What could possibly connect our country to uber-exquisite Swiss watches? The answer, is Madras. Longines, one of the oldest Swiss companies that have been making watches for 180 years, first entered India in 1878 and began selling their first time-pieces through a retailer called ‘Madras and Company’. As part of a commemorative exhibition in the city, nearly 15 heritage time pieces have been brought to India from the Longines Museum in Saint Imier, Switzerland.
“This is the second leg of our Indian tour, and there was an overwhelming response in Delhi. This exhibition is a look back to the love affair that India has had with luxury watches,” said Bheeni Kapur, assistant manager – marketing for Longines India.
Some of the watches in this exhibition are over 114 years old and each piece tells us a story through its antique design and intricate detailing. Unique to the hilt, the most impressive were the classic pocket watches made in 1899, the platinum watches with diamonds made in 1916 or the Deck aviation watches of 1938.
The expo also gives people a look into the process of watch making through the centuries. Some of them were made to suit the lives and working styles of the people who wore them – an example is the ‘Majetek’ – a stainless steel long strapped wristwatch that was used in the Czech air force. The long straps enabled the officers to wear them on their suits that used to be very thick. They also have the iconic steel sport chronograph, which is the first single push piece chronograph caliber with a precision of 1/10th of a second, produced in 1962.
The company is right now in search of the oldest Longines watch bought by an Indian. “We have got a lot of entries, mostly from the North. But in the south, though the number of entries were small, the collection and the quality of the watches were exceptional. Maybe soon, we will have a separate exhibition of these watches,” said Bheeni. These heritage timepieces will be open on exhibition till Saturday in Chennai after which they are heading East for the next leg.