Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Vintage HMT Tareeq - Story of a survivor.

A brief introduction - One of the earliest known HMT Tareeq watches were quite similar to Janata watches. They had Pie Pan shaped dials with a date window. These looked inspired from Citizen Homer date version watches. They came in GP as well as Stainless Steel cases with (to the best of my knowledge) milky white, Steel sunburst finish, yellow,grey and black dials.

The Gold Plated case, indices and hands Vintage Tareeq

The Stainless Steel Tareeq
Coming to the story of the vintage Tareeq watch that i want to share with you.First of all please accept my apologies, if you don't like the dilapidated looks of my watch. I found this watch over a weekend visit to the scrap market. I have a habit of checking watches even if they are under a rubble of discarded watches. I found it in in much worse condition than what you see here. It's crystal had popped off and the watch was lying face down in dirt. Its dial had accumulated mud which was mingled in adhesive flowing from a can lying next to it. The good thing was that the watch had its case back and hands secured. I would usually not think twice before walking away from such a watch but then it seemed, as if, the watch was looking up to me to get it rescued from where it was lying without affection and in a state of neglect. I took the watch in exchange of a price that made the transaction worth it for the seller. I brought it home, where it stayed on my desk for two days with me trying patiently every night, brushing-off dirt and adhesive from its face.  I did all that I could to reveal its long last self of the dial. Once.the crystal was replaced I wound it and it ticked back to life, yes...it ticked back to life like a survivor whose heart kept ticking under the debris of a calamity. The date function worked just as it should. A few months back, I had brought a strap which looked as if it had lost its color due to exposure and age. I could not find an appropriate companion for this strap, little did I know then that a match for it was lying under rubble. They look happy together now and let me say that this is one watch that I respect a lot and which has given me a lot of satisfaction for the time I invested in it. It's like an old friend on my wrist who has seen a lot in the last 35 years of its existence.

The Watch after cleaning

With its new strap

Manufatured in 1982 in Bangalore factory of HMT watches
Friends, I urge you to go out and search for yourself watches that are waiting for you under similar conditions.They might not look great but if you give your personal attention to them they will give you a satisfaction that is unparalleled to, if I may dare to say even a new watch.

As always, I look forward to hearing back from you. It motivates me and encourages me to keep on with this journey of exploring HMT watches. You can also check out my Video blogs on YouTube here is the link. https://www.youtube.com/HMTwatchespicturegallery

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A lucky find – HMT Rakhee

Today is Rakshabandhan, a day that celebrates the bonding between brothers and sisters. On this day, sisters tie a silken thread – Rakhee on their brother’s wrist praying for their long life and the brother’s promise to protect their sisters from every evil.
The house of HMT watches made a special watch in the early 70s to celebrate this festival with a ladies watch called Rakhee. A watch which is both unique as well as refined and was a perfect gift from brother’s to their sisters. It was released in two forms one as a pendent watch (a watch that can be worn around the neck) and the second one on a bracelet. The unique thing about this watch was its case which had a delicate Bidri work. Bidri craft is practised in Bidar-Karnataka, in Andhra Pradesh and in Maharashtra – bordering Karnataka. The metal used is a blackened alloy of zinc and copper inlaid with thin sheets of pure silver. (Source – Craft council of India). Each watch has a hand crafted case with Bidri work and thus each watch has a different and unique case making each HMT Rakhee watch unique and different from the other. These watches came with a 17 jewel hand winding mechanical movement. In my opinion, they are very rarely seen these days as their production stopped decades back.

Picture credit - Tarun Agarwal
Being a watch collector fills your life with excitement. The excitement that can be compared with the one felt by a pearl hunter or an excavator of artifacts. Most collectors talk about the role of luck, of being the right person at the right place. I believe more in the adage – “Harder I work, luckier I get”. But then I have days when luck shines upon me and the incident I am going to narrate here is of one such day and the story of my HMT Rakhee watch

Late in the year 2014, one night I was on call with my friend Jaideep and we were discussing HMT watches. Our discussion digressed to old/Vintage HMT watch advertisements and I started searching them on the net and came across an old HMT watch newspaper advertisement for sale. It was from the 70s and advertised HMT Rakhee watch. I was pleasantly surprised as I read through the advertisement and my admiration for the HMT watch company moved a notch higher. As we discussed, I told Jaideep that we should count ourselves lucky to even know that such an HMT watch even existed and that adding such a watch to our collection is nothing less than a distant dream. It was a Friday night and I had plans for the next day. I dozed off dreaming about HMT Rakhee.
Next morning, I took my wife to the city market area for shopping and quite forgot about the watch amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy market. We started back by afternoon to have lunch at Jaynagar. While driving back I spotted a small shop with a few watches at display. Much to the chagrin of my wife I decided to stop by and check them.  I stepped inside the shop and found the usual assortment of quartz watches on display. Though disappointed, I was also happy that I did not have to spend much time at the shop. As I was stepping out the engaging shopkeeper asked me if he could help me. I told him that I was searching watches with mechanical movements. He directed me to a neglected display case inside the shop. I decided to leave it at that, as we were getting late but the shopkeeper said – atleast take a look, you never know. I sighed and stepped back inside the shop, as my wife rolled her eyes in despair. I looked at the watches and to my utter astonishment there on a leather strap was an HMT Rakhee staring back at me as if asking me of what I was waiting for. A few minutes later I floated out of the shop with a light heart and a lighter pocket, a broad smile and an HMT Rakhee to my wife who stared at me with a magnifying gaze. Later that evening Jaideep was overjoyed with amazement as I narrated him the events of the day. Both agreed that it was nothing less than a great stroke of luck. Next, I bought the original advertisement of this watch and I treasure it now.

I have always believed that HMT watches are full of surprises, most attribute this to the numerous variants and models that were made by this company of which many are unseen and unheard. In my opinion it is also applicable to the collecting aspect of these watches as one might get and unseen gem at most unexpected places.
So that my friend was one lucky day for me which gave me a watch and an experience that I will treasure throughout my life.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Dard ka Rishta - HMT Kanchan.

Due to a physical ailment ailment, I have to attend physiotherapy sessions. During the sessions, amidst the casual chitchat, I usually keep gazing at my watch admiring it's beauty. A few days back, I had this HMT Kanchan watch on my wrist, the physiotherapist said, "My father used to wear an HMT Kanchan watch too. He got it for his marriage and used to wear it every day." "Really, that's great..would love to see it", - I asked. "It must be still with him, he was buried with his watch on his wrist, his beloved watch......". I murmured an apology and a stony silence resumed between us for the rest of the session. "Can you please wear this watch tomorrow as well?" - She requested. From that day, I wear this watch every day to the session. She loves looking at it and sharing fond memories of her father and how badly she misses him, but now in a more cheerful manner.In a way, these sessions help both of us in getting relieved of our pains. I am amazed by how a familiar watch could connect two unfamiliar people. In our case, we are connected by a Dard ka Rishta (Related by pain) thanks to the HMT Kanchan watch. I intend to gift her this watch on the last day of our session, will update all of you on her reaction.

(Edited for sharing an update) I am required to continue with physiotherapy for a few more weeks but luckily i got an option to attend the session at my office during the working hours itself. I updated my physiotherapist at the hospital about this development. I told her, how much i appreciate her sharing the dear memories of her late father and that i would want her to keep the watch as a parting gift. To my dismay, she politely refused to accept my request. She said her organization does not allow her to accept gifts from customers, it would be unethical on her part to accept the watch from me. I decided not to pester her as i could not ask her to do anything that can be interpreted unethical. She thanked me for the offer and said that she enjoyed and would always remember our discussions. I told her, that though i would have been much happier, had she accepted the watch as a gift. Nonetheless, i understand and appreciate her decision and that every time i would wear this watch, it would remind me of her and her father .

Dear friends,not every story has an ending as we expect it to be, but then, that's life and who knows, there might be another story which is getting unfolded waiting for an audience.    

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Happiest day in the life of an HMT watch collector

As a watch enthusiast, I would often hear from fellow enthusiasts about the watches they got from their father. Here is the story of my father’s gift to me and the happiest day of my life.

My father is my hero and his impact on my life is immense, my love for watches germinated from the time I saw my father’s wrist watch. My father’s daily beater was a Ricoh Japan, automatic movement watch. It had an emeraldish greenish-blue dial, a day-date calendar and was nothing less than a wonder to me. He would put it next to his pillow at night and I would often look at the lumed dots glowing softly in the night and wondered when I would get one for myself. In the 90s his Ricoh watch ended up in his cupboard and was replaced by a Timex watch, which had a quartz movement. This Timex watch stayed on his wrist ever since. He often received other and more expensive watches but the Timex watch ruled his wrist.

My father knew of my obsession with watches and HMT watches in particular and we would often talk about them. Last year when I had visited him, he gave me his Ricoh watch and the child in me got the most cherished object. A couple of years back, I told him that I bought for him an HMT “Provash” automatic, which is quite similar to his first name “Pravesh”, he gave me his evergreen answer “Please don’t get me a watch, I don’t need another watch”. I respected his decision and lost all hopes of seeing another watch on his wrist and thought the Timex will be his daily beater forever.

My Father's Ricoh Japan watch on my wrist today

However, god wanted to fulfil yet another dream of mine. I got a call from my father a few days back and he told me he wants my advice on a wrist watch. He informed me that his Timex watch has stopped working and is with the service center and he has not been wearing any watches for some time. My heart was filled with joy when he said that he wanted to wear an HMT watch from now on. He said that it’s our good old Indian brand and with me always advocating the use of HMT watches he wanted to wear one. As always, his requirements were clear – a gold plated quartz watch with day-date function and dial shape other than round (his timex watch had a round dial and he wanted to try something new). He also said that he did not want many options as it might confuse him and that the day calendar should be in Hindi. After some thought and search, I zeroed down on Sangam Premium MGGG 06 PRE WD. I shared a few pictures with him and he liked it instantly. The only problem was that the day calendar was in English and Japanese while he wanted it to be in Hindi and English. However, when I told the seller about it, he offered to change the Japanese calendar to Hindi and with the change incorporated; watch was shipped.I knew that my father would want to wear the watch on the first day of Navratri and luckily the watch reached him a day earlier. Today, he wore the watch after the pariva pooja of first day of Navratri and sent me a wrist shot. Words fail the expression of my happiness. Today, without even a shadow of doubt, is the happiest day of my life as a son, who also happens to be a watch collector....an HMT watch collector. 

My Father's wrist shot with his HMT Sangam Premium watch

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Memory Restored – Restoring the first HMT watch I ever saw

Sometime in the year of 1987, one evening, upon his return from his office, we noticed a beautiful watch on my grandfather’s wrist. It was an HMT HQ series day date quartz watch, a novelty in the days of mechanical watches. That moment was my first introduction to an HMT watch; I was a seven years old then. He had received the watch from his bank as a reward for his exemplary performance at work that day and it replaced the Favre leuba watch that adorned his wrist, till then. It was a proud moment for all of us and the watch became a permanent time keeper for him, till his last breath. Post his demise my uncle started wearing the watch but after a few years he moved on with his other watches and the watch stopped receiving wrist time. Time moved on and from a school going kid, I progressed to college and then became a working professional. Memory of my grandfather’s watch faded in the background of my busy life. A few years back, I was on my way back home from the Bengaluru International Airport, when I spotted HMT Bhavan (Head Office of HMT watches) and memories came rushing back to me. I purchased my first HMT watch the very next day and have been hooked on to HMT watches ever since. I have written about it in my earlier blog (Blog link)

Since that day, I was always curious about the whereabouts of my grandfather’s HMT watch. I made enquiries with my uncle and grandmother but no one was sure about the location of the watch. A couple of months back my aunt visited our ancestral home at Lucknow and upon return handed over the watch which she found after an exhaustive search. It was found t in my grandfather’s office briefcase. The glorious watch was now in a dilapidated state. The strap had broken and the glass had cracked to pieces with dust all over the dial and a dead movement. I was determined to restore the watch to its glory. I took it to a watchmaker; he confirmed that the quartz movement was beyond repair due to spill over of chemicals from the dead battery and exposure to atmosphere. I checked with HMT watches repair centers but they also did not have a spare movement for the watch due to their current state of affairs. I checked with multiple dealers and finally found an unused 2105 original HMT quartz movement for the watch. I got it cosmetically restored by getting a new glass, repairing the strap and cleaning the dial. The watch finally ticked back to its original rhythm.
Old destroyed quartz movement
As I write this blog, the first HMT watch I ever saw, a trophy of my grandfather’s hard work is on my wrist to be treasured for ever and to be passed on to the next generations of our family. HMT watches have been time keepers of our nation but to me they are also timekeepers of generations. 

Restored watch of My Grandfather

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

New HMT Watch Showroom in Bangalore

I recently visited the HMT watch showroom at Barton Center, M G Road Bangalore. The showroom at unity buildings, J C Road was shut down and shifted to this new facility. Since, not many HMT watch fans are aware of the existence of this new showroom, I decided to share the sights of my visit through this blog.

Barton center is very close to the M G Road metro station on the main road

Barton Center - Its a famous landmark on M.G. Road 

HMT showroom has put a banner on its window which faces the road and an HMT Digital clock (top edge of the pic)

HMT watch showroom is on the first floor, a view from the tube lift

At the entrance of the showroom

The only showcase inside the Huge showroom, which is a property owned by HMT watches for decades. Other showcases were expected in a few days

It was good to meet Mr. Bhagwan,showroom manager and an old friend. Amidst closure of several showrooms, HMT opening a new showroom is nothing less than a pleasant surprise. So, next time you visit the M G Road, do visit the showroom. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Curtain Call – Closing down of the HMT Lucknow Showroom

HMT watch showroom, Lucknow
My Association with HMT watch showroom,Lucknow started with my purchase of HMT Jawan watch from it. I had asked my co-brother to do me the favor of purchasing the watch and sending it to me in Bangalore.The generous staff members kept the showroom opened beyond the working hours and gave the necessary directions to my co-brother on phone as his driver sped through the lanes of lalbagh to help me get my watch. I ended up picking a Vijay lume and Janata deluxe as well along with Jawan. I visited Lucknow earlier this year and met with the other members of HMT watch collectors at the showroom . The showroom was at the verge of closure and it was sad to experience their state of affairs. 

A fellow HMT watch enthusiast and friend,Ashutosh Anand, from Lucknow who has been a regular at the showroom shares his experiences of his association with the showroom,below:

My family association with HMT Lucknow showroom goes back to 1991 when my Late Grandfather bought a HMT Quartz watch from HMT showroom, then located at the centre of the city i.e. M.G. Road, Lucknow.

I still have that watch in working condition, its original bill, box and warranty card booklet containing instructions and addresses of HMT showrooms and service centres across the country.
With time, as sales went down, HMT could not afford the rent of the showroom at MG Road and they had to be shifted to BN Road, Lalbagh area.

My association with HMT Lucknow Lalbagh showroom goes back to March 2012 when I visited Lucknow during my holidays. I did not know about the shifting of the showroom and searched its telephone number on yellow pages to check if it was open,called them and came to know about its new location and nearest landmark "Noor Manzil".It took me about an hour by auto and then cycle rickshaw to reach there, as the location was unknown to me.
The first appearance of the showroom, it had a big board, displaying HMT Company Watch Showroom -  a subsidiary of HMT Limited, a Government. of India undertaking which appeared painted more than a decade ago.When I entered, it appeared like an old hall or a government building, with high roofs, old window fittings near roof for natural light, wooden partitions for showroom, service centre and regional office.
I found 5 showcases with different categories of watches being displayed along with posters of prestigious HMT watches and one of Mahatma Gandhi on partition walls.The person there (who was the manager) asked me - what can I do for you. I said -  I am the same person who called up,our conversation thus started. Along with the manager, the other HMT employees there too who joined the conversation.As they rarely found people interested in HMT Watches, they were surprised to see my interest in and our conversation lasted for about two plus hours which was about watches, their experiences of golden days of HMT, their training days along with some tea and snacks.
I asked them if HMT Janata 12-3-6-9 was there in stock. (At that time I did not know it was known as Art Deco variant). I already had the Devanagri "Janata" printed variant. As the watch was not in showcase, the manager was kind enough to get searched it in the stocks and found one Tumkur made art deco Janata for me.I was really happy. He then showed me a series of ADSL automatic watches along with a newly released ADSL04. He recommended me ADSL04 and I bought that too along with the classic Janata.He prepared the bills and warranty cards for both watches and I came back with wishing them, thanks and "Fir Milenge" (till we meet again.)

After that, I could visit them only in 2014 when I had to get my grandfather's watch serviced and I bought a black dial Jhalak on this visit. The manager recognized me and this time too we again had a long chat. I used to tell them that I write my suggestions to HMT management to either start online shopping and deliver watches via India Post or to tally up with leading e-commerce websites and they used recognize my efforts with their inputs on it.
In September 2014 the news of shut down came. After which, I started visiting various HMT showrooms frequently, because I felt only a few days are left for the showroom to exist. I even had an opportunity to meet the General Manager of WFR while he was on visit there.

We were lucky to have organized, HMT Watch Collectors meet at Lucknow showroom this year before it closed. It was a nice time to meet Prashant, Vardhan along with HMT staff.
Unfortunately, HMT Lucknow showroom was in the list of showrooms to be phased out first as it could not generate enough revenue to survive on its own, the showroom was closed down in mid of April 2015.
Left to Right - Prashant Pandey, A Customer, Mr. Mathur (HMT Staff), Ashutosh Anand and Vardhan Mittal 
In my last few visits, I saw the managers and staff packing up all the watches in stocks, preparing inventory lists as they had to send them back to HMT, as last part of their duties. Finally, they had to close down the showroom cum office they were associated with for a long time.The service engineer who was on contractual wages became unemployed.It was a sad day for both the HMT staff as well as watch collectors like me.
I wish HMT management had taken steps to improve HMT watches presence and existence in market, their online presence, sales on e-commerce, I believe HMT employees would have not to see such a day...