We catch up with Prashant Pandey who shares with us a thing or two of the legendary HMT watches
Words by Sudipto G Photographs by Prashant Pandey
The brand HMT creates a wave of nostalgia to most Indians who were adults in the 80s and 90s. To own an HMT watch was something like owning an Ambassador back then, a matter of pride. It was an indispensable accessory for office-goers specially. Its reliability and undeniably Indian flavour are main reasons for its popularity. Government organisations even offered HMT watches as souvenirs for their employees’ on key occasions such as promotions and retirement, which they treasured as a prized possession. Prashant Pandey was one such reveller whose fascination for the watch led him to create a Facebook page – HMT Watch Collectors’ Group that is fast gaining popularity and followers. Old HMT watches are in high demand among collectors. Pandey helps HMT watch seekers avoid getting fleeced in the online market. In addition to HMT, he also receives a large number of requests for help to find Pilot watches.
My first memories of an HMT watch is that of my grandfather’s HMT HQ series quartz watch. He had received it from his organisation, one that he wore to his last day. Another was the HMT Braille watch that I had seen on a visually impaired person’s wrist. Time went by and a few years back, I came across the HMT Bhavan (HMT headquarters situated in Bangalore) late one night while I was returning from the airport. It brought back the memories of my grandfather’s watch and the very next day I picked up my first HMT watch – an HMT Janata with the marking on the dial in Devanagari script. My journey with HMT watches began that day.
I do not count my watches as I think it cannot be measured in numbers. Each watch has its own story and to me those memories matter a lot. Having said that, my collection is now large enough to create now find a lack of space at home, and also attract the fury of my wife and parents! My collection consists of watches that i pick up from different cities that I have visited. Often, I even travel to neighboring towns and cities in search of watches. I would call up HMT showrooms and dealers across the country (most showrooms are closed now) and check the availability of watches. If I found one of my choice in stock, I would request my relatives and friends to pick them up for me. I have also received watches from relatives, wellwishers and friends who have had them and have no use for them any longer.
HMT Watch Collectors Group:
I created this group to provide a platform for fellow HMT watch collectors and enthusiasts to share their knowledge, stories and experience. The watch enthusiasts meet every month in Bangalore and have also done group projects where we have made watch pouches and customised straps for our group. It’s a strictly knowledge sharing, noncommercial group and we are very selective when it comes to giving membership to people. We take a lot of pride in our content and are the biggest, vibrant and sought after active group of HMT watches on Facebook.
My first watch – HMT Janata Devanagari, and my grandfather’s HQ HMT quartz watch that I restored recently.
From finding and restoring a watch found in my friend’s toolbox, to getting watches from an elderly gentleman whom I met on a BMTC bus to being fortunate enough to help my physiotherapist relive the cherished moments she spent with her deceased father. I have been very fortunate to make some unexpected friends, thanks to my hobby. I have recorded them in my personal blog hmtwatches.blogspot.in
Plans with the Group:
I intend setting up a virtual HMT watch museum in the future so that the legacy of HMT watches can be kept alive with its admirers all over the world.
- Set up in 1961, HMT is a state-owned manufacturer that collaborated with Japan’s watch company Citizen to produce a range of products that Indians proudly sported.
- The first engineers were trained in Japan, while the firs factory was set up in Bangalore in 1961. Jawaharlal Nehru christened one of its earliest models Janata, and it became his personal favourite.
- HMT’s tagline is ‘Timekeepers to the Nation’.
- The company, headquartered in Bangalore, has been making losses since 2000. And in the year 2014, the government decided to shut HMT Watches and HMT Chinar Watches on the recommendation of the Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises.