H. Gurney / Х. Гурни
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 Pavel Buhre, George Favre-Jacot, and Haim Gurney.
Haim Abramovich Gurney was a successful businessman, art dealer, art historian, and vice-commander of the Astrakhan Cyclists Society. In the late 1800s, when a bicycle crazy was sweeping the globe, Gurney opened one of the first Russian stores carrying bicycles in the city of Astrakhan. Gurney quickly became quite wealthy and successful, having expertly timed his entry into this market. The bike boom raged on, and by 1904, the Russian Society of Amateur Cyclists was organizing competitions, cycling training, meetings, as well as handling new membership, honoring distinguished athletes, and so on.
It is unclear how watches came to bear the name H. Gurney, or if this dial signature even refers to the same Haim Ambramovich Gurney of Astrakhan. It is possible that Gurney sold specialty watches at his store to wealthy aristocrats and accomplished cyclists, or that he was wealthy enough that he could afford a special watch with his own name painted on the dial. Regardless, it is unlikely many watches with such a dial signature were produced.
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. By 1922, the entire watchmaking industry had become part of the State Trust of Precision Mechanics, also known as Gostrest Tochmeh.
Caliber: Swiss Year: ca. 1900 Notes: Imperial Russian watch