numeral are two long narrow triangles, giving the watch a toothed appearance. The strange thing about it is that it works. The huge numbers, though clearly oversized, are in harmony with the dial and the case. The end result is bold, almost brutal, but fun.”
Raketa, also known as Paketa, started making watches in its St. Petersburg, Russia, Petrodvorets Watch Factory in1961. Petrodvorets is Russia’s oldest factory, and was founded by Peter the Great in 1721, and its watches were produced for the Red Army, the Soviet Navy, as well as for civilians.
Of note, working with Raketa/Petrodvorets Watch Factory was Peterhof, a small firm that produced watches for international sale - like this example here. This particular dial features the USSR's iconic hammer and sickle paired with "CCCP" and "Glasnost" in Cyrillic, an ambigious politcal concept used during the perestroika period, roughly translating to openess and transparency policy implemented by Gorbechev.
Raketa acquired its namesake from Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin inaugural flight into outer space, the first for mankind. In honor of the flight, Petrodvorets named its watches “rocket,” or Raketa in Russian. Mechanical Raketa watches produced in Petrodvorets were exported to many Eastern Bloc and communist countries and were considered one of the most durable and reliable movements there – the Ak-47 of watches at the time, if you will.
The Big Zero was allegedly intended for visually impaired people but quickly gained mainstream popularity thanks to its remarkable design. According to legend (mentioned in a 2003 Raketa promotional video about the Petrodvorets Watch Factory), in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, was seen in Italy wearing this watch. Italian press took notice, and the next day’s front pages featured a Big Zero with the headline “Russians are starting from zero!” attributing the remarks to Gorbachev.
This Big Zero comes with a red leather rally strap, nylon ZULU strap, Pelican travel case, and springbar tool.
1980's Peterhof/Raketa "Big Zero" Mechanical Watch
DIAL: Peterhof-signed white dial with non-original second, minute, and hour hands. Iconic and retro hammer and sickle, along with iconic “Made in the USSR” on the dial.
CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 39mm (41mm with crown) x 40.5mm; matching caseback.
CRYSTAL: Domed Plexiglas crystal, in excellent condition with no cracks.
STRAP: This Raketa comes with a red leather rally strap and a dark blue, red, and gra nylon NATO strap, both with stainless-steel hardware.
MOVEMENT: Raketa 2609.HA manual mechanical movement; this Big Zero beats at a frequency of 18,000bph. This watch has received a full service.
CROWN: Stainless-steel crown.