When I moved to Tallinn, I thought I would have some good luck on the collecting front -- that all kinds of Soviet-watch doors would suddenly open for me. Well, no dice. There are more Soviet watches here than in Colorado, that’s for sure. But the quality is generally awful, and prices are usually high (think: franken Amphibias for €70+). Not quite the windfall I had envisioned.
Well, until now.
Recently, I was quite fortunate to find a collector/seller via eBay who lives in Tallinn. After seeing a desirable piece he was offering for sale on eBay a few weeks back, we began discussing a fair price for an in-person transaction. Today, at long last, we finally met. I walked over to a restored warehouse in the heart of Tallinn's trendiest neighborhood, and I was greeted by an impeccably-dressed Estonian gentleman with round-rimmed spectacles, fluent English, and something special in his pocket: a Ракета СЗРП (Raketa SZRP).
This watch has made its rounds on the forums before (1, 2, 3, 4; and see Mark Gordon's 0675, 1513), but there still seems to be a fair amount of mystique surrounding this particular design. Let’s clear the air, as best we can.
СЗРП is an acronym for Северо-западное речное пароходство (“North-West Shipping Company”). This company was founded in Saint Petersburg on January 30th, 1923. The company started with 500 watercraft (412 tugboats, 76 cargo-passenger ships, and 12 service vessels), and over the subsequent decades, СЗРП played an important role in fostering the economic development of the northwest region.
(More history here: 1, 2)
Here is a СЗРП-related postcard from 1976:
While the name has changed slightly, the company is still operational today.
So what about this watch? Well, from the NOS examples available to us (1, 2), we can infer these were produced in or around 1990. It is therefore unlikely to be a commemorative model (67th Year Anniversary just doesn’t have a nice ring to it). However, it was an entirely unique dial design, which is different from, say, those with merely a company logo printed onto an otherwise ordinary Raketa dial (like this).
The dial is arguably the most logical 24-hour dial produced by Raketa, and the rotating inner bezel makes it a cinch to place noon at the top of the dial (below right), which is my preference for a 24-hour dial.
According to the seller and my best assessment, this watch has never been worn. You can see the crowns are sharp and unblemished (I notice these are the first things to start wearing down on these Rakeat 24-hour models).
The chrome has a nice mirror finish, and the crystal is streamlined.
I am loathe to remove the case-back for fear of marring the case. I know I could wrap a case-opener in tape or plastic to protect the case, but there's something very appealing about a watch that's never been opened. I think I'll keep it that way. And I promise, there’s definitely a 2623.H in there.
As controversial as it is, I don't plan to wear this watch. I’ll preserve the NMCWBBNP* status as long as I am the owner.
*Near mint condition with box but no papers.