Bure Turns Back Time to Tsarist Legacy

Hockey fans the world over know Pavel Bure as the Russian Rocket, a prolific goal scorer with lightning speed. Now he's trying to cultivate his ancestors' legendary knack for timing off the ice, too.

The Vancouver Canucks' star right-winger is reviving his family's 19th-century business, the manufacture of luxury watches. Recently he presented his first sample to President Boris Yeltsin.

Bure watches are as much a part of Russia's culture as Faberge eggs or Smirnoff vodka.

The 24-year-old skater is the great-grandson of Pavel Bure, the last of the famous Bures whose company made precious watches for the Russian czars starting in 1815.

The dynasty's founder, Swiss watchmaker Eduard Bure, is said to have been the first person to attach a tiny strap to a watch so it could be worn on the hand.

Young Pavel is a vice president of the Twenty-First Century Association, a nonprofit company based in his native Moscow which is helping to resurrect his ancestors' business, said its president Anzori Kikalishvili.

"Bure has such a strong personality, a sense of history and a self-made fortune made on ice,'' Kikalishvili said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

"It's marvelous that he is investing his hard-earned money into restoring the old Russian trademark,'' he said.

Bure, twice a 60-goal scorer in the NHL, has had a lot of time on his hands lately, so to speak. He underwent major knee surgery last November and missed most of the National Hockey League season.

Deemed fully recovered, he has reunited with former teammates Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings and Alexander Mogilny of the Canucks to play for Russia in the upcoming World Cup. The Russians open play Aug. 29 against Canada in Vancouver.

He has put his unexpected free months in Russia to good use for his budding business career.

Like his ancestors, Bure plans to have some watch parts made in Switzerland, then shipped to Moscow and St. Petersburg for assembly.

He is now negotiating with the Moscow government about buying one of the formally famous, now-neglected watch factories.

The first 50 gold watches, replicas of the old company's last model, have already been made.

"Since the Bure watches were always made for Russia's top leaders, Bure presented the first three to President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov,'' said Kikalishvili.

Members of the Russian royal family always wore Bure watches and used them as awards for service to the crown.

When Russia's last czar, Nicholas II, wanted to present a Bure watch to Fyodor Shalyapin -- the famous singer known for his huge ego -- Shalyapin refused to accept a watch like those given to other singers.

The czar then had to ask for a special watch decorated with diamonds, which Shalyapin accepted and wore the rest of his life.

"If Russia is a great power, it must make fine watches, nice cars and other great and beautiful things,'' Kikalishvili said. "I don't know about cars, but we can certainly make watches.''