Pakistan News

Time after time

Time after time

KARACHI: The Regal Chowk in Karachi is known for several things such as the market for electrical appliances, newspaper, magazines and digest stalls ... big traffic jams ... and if you look more carefully ... the clock and watch shops, too.

The big wall clocks hanging on the walls of these shops are what you see first. But once inside a shop, you realise that there is more to do with time here than just the wall clocks. On the shelves and inside the showcases you also see pretty timepieces and table clocks and inside the glass counter showcases there are the wristwatches all reminding you of the importance of keeping time.

Mohammad Ali, a shopkeeper here, says that he has been around clocks and watches for some 25 years now. “The watches market has been around for double that time,” he says smiling.

The shops have timepieces and watches that are made in China, Japan and Switzerland. So why aren’t there any made in Pakistan? The shopkeeper’s smile broadens and turns into laughter. “China and Japan are copy masters so they have been successful in copying the Swiss watchmaking technology as well. And while adding their own innovations they have come out with their own brands as well,” he says.

“We, on the other hand, will be able to do it when we can master stealing and replicating complete designs because we are not that good at innovating,” he says.

Mohammad Ali shares his idea about each kind of timepiece: “The wall clocks are there to remind you about the time as they are difficult to miss or ignore and you also look up in their direction to see what time it is.”

There are the wall clocks with big dials, there are also the light-emitting diode (LED) wall clocks that have flooded the market recently. But they are said to not last long as the LEDs start losing their dazzle soon. “That is because they are electric clocks which need plugging in, and we here are confronted with a voltage fluctuation problem, which the LEDs can’t withstand,” he explains.

There are several prayer wall clocks, too, giving the five prayer times. “They make for excellent gifts for your parents or grandparents who wouldn’t want to miss any prayer,” the shopkeeper says.

Coming to his idea of table clocks, he says: “It happens to be there to remind you of the time as it is there on your bedside table with the alarm set to whenever you need to wake up or run some errand,” he says.

“As for the wristwatch, it is more of a fashion statement. The kind of wristwatch you wear can also make or break your personality.”

There is an inexhaustible variety of wristwatches in all the shops priced at Rs100 up to thousands and even tens of thousands. The ones in six figures are the known brands, of course, such as the Rolex, Rado, Cartier, etc. But not everyone can afford these so there are also the electronic varieties, mostly made in China.

Still, there are also some people who have stopped wearing a wristwatch because they rely on their mobile phones for time and don’t want to be burdened by an added gadget.

Some shops also have wall clocks with pendulums, but they are rare. Shamim Akhtar, another shopkeeper in the same market, says that the pendulums are not the real kind that were a part of big grandfather clocks making that tick-tock sound. “They are just for show,” he says. “But if you are really into the wooden grandfather clocks, they are also available though not with us but at antique shops. You may also find the cuckoo clocks there,” he adds. “Getting them to work and tell you the correct time can be a challenge though.”

Also near these shops there are the watch repairers sitting on stools on the footpath with a small table at the front. It looks like witnessing delicate surgery as you see one such repairer going about his work. Mohammad Naseem Siddiqui says that as a youngster he apprenticed with a master for three years to himself master the art of fixing watches. “I can also repair self-winding automatic watches,” he says with pride.

About the issues with today’s timepieces and watches, he says that some which stop giving you the time may need a circuit change. “We can change their innards,” he says. “Then there are most watches which come to us with a lot of complaints by their owners, and which we are able to fix by just changing their cells.”

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2017

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