Keeping good time: How HMT ticks on in collectors’ hearts

Monica Jha December 8, 2016 2 min

There was a time when people booked “trunk calls”, men kept long sideburns and wore “safari suits” to work, and a rupee fetched you a pack of cigarettes. This was a time when flying was synonymous with Air India, and keeping time, with HMT.

In the 60s, HMT watches proved India was capable of high-precision manufacturing. While they imported Japanese technology, these were watches that were all Indian — from manufacturing to design to the naming of the models.

HMT watches were an intrinsic part of Indian life. As the title of a government film aptly put it, ‘Time is HMT Time’  

And, they stood the test of time over three decades. They were a prized possession when India went to war with its neighbours; they adorned the wrists of young men even as Shashi Kapoor declared in Deewar that his greatest asset was his ‘Maa’; they remained an integral part of office attire even when the stately Ambassador lost its preeminent position to the upstart Maruti; and they were still adored even as Shah Rukh Khan brought his breezy romances to the silver screen.

HMT watches were an intrinsic part of Indian life. As the title of a government film aptly put it, “Time is HMT Time.”

It remained HMT time till the mid 90s, when liberalisation brought new competition, who satisfied consumers who preferred more fashionable designs. HMT was staring down the barrel.

Today, most of us don’t use watches. The ones who do, wear it more as an accessory than a timekeeping device. So, after many years of losses, the government closed down HMT Watches this year.

The renewed interest in HMT watches has many reasons — the simplicity and elegance of the designs, the old-world charm of hand-wound mechanical watches, and, most of all, nostalgia  

But even as the employees have been relieved and the machines have been auctioned, these watches continue to charm watch enthusiasts.

The renewed interest in HMT watches has many reasons — the simplicity and elegance of the designs, the old-world charm of hand-wound mechanical watches, and the thrill of discovering and collecting rare and obscure timepieces.

But the biggest one is nostalgia. Holding onto these watches takes us back in time. They bring back memories of our loved ones, of our personal journeys, and the journey of this country.

HMT watches are in vogue again.


               

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