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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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An ode to lost time: HMT Heritage Centre and Museum


Inside the HMT Heritage Centre and Museum 
| Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

There was a time, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when winding an HMT watch was an integral part of a person’s day, recalls Jayapalan P, Executive Associate at HMT’s Heritage Centre and Museum. “A hand-wound watch works for 24 hours,” he recalls, with a smile. “The person would wind the watch, read the newspaper and have a cup of coffee. That was the basic routine.”

Not anymore, however, with mobile phones and smart watches taking over the world of timekeeping. Wristwatches, like sundials, water clocks, hourglasses and pendulums, are on their way to becoming a museum piece.

The HMT Heritage Centre and Museum, which opened to the public in 2019, is all about preserving a wristwatch’s legacy. Housed in the former bungalow of the company’s chairman, the quaint, beautifully-curated museum, spread over a lush 4.14-acre green campus in Jalahalli, offers a nostalgia-hued peek into the workings of India’s oldest watch company.

“Just insert the card here,” says Jayapalan, dropping a yellow employee card into a mechanical attendance system, using a lever to punch it and then showing me how the date and time are registered on the card. “They used to register attendance like this,” he says. “That time, there was no biometric system,” he says.

The 4226 square feet of built-up area is crammed with vestiges of a bygone era, documenting everything related to the company from its inception. From early accolades received by the company to numerous photographs, tools, models of HMT’s various factories, equipment, watch components and even tractors, the museum is a celebration of this 70-year-old history.

Leading me through the final section, an exhaustive selection of watches forged in this factory over the years, from the iconic Janata watch to the ubiquitous Sona, Pilot and Swarna and their series of specialised watches, including gold biscuit watches, ana-dig watches, pocket watches, alarm watches, braille watches and nurse watches. There is also a display of notable clocks made at HMT, such as the giant-sized tower clock, installed at Omkar Hills, Bengaluru, the second-largest clock in the world and a picture of the solar-operated floral clock at Lalbagh.

On the lawn outside, Jayapalan points out to a souvenir shop—where there is currently a 50% discount—and another smaller floral clock, arms pointing towards the right time. “Earlier, your day would not start without a watch,” he says wistfully, as a gentle rain begins, wetting the numeral-shaped grass that helps the floral clock tell the time. And while that is no longer true, HMT’s rich legacy will live on through this museum. “This way people will have knowledge about it,” agrees Jayapalan.

The HMT Heritage Centre & Museum is open on all days, except Tuesdays, between 10 am and 5.30 pm. Call 080 2838 3382 to know more

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