No taxi will take you to Mumbadevi, madam. Take a shared taxi to Dava Bazaar and walk it up,” a taxi driver informs me outside Marine Lines station. After squeezing eight people into his Maruti van, the rickety vehicle speeds across some of Mumbai’s busiest streets — dodging passersby, cars, dogsand handcarts.
After a sweaty walk through Zaveri Bazaar that still seems to be in the colourful stupor of Diwali, I reach Tambakanta building, a gigantic structure. A narrow stairway leads me to shop 55, which is the workshop of Shri Sai Watches, a company that deals in vintage repairs.
Seven heads seated at individual desks pore over an array of 20 to 60 year-old watches, be it a Seiko, HMT, Omega, Rado or Tissot. This is the reconditioning process, I later learn, which includes dial-repainting, case buffing, polishing, and cleaning the parts with petrol and a readymade solution containing carbon, ammonium, water and shampoo. The parts are then dried under a yellow light for three to five minutes and reassembled like a jigsaw puzzle.
What is vintage?
Owner Jagdish Junjur is not available when I visit, but his time-keeping army is more than willing to talk. I learn that the first thing they do when they receive a vintage/ antique timepiece is to put it through a verification process which studies the machine, stamp and serial number of the watch. “Did you know each watch has a unique serial number? Andaaze se hum bata sakte hai ke ye ghadi kitna chalegi. We identify China-made fake parts, and just by the exterior you can make out if the piece is genuine,” smiles 55 year-old Sadashiv Basa, the head repairer, who has been working with these watches for 40 years.
Later, over the phone, Junjur explains, “When a piece is over 20 or 30 years old, it’s vintage. A unique, single piece design is an antique.” The 27 year-old watch expert is the third generation owner of this outfit and deals in pre-owned watches and clocks that he purchases from dealers and people who want to sell. “In 1972, Omega had come out with an edition only for the soldiers who fought in the Indo-Pak war, and we have a few of these pieces,” says Junjur, who has three centres — Worli, Mahim and Mumbadevi. Out of curiosity, I ask how much these pieces would cost. “Anything between Rs 35,000 to 60,000,” he says.
Sometimes, Junjur gets pieces whose spare parts are unavailable. “We ask dealers and seller to put the product on hold. We buy it if we can get the spare parts. Parts of a watch that doesn’t work can be sold off,” says Junjur, who does not believe that a ‘dead’ watch is an omen.
Not ‘old’ stuff
A BSc in Mathematics, Junjur had no interest in watches until he visited the store, began to understand the business and the value of these beautiful pieces, two years ago. He is now looking at expanding his market to European countries. “We are getting in touch with dealers who have markets abroad and we are also looking at international buyers.”
Junjur says the Mumbai market has become interesting. “Foreigners are more interested in buying what Mumbaiites call ‘old’ stuff. Today, people want to wear something that nobody else owns, and they want it to be stylish. But, there are exceptions and many people are now understanding the value of vintage collections,” he says.
As I pick up a watch that has just been given a new lease of life, I think of all the second chances we miss just because we think the right time is gone. The truth is, we have to make the time. Just like these repairers do — one tick at a time.