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Petrodvorets / Петродворец

In 1721, a decree from Tsar Peter the Great established Petrodvorets Lapidary Works in present-day Peterhof, St. Petersburg. For centuries, this factory was responsible for the production and refining of precious stones (including hardstone carvings and other precision work) for use in jewelry, mosaics, and marble decorations that adorned the palaces and cathedrals of that era. 

In 1932, the factory was renamed the First State Precision Jewel Factory (ТТК-1), and the factory continued to refine precious stones for use in a variety of Soviet industries. In 1935, the factory began manufacturing ruby jewels for the burgeoning Soviet watch industry, and by 1940, the factory was the sole supplier of rubies to the First State Watch Factory. (Rubies are integral to high-quality watch production, as these stones do not wear out as a result of prolonged friction the way other materials do.) During World War II, from 1941 to 1944, the factory was completely destroyed.

Following the war, the factory began to rebuild, and by 1949, ТТК-1 had begun focusing on wristwatch production, including the assembly of Zvezda and Pobeda watches. In 1954, by decree of the government, the name of the factory was formally changed to “Petrodvorets Watch Factory” with the intention of producing high-quality pocket and wristwatches for men. A new company logodepicted the factory initials inside a diamond. During the second half of the 1950s, numerous discrete brands were conceived (e.g. Baltika, Leningrad, Mayak, Neva, Russia, Start, and Svet), all powered by Petrodvorets movements. One such brand was simply named Petrodvorets.

Throughout the years that it was in existence, the Soviet Union took pride in the ability to provide services to the disabled as well as to the workers. Braille watches are a great illustration of this ethos. The production of Soviet braille wristwatches began at Petrodvorets Watch Factory with the Petrodvorets brand. These unique timepieces were unique due to the small button on the case which released the spring-loaded bezel, lifting the entire crystal to expose the dial. The time could then be read with the fingers by feeling the hour and minute hands' position in relation to the tactile protrusions on the dial.


There are a few other unique attributes which made these wristwatches well-suited for the blind. First, the most common movement utilized was an atypical Raketa caliber with no second hand. This was dubbed the 2601 (presumably, the utility of a second hand was not great enough to outweigh the risk of damage to the fragile second pinion when touched). The caliber 2601 shared many similarities with the famed caliber 2609, but the removal of the second hand allowed for the construction of a solid cannon pinion. A solid cannon pinion increased the structural integrity of the movement, meaning the user's fingers were less prone to unintentional damage. The hands were also thick and robust, able to stand up to regular and repeated contact with the fingers. 

The dials were unique due to the distinctive three-dimensional braille design and unusual printing method. The very first braille wristwatch dials were made from painted enamel — these had the benefit of standing up against oils from the hand, but the dials were fragile and easily broken. To circumvent this, the next generation of dials were made out of plastic, which was must more robust and didn't fracture the way enamel did. 
Traditional Soviet dials were covered in a thin, clear lacquer before any text, graphics, or numerals were printed. This lacquer provided better adhesion and greater clarity for printing, and also gave dials a reflective sheen and a highly polished appearance. However, such aesthetic attributes were not necessary on a watch intended for the blind, and furthermore, this lacquer was extremely delicate and not well-suited for a dial intended to be regularly and repeatedly touched. Therefore, a different dial material and printing technique was developed which proved far more resistant to human touch. 

Soviet braille watches were produced for over half a century by at least six factories and exported to countries all over the world. They were manufactured for men and women alike, in pocket- and wristwatch forms, using both mechanical and quartz calibers. But the origins of the Soviet braille wristwatch can be traced back to a single brand: Petrodvorets. The Vostok Watch Factory continues to produce braille watches today.


(Source: 1, 23, 4, 5)  

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