The Petrodvorets Watch Factory (Russian: Петродворцовый часовой завод) is the oldest factory in Russia. Founded by Peter the Great in 1721 as the Peterhof Lapidary Works, to make hardstone carvings, since 1962 it has manufactured the Soviet Raketa watches. In almost 300 years of history, the factory has changed name several times. Petrodvorets is located in Saint Petersburg
Initially, the factory produced luxury objects in semi-precious and precious stones for the palaces of the Tsars. We find these objects now in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, but also in most of the palaces of Europe, like Versailles, the Louvre or Sanssouci.
In Soviet times, the plant has continued to work on precious stones. This plant has produced among others, the Mausoleum of Lenin in 1924 and the Kremlin stars in 1935.
In the prewar years, the skilled workers began manufacturing precision and measurement instruments for the Red Army and the new industry of Russian watches.
Destroyed by Nazi troops during the Siege of Leningrad, the plant was rebuilt from 1944 at the liberation of the city. In 1945 Stalin - who wanted to reduce USSR's dependence on imports from the West - gave the order to the factory to manufacture watches. The first watches were produced in the factory in 1949 under the brand Pobeda and Zvezda. In 1961, in honor of the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the factory created its new brand, Raketa, which makes its reputation throughout the world of Communist influence.
In its glory years after the war, the plant employed 8,000 people, produced 4.5 million watches per year for Soviet citizens and the needs of the Red Army. The plant is equipped with two atomic bunkers that can accommodate 8,000 people in the case of a western nuclear attack, had its own schools, university, hospital, resorts on the Black Sea, camps for Communist Youth Pioneer organization and Komsomol and its orchestras.
Today, the plant has dramatically cut production following the troubled years of privatization and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite huge difficulties in adapting to the capitalist system, Raketa is one of the few (together with Vostok and Zaria) watch manufacturers, remained after the fall of USSR.