End of an Era - HMT follows Amby into History
What is this rush about - was my question. It's about grabbing one of the last HMTs.
My dad had a hexagonal dialed HMT for quite long and he used to wear it with pride every day. When I gifted him a sparkling swiss made ticker, he did move onto it to honor the gift, but still would go back to his old possession at times.In their prime, HMT watches were infact owned with pride and were most sought after gifts. It is said that not only top Indian politicians were fans of these, but so were the rich from across the borders as far as Russia who loved to grab these. It was a cherished status symbol which was acceptable as dowry gift. These watches were famed to be more rugged than any of the alternatives and fables have that these were even preferred to some extent even in the home of watches – Switzerland as they would not even lose time in harshest of winters. As with most of the government undertaking, the company enjoyed rich talent pool and its engineers were one of the best in the country. With time and courtesy to almost monopoly over market it had developed good technology, retail network, servicing and distribution. Such was the caliber that it was the first company to develop quartz watch in India. All that the company needed was to change with time and align its product with changing customer requirement. This was where it failed.
Theses watches were introduced in 1961s in collaboration with Japan's company Citizen and were manufactured by Hindustan Machine Tools. In 1970s, when HMT first introduced the quartz watch, it was much ahead of the time and hence HMT had to move its focus back to the mechanical watches. But in 1980s as market adopted quartz timepieces, HMT still increased its investment in manufacturing units of mechanical watches. This was where they started their downward journey. As mechanical watches went out of fashion, they had increasing production facility lying idle and losses kept mounting. Slowly but steadily the company kept under-performing and is finally seeing the end of daylight today with only interest in the left over pieces as collectibles.
The story is very similar to what happened with the good old Amby – Hindustan Motor's Ambassador. This symbol of power and elitism ended its successful run after seven decades of sales when it winded up its operations recently. When the Ambassador car was first introduced in 1957 in a newly independent India, the car was considered to be the height of style and status. It was the car of choice for bureaucrats and politicians and its possession implied status in those times. It gradually became more of a symbol of simplicity and its use limited to a few old-age politicians apart from taxis in some part of the country. The downfall continued and that icon of the Indian road has now reached the end of the path after losing its dominance because of changing consumer tastes, an opening marketplace for automobiles and fierce competition. Though even in its dying days, the car enjoyed sales higher than some of its contemporary competitors. However, for a company which has a single car in its brochure finally could not sustain the falling sales and succumbed to time. In all the cars I have had an opportunity to be in; I really believe that this stunner on the roads had one of the most comfortable ride. Soon these too would only be available as heritage collectibles as would the HMTs. These two brands are testimonies of how government apathy and laggard management of public companies could ruin the name and capability of a wonderful product. While wrapping up this thought, all I can wish is that had their management were a bit proactive in their approach to incorporate the cosmetic preferences of the we could have enjoyed these fantastically engineered products for long.