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St. Petersburg Watchmaker Counters Sanctions by Refusing to Sell Abroad

Published: August 5, 2014 (Issue # 1822)



  • The Petrodvorets Watch Factory, famous for its nostalgic Soviet-style brands, said that it had decided to "answer to the decadent Western countries."
    Photo: Raketa.com

Russia's oldest and largest mechanical watchmaker says it will stop selling its most prestigious self-winding watches abroad as long as the "decadent" West continues to impose "unfair" sanctions over Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

Jacques von Polier, the French CEO of the Petrodvorets Watch Factory in St. Petersburg, said the company will refrain from selling to foreign retailers its upmarket Avtomat (Automatic) watches, which use the wearer's wrist movement to wind automatically.

"The sanctions are totally unfair. The world wants to make Russia the only guilty country in the Ukraine conflict, but the situation is not simply black-and-white. The sanctions are pouring oil on the fire," he told The St. Petersburg Times on Monday.

The company, famous for its nostalgic Soviet-style Raketa (Rocket) and Pobeda (Victory) brands, said in a recent press release that it had decided to "answer to the decadent Western countries" because "workers of the factory are shocked by these rude and unfair sanctions."

Von Polier, who has been trying to restore the aging factory's Soviet prestige since joining in 2009, said the refusal to sell the Avtomat watches, which can retail for more than $1,000, would have little effect on his business. Indeed, for the Russia-focused company, the move is a nifty piece of PR.

"There is so much demand in Russia that we don't need Western markets," he said, adding that the measure is at least partially a marketing gimmick to jump on a groundswell of patriotism in Russia as the country's standoff with the West continues.

Since Russia's annexation of the former Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in March, the United States and European Union have imposed a number of sanctions on Russian companies and citizens in an effort to dissuade the country from further involvement in Ukraine.

Petrodvorets seized the marketing opportunity early. Around the time of the annexation, it released a special-edition "Crimea Victory 2014" watch, which had originally been intended to commemorate 70 years since the peninsula's liberation from the Nazis in World War II.

Von Polier, whose great-grandmother was born in Crimea, said by phone that "for me, Crimea has always been Russian."

Petrodvorets also said it was recommending a law to Russia's parliament to forbid state officials from buying Western-brand watches as presents for employees and associates.

Petrodvorets is Russia's only producer of a complete mechanical watch movement, and Von Polier said it would continue to sell parts — specifically, springs and escapements — to watchmakers in Switzerland to fulfill demand after Swatch Group announced it would stop selling movements to competing brands.

"We are proud that we are one of only four or five manufacturers in the world that can produce such movements," he said.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Nov. 28


Join table-top game aficionados at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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