By Edouard Cazalaa, Global MBA Student
Our first GMBA company visit took place near Saint-Peterburg. We were welcomed and taken on a tour of the Petrodvorets Watch Factory by Jacques Von Polier, factory owner and Essec alumni.
The fascinating story behind the brand and its current owner plunged the GMBA back into soviet times. Although today’s assembly lines have considerably reduced in numbers compared to 30 years ago, very little has changed in the factory since the break-up of the soviet union.
Jacques von Polier is a French designer and businessman based in Russia. He has collaborated on various artistic and design projects and is currently heading the creative and design department of the Petrodvorets Watch Factory for the production of Raketa watches. With David Henderson-Stewart, his business partner, they are the key-stone of restructuring and rebranding of Russia's historical watch brand "Raketa". Polier is also the author of a book about Russia and Eurasia published in 2002 by Robert Laffont. In 2011 he won the election organised by the Russian press of the "Top 50 of Saint-Petersburg's most famous people" for fashion
Raketa watches have been manufactured since 1962 by the Petrodvorets Watch Factory in Saint Petersburg. It is Russia's oldest factory and was founded by Peter the Great in 1721 as the Peterhof Lapidary Works to make hardstone carvings. Raketa watches were produced for the Red Army, the Soviet Navy, for North Pole expeditions, as well as for civilians.
In April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin made the first flight in the history of mankind in outer space on the rocket Vostok 1. In honor of Yuri Gagarin the Petrodvorets Watch Factory named its watches "Raketa," or "rocket" in Russian. At the height of the Cold War, however, the name "Raketa" was perceived negatively in the West, as the word was associated with the latest generation of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, the R-16.
Before the Petrodvorets Watch Factory began to produce watches, it produced objects made of precious and semi-precious stones for the Tsar and his family. Later, it began to produce goods for military manufacturers as well as jewels" for the watch industry. In 1949 the factory released the first watches under the names Zvezda ("Звезда", star) and Pobeda ("Победа", victory). The factory's own watches, sold under the brand name Raketa, first appeared in 1961 and the factory also began to manufacture its own movements, like the «Raketa - 2609N». Over the years, the Petrodvorets Watch Factory produced more than two dozen versions Raketa movements. Some were equipped with features such as automatic winding, calendars, 24-hour models for polar explorers, anti-magnetic watches (for use in case of a nuclear attack), as well as watches for the military. Mechanical Raketa watches produced in Petrodvorets were exported to many Eastern Bloc and communist countries and are considered one of the most durable and reliable movements in the world and by the 1980s Raketa was producing 4.5 million watches a year. (source: Wiki) nlike most watch makers around the world, Raketa produces every single piece of its mechanisms on site, making these product 100% Russian made.