Two friends who wear India’s self-reliance on their wrists

Mr Chakraborty (left) and Mr Singh Roy

Mr Chakraborty (left) and Mr Singh Roy  

These men from Kolkata sport only HMT watches and boast an impressive collection of the brand.

Madan Mohan Chakraborty begins by making an irrefutable statement: that a watch is a watch; whether it costs a hundred rupees or a million, it shows you the same time.

He should know better. His fascination for watches dates back to his childhood. “A watch is a consummate combination of art and science,” says Mr. Chakraborty, CEO and managing director of a European technology MNC. “I was always attracted by design, art, engineering, accuracy and precision, and in a watch, you get it all.”

Janata watches and Braille timepieces: A visit to HMT’s new museum in Bengaluru

But what sets him apart is that a large chunk of his collection consists of HMT watches. Even though he owns many expensive brands as well, it is always an HMT that adorns his wrist. “Here, look at this,” he shows off an HMT Surabhi, “this is better than most Omegas. And this is HMT Priya, look how gorgeous it is!”

HMT — set up as Hindustan Machine Tools in 1953 — began making watches in 1961 and the first batch of its hand-wound watches was released by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. For decades, HMT remained synonymous with a wrist watch before, towards the end of the century, Titan took its place, a process that was soon followed by the easy availability of internationally reputed brands in the market.

As an icing on the cake for Mr. Chakraborty, his best friend, Debasish Singh Roy, also happens to be an HMT collector. “I collect coins, cameras, currency notes, but watches are something that I collect as well as use. HMT has been a part of my life, right from the thread ceremony to marriage. I feel good when I think that my watches will go to my daughters and the generation after. Spending time with my collection was one of the most interesting things I did during the lockdown,” said Mr. Singh Roy, a businessman and a sports enthusiast.

Why this fascination for HMT?

Mr. Chakraborty replied on behalf of both: “HMT carries the ability of India. It demonstrates the capability of India, second after second, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after days and generations after generations. We feel extremely proud when we walk in the by-lanes of Switzerland with an HMT Janata or a Pilot on our wrists. People who understand watches can tell whether a watch is mechanical or battery-operated.”

HMT museum, where the legacy will remain forever

Mr. Singh Roy said: “Many are not even aware that HMT watches are still available on their official site. Many are also not even aware that most HMT factories have closed down and the last one may close down soon. The irony is that HMT was not making money when the watches were available within Rs. 1000. Now when you have to pay between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 12,000 to get an HMT, there is a queue. HMT failed as there was no effort in its branding. When the world is talking about going green, it’s time for us to stop using battery-operated or even smart watches.”

Mr. Chakraborty, as he fished out more sturdy-looking HMTs from his collection, added: “There are many reasons that HMT should be revived. If properly promoted, the entire globe is your market. You don’t need exclusive showrooms to sell watches. HMT-lovers groups active online will promote the brand. Atmanirbharta [or self-reliance, readvocated recently by Prime Minister Narendra Modi] must be an action, not just an empty slogan.”

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 1:26:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/two-friends-who-wear-indias-self-reliance-on-their-wrists/article32030247.ece

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