When I heard about the opening of the HMT Heritage Centre and Museum in the city of Bengaluru, I became nostalgic for HMT was an intrinsic part of my growing up years. My dad was employed with the PSU for over 40 years and the plaque, given to him on retirement still occupies a place of pride in our home. I had to visit this place.
Upon visiting, I was not disappointed as the museum, that traces the journey of HMT, is a treasure house of information and interesting trivia about the engineering conglomerate. Housed within the erstwhile residence of the chairman of HMT, the museum covers an area of about 4,246 sq ft. It is surrounded by a lush green landscape and the complex houses a nursery, children’s park, souvenir shop, and a cafeteria.
The first part of the museum traces the heritage of the PSU since its inception in 1953 with a commitment to “manufacture mother machines to build modern industrial India”. The display has insightful pictures starting from the inauguration of the very first machine tool factory in Bengaluru to the setting up of factories in Hyderabad, Pinjore, etc and the development of allied townships that housed schools and hospitals. The factory at Bengaluru was where my father started his career at the age of 18 and therefore these pictures bought back decades of memories.
Time Keepers to the Nation
The next section is dedicated to watches that started in Bengaluru in 1961. Growing up in the 1980s, these watches were truly a prized possession especially for my sister and me. I vividly remember the day my father bought home two sleek wrist watches as a surprise gift for us having cleared our final exams with flying colours. These precious watches still remain close to our hearts.
The brand had an incredibly successful story selling more than 110 million watches and the same has been showcased wonderfully here. There are several watches on display including iconic watches, special occasion watches and ranges like Utsav and Galaxy that reached dizzying heights of popularity during the yesteryears.
Then there are several unique watches on display including the “Nurses’ watch” that was exclusively crafted and carried upside down on a chain so that nurses could view the time quickly. The fact that HMT manufactured pocket watches and Braille watches was an eyeopener. Yet another fascinating part of the watch section is the fact that HMT installed several clocks in public spaces including the second largest clock in the world at Omkar Hills in Bengaluru. This one is bigger than even London’s Big Ben Tower clock! Do not miss the inspiring picture of Atal Bihari Vajpayee being presented HMT’s 100 millionth watch.
Tractors, Lamps, and Machine Tools
The museum has a vast display of machine tools including machines for printing presses, lathe machines, and special purpose machines. Bearings have also been depicted including the ones supplied to the Indian Railways. These pictures have been indelibly etched in my mind as my father was in machine tool sales and these were the catalogues, he often bought home.
A flagship division of the PSU is tractors and the museum re-creates the building of this iconic brand by tracing its evolution in detail. A fully functional tractor cut model is on display and visitors can actually watch it in motion. Lamps and food processing were yet other areas where HMT was a key player. Visitors can watch an audio-visual movie on the organization’s journey ever since it started including its impact on the lives of the common man and how it put India on the world map when it came to the manufacture of indigenous machines.
Text and images by Rashmi Gopal Rao