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.