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Pavel Buhre / Павел Буре

Throughout Imperial-era Russia, the watchmaking industry consisted only of several small workshops and enterprises, usually assembling watches using parts made abroad. Due to a lack of technology and equipment, it was more affordable and efficient to import unfinished Swiss and German ebauchés, then compete the assembly in local Russian workshops. This assembly was undertaken by specialized independent watchmakers appointed by the Imperial Court, such as Heinrich Moser, George Favre-Jacot, and Pavel Buhre (Paul Buhré). 

The first mention of the Buhre name appears in 1815. At that time, Karl Buhre, a Russian businessman of German descent, moved with this five-year-old son, Pavel, from Tallinn to St. Petersburg. From an early age, Pavel helped his father with the family watch and clock business, learning not only how to build and run an enterprise, but also the finer details of watchmaking. In 1874, Pavel founded his own watchmaking business through the purchase of a watch factory in Le Locle, Switzerland.  He continued to manufacture watches for the Russian market, each adorned with his signature on the dial and case. 

In 1899, Buhre was awarded the title of Official Supplier of the Imperial Court and was granted the right to use the Russian Coat of Arms as part of its logo. Contenders for the title of Official Supplier were required to participate in all Ministry of Finance provincial exhibitions for a minimum of eight years, and to remain free of customer complains throughout this duration. Such a title was a great honor. By order of the Russian Imperial Court, the Pavel Buhre watch factory was tasked with manufacturing watches which the emperor awarded to officials for distinguished public service, as well as to foreign diplomats, prominent cultural figures, and officers in the Russian Army.   


Pavel Buhre watches were awarded top prizes in numerous national and international exhbitions, including silver at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, and gold at the same fair in the year 1900. Buhre produced everything from standard timepieces for the general public to solid gold chronographs, with prices ranging from two rubles to several thousand. Buhre's prolific success is evident in his command of the market: at the beginning of the 20th century, Buhre claimed roughly 20% of the Russian market, and manufactured some 70% of all government-ordered timepieces

In 1918, a year after the Bolshevik Revolution, the entire Soviet industrial infrastructure was nationalized. All independent watchmaking workshops were confiscated by the State, and the original owners were eventually forced to withdraw from the market. ​Buhre moved away from Russia, but continued to work in Switzerland under the name Paul Buhré. By 1922, the entire Soviet watchmaking industry had become part of the State Trust of Precision Mechanics, also known as Gostrest Tochmeh.

(Sources: 1, 2, 3)


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