Tuesday, November 26, 2013

HMT Pilot watch – Cruising through the decades

“What’s wrong with him why is he buying and collecting all that junk” said the voice at the other end of the phone receiver. “Papa, please don’t say that…those watches are beautiful and are very good” countered my wife. ”So when are you reaching Bangalore” she said trying to change the topic. “Ok we will be there to receive you …good bye” she disconnected the call and turned back to find me in my most amusing mood. “So you heard it all…right…he was just poking some fun on you… they will be reaching Bangalore this Saturday morning”

My father in law’s reaction to my hobby of collecting HMT watches does not surprise me. Especially when he wears an original Rado Ceramica watch. Thankfully my wife is on my side. Finally the fateful Saturday came and we reached the railway station in time to welcome them. After a nice breakfast of steaming hot Idlis and Chai I left my house to catch up with my friends at the HMT showroom located inside the Unity building complex on J C Road, Bangalore. I usually spend a couple of hours most of the Saturday’s at this showroom learning more about the watches and also meeting new and interesting people amongst those who visit the showroom. I met a man of my age at the showroom who initiated a conversation with me by sharing his admiration for the HMT pilot watch that I was wearing on that day. We were busy expressing our love for these watches and sharing our experiences when my phone started ringing. I picked-up the call. It was from my wife “When are you planning to return…Papa wants to speak with you”. I started back for my home though I was not really willing to conclude my meeting abruptly.

I reached home in good time much to the relief of my wife. I was relaxing in my sofa enjoying the cool Bangalore breeze when my father in law took his seat next to me. “ Beta ye ghadi dekhana zara ye babasahab ki hai (son can you please take a look at this watch this belonged to grandfather). I took the watch in my hand to inspect it and to my great joy it was an HMT black dial pilot watch. It had a black nylon strap. It looked battered and it was clearly a daily beater of my grandfather-in-law. The second’s hand come out and was lying inside the acrylic crystal dome on the dial. I rotated the crown to wind the watch and brought it to my ear. The watch was ticking. It was a beautiful coincidence with a pilot on my wrist and a vintage pilot in my hands. Both the watches however separated by the age difference of decades.

He could feel my happiness and said I am happy that you liked it. I called my wife and showed her the watch, she was equally happy. My father-in-law had surprised us both with this watch. I took the watch to the Unity building HMT showroom for servicing where it was serviced and it’s now keeping an accurate time. I was told that the watch was serviced once before in the early 90s. I am now a proud owner of two pilot watches - a grandfather and a grandson Pilot watch.

Major differences between the Vintage and New Pilots

Vintage Pilot had a domed crown as compared to flat head of the new pilot’s crown.  The dial of the vintage Pilot had “water protected” printed on the dial

 The case back of vintage pilot also had “water dust protected” etched on it. While the latest pilots have 0231 (watch movement) etched on it the vintage one’s do not have the same mentioned anywhere on the watch. The new pilot watch has shock resistant etched on it while the earlier one had “shock proof”. Vintage pilot watch back was threaded and screw off while the new ones have a threaded snap – off watch back

Monday, November 18, 2013

HMT Sona - The Real Gold


I recently visited Tumkur. It is a small town in Karnataka state in India. This city has the HMT watch factory number 4.  The idea behind this trip was to pick up a few rare watches from the HMT retail outlet in Tumkur and also to explore the opportunity of visiting HMT watch factory. I reached HMT retail outlet in Tumkur at around noon time and soon became quite busy talking to the sales officer at the showroom.

They had a good collection of old new stock of HMT hand winding and  automatic watches. I was busy with an HMT Nachiket watch,when a old gentleman entered the showroom. The sales person was talking to him and i gathered from their conversation that he had come to get the battery/cell of his HMT quartz watch to be replaced.

I moved close to that counter to take a look at the watches exhibited in the display unit when the watch on this old man's wrist caught my fancy. It was an old Sona watch. I could not stop myself from asking the gentleman about his watch. He said that the watch has been on his wrist for the last 15 years and has been keeping goodtime ever since he had brought it. He said that it was even better than the quartz watch his son has and he never had to get his watch serviced till date. I could sense the pride in his every word. He suggested me to buy one for myself and i said absolutely sir..

HMT Tumkur retail showroom

The old Gentleman

The old man's Sona watch

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Minister and his faulty HMT watch

This was an incident that was narrated to me by a friend at HMT watches. Quite a few years back HMT watches had a showroom at the parliament street. Those days HMT had it’s showrooms at two places in Delhi - One at the Parliament street and another one at Khan market. But those were in the golden days of HMT watches and now we have only one showroom which is situated in the Jhandewalan extension in New Delhi.

This showroom at parliament street was frequented by aam Indian Janata (normal public), government officials and the politicians alike. One day the store got a call from one of the minister’s who wanted to buy a watch. He informed that his personal assistant or PA as they are popularly known as will come to pick it up on his behalf. The watch was kept ready and the same was bought by the PA on the minister’s behalf .He left in a hurry to take care of his work at the office and to deliver the watch back to his minister. Everybody thought that the transaction was over but the showroom saw the PA visiting them again the day after the watch was purchased. He claimed that the watch was faulty and wanted it to be replaced immediately. HMT issues a guarantee card with each watch purchased by its customers promising the performance of its product. It also promises that if the watch is found faulty the same would be repaired or replaced. The minister’s PA had the guarantee card and since the watch was a day old the store gave him a new watch.

So the PA left the showroom only to return back in a couple of days with the same issue and the watch was again replaced. Another two days passed and this time the minister himself graced the showroom with his esteemed presence. He was fuming with anger. A question was raised immediately by the esteemed minister on the quality of watches manufactured by the company and he shared his worry that if this was the quality of watches sold to the ministers what would be the quality of watches sold to the common Indian citizen.

The HMT staff was quite amused themselves but then kept quite as it was their product that was at fault. One of the HMT staff members from the store asked the minister politely to explain clearly what exactly was the problem he was facing with his watch. The minister fumed “problem…you are asking me what is the problem…the damn thing can’t even work for more than a couple of days. I got the watch on Monday and it stopped on Tuesday night again I got the watch and again it stopped”

The real issue behind the problem then dawned upon the staff members. They took the watch from the minister winded it and the watch started ticking again. The staff then explained to both the minister and his PA how the watch functions and how to keep it running. The minister and the PA left the showroom in a better mood not to return again much to the relief of the HMT staff members.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

HMT watch on Mr. Nehru’s Birthday today

 I don’t want this to sound like a school essay. Today is the birth anniversary of Pt. Jawahar lal Nehru. He was the first prime minister of India and was very fond of Children.He considered them to be the future of India. His birth anniversary every year is celebrated as children’s day in India.

Pt. Nehru was a statesman with a vision.In my earlier bog i have written how his vision lead to the formation of HMT watches.He wished to see a watch on every Indian’s wrist. He wanted the watches to be affordable and of a quality that would sustain the climatic variations in India. This dream was fulfilled by HMT watches Ltd.

In 1988, Mr. Nehru’s birth centenary year HMT launched the Nehru birth centenary watch. It’s a beautiful watch with a black n white portrait of Mr. Nehru on its dial with the Indian tricolor in its back ground. It also has the autograph of Mr. Nehru on its dial.

HMT also manufactured the HMT Jawahar watch to pay its respect to Mr. Nehru.

On this day today we pay our tribute to this great man and we hope that his cherished dream keeps ticking on the wrists of HMT Fans.  

This the Jawaharlal Nehru Centenary mechanical watch. Its a 17 jewels winding watch.It took a lot of my time and effort to get this watch. The watch has a few touch-ups.The hour and minutes hands that you see on the watch were actually plain steel in color and the red dots marking the hours were redone. Though i like my watches to be the way they were produced, this is one watch which i really liked with the alterations made by the seller. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Story of an HMT Kailash Automatic

On a windy Saturday afternoon I was in the HMT unity building showroom in Bangalore. It was drizzling outside and the showroom was visited by only a few customers. I had selected an HMT Kailash sometime back from the Sri Lakshmi times shop which is opposite to the HMT showroom and had asked the proprietor to change the strap. While he was changing the strap I thought of catching up with my friends in the HMT showroom. We were busy discussing some events of the day when an old man in his late 70s entered the showroom. He was wearing traditional south Indian clothes (i.e. a white veshti aka Dhoti and shirt). He was quite old and was walking with the support of the auto rickshaw driver in who’s vehicle he had come to the showroom. He told us that he had come from a village in Karnataka state and was looking for an HMT automatic watch. There were a few NASL and ADSL automatic watches in the showroom but he was looking for the older and relatively cheaper models. The showroom sales staff suggested him the low cost quartz models but he rejected all of them. He said that he has been wearing an automatic watch all his life. He had lost his watch a few days back and wanted to replace it with a new one. He had traveled a long distance from his village on a rickety bus and then on an auto just to get an HMT automatic watch.

He was asked to visit Sri Lakshmi times to check on the stock of automatic watches on display. So off he went to Lakshmi time and after 15-20 minutes the proprietor from Lakshmi times called me and informed that his customer was very keen on the Kailash watch I had chosen sometime back and wanted to purchase it. I was in a dilemma as the Kailash watch I had chosen was quite a rare model and I was looking for the same for quite some time. I had another but that was a different model and the one this old fan of HMT had selected was a very rare piece.

I rushed to the showroom and the saw the watch on the old man’s wrinkled wrist. He had a gleam in his eyes and a smile on his lips. His expressions echoed that he had achieved what he had aimed for the day and that his trip to Bangalore was worth every bit of it. Me and the proprietor looked at each other and reached a silent agreement. I slipped back to the HMT showroom to see the oldest HMT fan I had ever met hop back into his auto rickshaw with an HMT Kailash on his wrist…my HMT Kailash….

HMT Kailash that I own and is a part of my collection

HMT Kailash that i had chosen which the old gentleman ultimately bought 

Monday, November 11, 2013

What the heck is a mechanical watch ?

I don’t think there is anybody out here who does not know about watches. However often people who got their first watch in the 90s ask me what is an automatic/self-winding watch and a winding watch. This is because their first watch was either a digital watch or a quartz watch powered by an electric cell.

To give you an insight into mechanical watches a winding watch is one where you have to rotate the crown clockwise to wind its main spring mechanism to make the watch tick again. This has to be done regularly or every time the watch stops ticking. An automatic watch is more complicated than the winding watch and it is one where your wrist movements makes a rotatory weight in the clock mechanism turn due to earth’s gravitational pull. This movement of rotatory wheels winds the watch and the watch keeps ticking as long as you wear the watch daily for a few hours. Incase it lies in your cupboard for long and stops all you have to do is take it out, set the time and give it a few gentle shakes to make it tick again. I have used a layman language here to make you guys understand these watches a little more.

Mechanical watches work because of an intricate system of rotating wheels/gears and springs. These turning gears sit on synthetic jewels which reduce the friction when the gears move and thus protects them from getting worn-off and ensures longevity of the watch’s life. Its typically the number of jewels used in the mechanism of a watch that often defines its complexity. i.e. higher the number of jewels more complex would be the watch movement.

HMT mechanical watches use a 17 jewels movement for its winding watches. You can find the movement mentioned on an HMT watch dial like 0231, 020 etc. A classic example would be HMT Pilot, Sona, Janata etc.

An HMT Jhalak Black dial watch with a 17 jewels 0231 movement mentioned on the dial

HMT automatic watches use a 21 jewels winding movement like 6500, 8205 etc. For example An HMT  Rajat watch has a 6500 movement.

A black dial HMT Rajat has a 21 jewels 6500 movement 

These watches are timeless beauties and have mesmerized generations for decades now.

These watches have the old world charm and still do not burn a hole in your pocket as they are quite affordable.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Every watch has a story and HMT watches are more of a rule than an exception.
Its beginning itself is quite interesting. The idea of a poorna Swadeshi (Fully Indian) watch geminated in the mind of India’s first Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru when he visited Japan in the post Independence era to improve Bi-lateral ties with them. This was in the 1950s and during this trip to Japan he was gifted a Japanese watch (apparently a Citizen Watch). That is when the idea of making Indian watches came to the mind of the prime Minister who had a revolutionary   outlook towards Indian Industries. Infact he used to call the factories and workshops as the temple of modern India. He laid the foundation stone of HMT watch factory in Bangalore and in 1961 HMT started making watches in collaboration with Citizen Watch Company of Japan with the 0231 movement in its winding watches. Those of you who want to know more about HMT, i suggest you guys to  visit the HMT watches home page and to read through its history.

HMT honoured the vision of Jawaharlal Nehru by creating economic but reliable watches which kept good time and worked well in the diverse Indian climatic conditions.

Here are the pictures of My HMT Jawahar watches. These are mechanical watches and have a 17 jewels winding movement. These watches honour the man behind the HMT watches Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and were popularly known as the student's watch. These are very rare to find these days and I am lucky enough to own four of them

HMT Watches - Yes they are still ticking

Whenever I tell people that i collect HMT watches their first reaction is "But i thought the company is already closed". In fact that's what i thought as well. The name HMT was always there in my subconscious mind. Maybe it was because as a child i remember seeing an HMT watch on my grandfathers wrist or maybe i remember reading in books about characters reaching late and then giving an excuse that they forgot to wind their watches and were thus late.Maybe because i am a typical Indian who believes everything from the good old days is good.But then everything changed one night and HMT watches gained my consciousness. 

To be honest i never thought much about watches. To me a watch was a time keeping instrument and that was it. Though glossy advertisements of Rolex, Tag Heuer, etc always caught my attention. My work requires me to travel regularly. HMT Corporate office in Bangalore (aka HMT Bhawan ) is en route to the Bangalore International Airport. During my return from airport late one night HMT Bhawan lingered on my memory and after reaching home I started Googling about HMT. That night I spent quite a few hours on the web learning about HMT watches and when I saw all those pictures at one the watch forums i immediately fell in love with the simple and elegant Janata,Pilot and Sona. Next day was a Saturday and I made calls to HMT showrooms making inquiries about the Pilot watch . Luckily HMT Bhawan outlet had a black Pilot watch. I requested the person who received my call to keep the watch reserved for me while I made a rush to the showroom. But then by the time I reached the watch got billed to someone else. I was quite disappointed as I had driven quite a distance to get the watch. A senior person at the showroom who had actually got the watch billed to his son’s friend immediately took my number and promised to get the black pilot for me by next week from Tumkur outlet. While at the showroom I observed other watches and the all Hindi Janata caught my fancy. I immediately fell in love with it and since that day it has been on my wrist every day. True to his word I got a call from the gentleman from HMT and i got the Pilot on the next weekend. 

Since that fateful night these simple and elegant watches have become my companions of good and bad times.