Time Runs Out For India’s National Watchmaker HMT, Once a Global Giant

State-owned HMT Watches, once India's largest watchmaker, will soon be shut down after bleeding red ink for years, a consequence of a something familiar to Swiss watchmakers: cheap quartz imports. Competition from fellow Indian watch brand Titan merely added to its woes.

Established in 1961 with the help of Citizen of Japan, HMT Watches was for decades Indian’s only watchmaker and at its peak, one of the biggest in the world. With the slogan “timekeepers to the nation”, the company was part of the government’s state-sponsored endeavours to build up various industries from watches to cars, leaving it a curious relic of economic thought that has long gone out of fashion. But last month time was finally called on HMT Watches, once the maker of coveted status symbols in India.

Some forty years after Swiss watchmakers suffered the same fate, HMT Watches is closing down after losing money for years, a result of its own quartz crisis as well as competition from Titan, a successful domestic watchmaker part of the Tata Group that now has a majority market share in India.

Part of a larger conglomerate that also made tractors and industrial equipment, HMT Watches (HMT stands for “Hindustan Machine Tools”) was once India’s preeminent watchmaker, having sold some 100 million watches to date. But the company posted losses of some 20 times revenue for the 2012-2013 financial year and the Indian government finally decided to shut it down last month. In a curious twist, HMT timepieces are now selling at above their original retail prices, typically US$20-30, as Indians rush to buy them before they disappear for good.

Sources: The Times of IndiaThe Indian Express and Reuters

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Hermès Introduces French Lacquer Dials With The Arceau Cheval d’Orient (With Pricing)

Hermes has applied the art of French lacquer to its timepieces with the Arceau Cheval d’Orient, depicting horses created with miniature painting and dozens of layers of natural lacquer.

Inspired by the lacquer wares of China and Japan, French lacquer was developed in the nineteenth century to mimic the oriental art form. It uses the sap of the lacquer tree to create vivid and fade-resistant motifs, often on a black lacquer background. Hermes recruited lacquer artisan Nathalie Rolland-Huckel to decorate the dials of the Arceau Cheval d’Orient with horses draped in colour Persian saddle rugs. While lacquer is a technique often used by French luxury goods houses, most notably S.T. Dupont for its famous lighters, it is now used in wristwatches for the first time. While French lacquer is typically applied on a wood base, the dial is made of brass, first coated with 30 layers of lacquer to create the deep, glossy black backdrop. 

Colour trials to determine the correct colours for the design

Then comes the miniature painting of the horse, done in multiple layers and requiring 10 days to dry. Finally 20 coats of transparent lacquer are painted over the motif, before being polished to its final glory.

The Arceau Cheval d’Orient is available with three distinct horse motifs, each limited to 24 pieces. Alll have the same 41 mm Arceau case in white gold, equipped the H1837 automatic movement made by Manufacture Vaucher, a movement maker in which Hermes owns a quarter stake. The Arceau Cheval d’Orient is priced at 90,800 Singapore dollars, equivalent to US$72,600.

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Introducing The Panthère au Clair de Lune de Cartier, Powered By A Wandering Panther (With Specs And Price)

Equipped with an inverted automatic winding mechanism, the Panthère au Clair de Lune de Cartier features a free-spinning panther set with jewels that animates the dial while winding the movement.

Cartier’s Fine Watchmaking line often combines technical innovation with whimsy, a formula exemplified by the Panthère au Clair de Lune de Cartier that will soon be officially launched at Watches&Wonders 2014. Powered by the 9603 MC movement, the Panthère au Clair de Lune de Cartier has an unusual peripheral winding mechanism, with the bejewelled panther over the dial as the oscillating weight. Developed in-house by Cartier, the 9603 MC was conceived by the talented Carole Forestier, likely the only female technical development leader at a major watch brand. The 9603 MC has peripheral winding mechanism with an inverted rotor. This leaves the movement entirely unobstructed when viewed from the back.

But what makes it intriguing is the position of the oscillating weight, which sits over the dial. It does not touch the dial, instead it is mounted on the edge of the dial on ceramic ball bearings and linked to the winding gears via a large, toothed wheel around the dial. This movement was first introduced in 2012, but now makes its comeback with greater extravagance than before. Set with diamonds with black lacquered spots, the panther is made of white gold, while the branches of the tree are rose gold. Green jasper is used to form the tiny leaves.

The 42.75 mm case is in rose gold, as is the bracelet. In total the watch is set with over 20 carats of diamonds.  The Panthère au Clair de Lune de Cartier will be a limited edition of an undetermined size with a price of 535,000 Singapore dollars, or about US$428,000.

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