Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Curtain Call – Closing down of the HMT Chennai Showroom

The Curtain Call – The closing down of the HMT Chennai Showroom

HMT Chennai Showroom
My association with HMT Chennai showroom goes back to the year 2013. It began with a phone call, asking them if they had any of my favourite HMT watches in stock. This was followed by an overnight bus journey over the week end. The visit helped me tick-off a dozen HMT watches from my wish list. I made some good friends at the showroom who helped me a lot in my journey as a collector and enthusiast.

In the last few months, HMT watches have started closing off their showrooms in major cities of India and a few days back their showroom in Chennai closed its operations. The news of its closure brought back so many memories. It’s been quite a while that I could visit them and now it’s too late. Below is an eyewitness account from my friend Jaideep Ramdas, an HMT watch collector and enthusiast from Chennai
I had visited my favourite showroom one fine Friday, a couple of weeks back. It had been a while since I had been there, owing to work and other commitments. I was in for a shock when I saw the state of the showroom. It was completely rearranged and seemed different. The display shelves were moved to a corner and their red velvet steps empty. These were the same shelves that I use to keep gazing at longingly. Once packed with HMT watches, they were now bare. Huge steel cupboards, the Godrej almirahs, the staple of every Indian household and offices were all lined up together. It was always a pleasure when Mr. Govindaraj opened these. You could always expect a surprise, a grey dial Sameer or a nice HMT watch strap. There were packed cardboard boxes everywhere and some heavy vintage pedestal fans.

Mr. Govindaraj, seeing the expression on my face, explained to me that they had started the process of closing down the showroom. All the things were getting packed and being sent to HMT Bangalore. Apart from that, some old cupboards and fans would be auctioned internally. Though I knew the showroom was going to close, seeing it happen was very sad. The Chennai Showroom was and will always be very special to me. A majority of my collection were purchased from this showroom. It was from the Chennai showroom (at a different location) that I started on my watch journey after reading that famous post on HMT Pilot watch by Frans Mattez. My first purchase was a Janata and a Sona.

For the last four years, a visit to this showroom and long chats with Mr. Govindaraj and other members of this team was my routine on Saturdays. The knowledge and the rich experience these people possessed was amazing and they were willing to share it. Our discussions were quite informative and enjoyable Mr. Govindarajan, Mr.Natraj , Mr.Nagaraj and Ms. Divya were a huge support in my watch collecting journey. I consider it my good fortune to have met them, learnt from them and also am guided by them in this endeavour. The Chennai showroom was also a meeting point of other watch collectors who later became friends. It was great to meet another person who had an interest in HMT watches and chat. Every visit to the showroom would be a surprise because
you never knew what you were going to get, whom you were going to meet or what you were going to learn.

Last Saturday, when I visited the showroom, it was in the final stages of closure. Though I was mentally prepared, I still felt sad. One of the most iconic brands was shutting down its presence in my city. The highlight of the day was meeting Mr. Muhamad Bakhar, a former employee and one of the senior most technicians. It was great talking to him about watches and his experiences with the company. As I bid bye to the HMT showroom and the team, I could not help thinking of them. These people along with the other HMT staff represent a breed of committed professionals and are the unsung heroes of brand HMT. They have kept the flag of HMT watches flying high inspite of the circumstances.

Hats off to you gentlemen! Here’s wishing you all success.

L to R - Mr. Nagraj, Mr Natraj, Mr Govindaraj, Mr.Jaideep

L to R - Mr. Muhamad Bakhar,Mr. Nagraj, Mr Natraj, Mr Govindaraj,Mr.Shekar

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