India’s State-Owned Watch Maker May Be Winding Down - India Real Time
India’s State-Owned Watch Maker May Be Winding Down Article Comments HMT Sean McLain By Sean McLain @McLainSean sean.mclain@ Biography CONNECT @McLainSean sean.mclain@ Biography Workers at the HMT watch store in New Delhi Sean McLain The Wall Street Journal
watches India’s state-owned watch-maker, one of the last-remaining relics of the country’s socialist past, may be about to wind down.
replica watch After more than half a century of state-funded time keeping, the government is planning to shut down HMT Watches Ltd., according to a story in the Indian Express newspaper .
omega watches Formerly known as Hindustan Machine Tools, the company started in the 1950s as a manufacturer of heavy machinery, before adding watches and tractor designs from what was then Czechoslovakia. Despite hemorrhaging cash for the past decade-and-a-half, HMT has ticked on with bailouts from the central government. The taps may now be running dry.
watches sale Officials at India’s Department of Heavy Industry & Public Enterprises that overseas HMT Watches could not be reached for comment. Phone calls to the head office of HMT Watches’ parent company, HMT Ltd., went unanswered.
replica watches Like the Ambassador car, an HMT watch is a product from the past whose continued existence in India is as delightful as it is baffling. In 1961, the company built a factory to produce mechanical movements using technology from Japan’s Citizen Watch Co. The movement—the guts of the watch—has remained frozen in time ever since. More In Ambassador What You Shared: Fond Memories of India's Ambassador Car Send Us Your Memorable Ambassador Car Photos And Stories: #WSJAmby From the Archives: India's Ambassador Car Toots Its Nationalism In Face of Competition Rust in Peace: India's Ambassador Is a Zombie From Another Era Photos: End of the Road for Ambassador
replica watch The mechanical watches are powered by a 17-jewel mechanical movement, which requires daily winding. The design is akin to something you might see from watchmakers IWC or Longines circa 1950, watches that cost hundreds of U.S. dollars. You can buy a HMT for around 1,000 rupees ($16.)
The two most popular models are the company’s original designs: the Pilot and the Janata. The round face and slim case are classic pieces seen in the catalogues of every major watch manufacturer in the world. The Pilot is a timeless aviator watch, with a high-contrast black face and phosphorescent paint on the arms. It was originally sold only to the military, but the company began selling the Pilot to the public some time in the 1970s, Animesh Pal, the regional sales director for HMT Watches in north India said.
The Janata is the same as the Pilot, but with a white face that paired nicely with both business and safari suits. The name Janata means “the people” and—as the name suggests—it was the watch available for the general public. But few among the general public are buying HMTs.
“Tastes are different now,” said Mr. Pal, who typically sees around 50 people stop by his Delhi store in a week – maybe a dozen of them might buy a watch. The culprit: battery-powered quartz movements that made watches much cheaper and more reliable. Mechanical movements are powered by tiny springs and levers requiring skilled hands and years of training to build and fix.
If you want a watch to tell you the time, battery-powered quartz movements win hands down. If you want a watch with character, then you buy a mechanical watch. Mechanical movements are temperamental, and their accuracy can be affected by temperature and magnets. But watch lovers pay thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for mechanical watches because they are beautiful works of craftsmanship.
The last HMT shop in Delhi lies in the grungy middle alley between the outer and inner circle of Connaught Place at the heart of the capital, shunted between a mobile phone store with a BlackBerry billboard and a public toilet. Sales inventory is managed on a computer running MS-DOS and reports are printed on a dot matrix printer. Until 2004, the store was on Parliament Street in the landmark Life Insurance Company of India building, but had to move after having difficulty paying rent, Mr. Pal said.
The five employees in store have all worked for the company for over 20 years, most were recruited out of engineering school. Mr. Pal was a mechanical engineering graduate from Kolkata in 1984 when he chose to join HMT from among the many job offers he received. “The company was doing well then and the pay package was good,” he said. He did not, however, expect to be selling watches 28 years later. “My intention was to design machine tools, but the company put me in the watch division,” he said. “I don’t actually like watches very much.”
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