Custodians of Time: Meet some of the oldest yet surviving watchmakers of Lucknow
With more and more arts and crafts becoming obsolete, as the wheels of time turn and favour modernity, there are some still fighting to breathe. These age-old practises are on the verge of extinction but struggle to continue, owing to some patrons helping the tradition live.
One such craft is of watch-repairing and making. With phones supplanting watches altogether and smart watches taking over wrist watches, these artisans of Lucknow, who specialise in watch repairing and crafting time-pieces, face an uphill battle in preserving their time-hallowed traditions. Allow us to introduce you to these dedicated timekeepers of Lucknow, or 'guardians of time' if you will!
Of a time-hallowed craftsmanship
While promenading in the streets of Hazratganj, we came across what is probably the oldest watch shop in Uttar Pradesh — NL Roy & Co. This is where antique clocks and vintage watches whisper tales of an era bygone!
Established in 1911, this shop existed even during the British rule and speaks volumes on horological excellence. Rajeev Roy, representing the fourth generation of watchmakers in the family, carries forward this legacy with pride. An existing loyal customer-base still visits the shop, seeking not just impeccable timepieces but also a connection to a rich heritage.
"While we though online businesses were our biggest competitors, it was the lockdown that made things beyond difficult," Roy told Knocksense in fluent English.
After being presented with an incredible job opportunity in Amsterdam, Roy made the difficult decision of turning down the job in order to persevere and carry on the heritage shop, his family's rich legacy forward.
The art of the horologists
Practising the art and working with utmost precision for decades, these horologists' hands are skilled at handling the delicate working of the clocks.
"No matter what happens, we never compromise on quality, using only original cells in the repairs. We also give a full one year guarantee to our visitors and assure that everything is authentic and timeless," the owner of King's Watch Shop (who didn't want to be named) shared with Knocksense.
In the bustling lanes of Aminabad, too, you can stumble upon King's Watch heritage shop, now existing for almost 60-70 years.
This watch-maker, though, is not an ordinary one. He has ties in Mumbai's film industry and is associated with music and direction. "When I'm not on sets, I'm here at the shop," he expresses, emphasising on the "want" of carrying the profession forward instead of the "need".
For this guardian, timekeeping is not merely a profession; it's a way of life, ensuring that Awadh always stays connected to the rhythm and beat of its past glory.
The Ghadisaaz of Hazratganj
Yet again, there are age-old watchmakers or 'ghadisaaz' who can be found with their stations on the road. With his set-up right next to Chaudhary's in Hazratganj, Sanjay has a small arrangement that displays tools and paraphernalia related to watch-repairing.
Sanjay also tells Knocksense that he has dedicated almost 40 years to the art — polishing and restoring time-pieces throughout!
In a world captured by advancement of technology, these artisans cum watchmakers of Lucknow stand as living relics of a simpler yet richer time. This was when time was valued and yet the residents knew how to preserve it, where every second was handcrafted with care.
Despite the changing tides of time, these living legends depict every day that the heritage of the city thrives not only in its history and architecture but also in the artistry and skills of its people.