Tuesday, March 17, 2015

HMT Watches, it's legacy& my madness

Recently I heard in some news sources that the famous Indian watch manufacturer Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT) is closing down. When I told dad about it, he was quite heartbroken. He has a couple of watches which is more than 40 years old and he treasures it. HMT is considered as an household name in India and the tagline of the product runs as "timekeepers to the nation" . The HMT watches are an integral part of the Indians because it brings in a lot of nostalgia. HMT watches are typical gifts which a parent promises to give their sons/daughters when they clear their board exams. In the 1970s and 80s, like the Bajaj scooters, HMT watches were sought-after dowry gifts and cherished status symbols at a time when household incomes were low. It's a part every wedding as it's one of the gifts given to the groom & bride. An HMT watch exemplifies goes on for decades because it gets passed from generation to generation, from a father to a son to a grandson.

Today the unit is getting shut down because it is getting saddled with losses for close to a decade. Growing competition from Indian rival Titan and the entry of foreign quartz watches after import restrictions were lifted in the 1980s and HMT’s failure to adapt to change led to falling sales, a slump from which the company never recovered. This watch making public sector unit has been ailing since 1999 when the Government took actions including pumping in capital to restore it's operations and boost its performance. It went through a restructure to make it like a Royal Enfield brand however nothing big has changed. The company has close to 1100 employees including 180 odd executives. 

Like many others hearing its shutdown even I frantically started to look out for two models i.e. HMT Janata & HMT Pilot. I called up literally all the HMT retail outlets in Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata but in vain. The answer was the same NO everywhere. While inquiring about the models availability, the person from the Bangalore office blamed the customers for not been loyal & the government's policy equally responsible for the company's demise.

My review on HMT Janata:

Finally after a lot of search and wait, I got the Janata from the HMT official website.Among the first watches to be made by HMT, the Janata was a favourite of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This winding watch was plain, affordable and had more than 25 variants. Janata watches have been known to tick on for more than 40 years.

Pic source: HMT official website

The size of the dial is smaller than I thought compared to an usual men's watch however this is how it was manufactured and so be it! The the whole thing is rather thin, due to the the manually-wound movement. The seconds hand mentioned in the image is red however the watch I got delivered had it as silver colored. I love the handwinding mechanical movements and since this was the first time I am using one, it created some problems. After a brief usage I found the watch stopping quite frequently despite giving the key but then later I found that I was doing it anti-lock wise instead of clockwise. Pl remember usually if you key the watch in the reverse way it may screw up the watch springs but since this was coming from the house of HMT it withstood my err. Now it works absolutely perfect!
The strap with the pack is a sad one. It's made out of cheap rubber however I went ahead and changed the entire strap which cost me more than the watch in itself. The person in the strap store (and I think it was Titan) was surprised seeing my watch and he really appreciated for wearing old watches despite changing times.

Now I am waiting for HMT Pilot and the stock is awaited for a long time now in the HMT stores. The pieces are available in e-retails but it comes at a premium.

Pic source: HMT official website

I am a watch collector myself with around 8-9 watches and Janata would be right on top. I am dying to add the Pilot piece into the collection and without these a collectors box would never be complete.

1 comment:

Fully grown fuzzy Hipposaur said...

As of this week, you can still find some selected manual winding models on sites like Amazon India. I ordered a Chirag, and it's on the way now. Wonderfully retro, HMTs are one of the few desi things that keep going.