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The time collector

  • Published at 05:04 pm November 19th, 2019
Avenue T_November 2019_Watch Collector
Photo: Bigstock

In conversation with Ehsan Mahmood, a watch enthusiast

Unfolding a letter from long ago, unboxing picture albums or memoirs from a life 10 or 20 years ago -- a slow build of emotions flushes through you as you reminisce. 

In 1983, even before some of us were born, Ehsan Mahmood inherited his first watch -- a Citizen Automatic -- from his father the day before his SSC exam. "Back then, owning a watch was a very big deal," says Ehsan, "I remember loving it so much that I kept it with me while I slept." 

This was the first step that lead Ehsan to start collecting watches. 

Now, Ehsan is working for Bangladesh General Insurance Company Ltd but back in 1994 -- when he started his first job, somehow our hobbyist got acquainted to "old" watch sellers. "I started to earn money and slowly began collecting vintage watches," informed the antiquarian.

A watch is that one piece of wearable that will become your constant companion through most of your life's quests -- from job interviews to weddings. "I remember buying the first watch of my collection -- it was a Casio which I bought from Singapore in 1997 for SGD50," reminisced Ehsan.

Ehsan collects stamps and coins but to this day, he has over 200 watches of more than 30 different brands that were brought from various people and shops in Bangladesh and abroad.

The absolute joy of stepping back in history -- coming across a vintage watch, researching its antiquity, and unveiling the magic within. If you have ever unscrewed the back of a mechanical watch and been marveled at the micro-engineering, you unmasked magic.

A wristwatch nowadays has become the fashion of the hour but Ehsan is fascinated by its design and features: "I collect watches just for the sake of my love for watches and try to maintain them and use them whenever I like. My top three brands would be -- Rolex, Omega, and Longines." 

His favourite Rolex is almost 50 years old and he has watches that date back to the 1940s.

Fixing a budget from savings and spending it on buying watches can be a gutsy task. Sometimes, our hobbyist has to disregard from buying something, "I couldn't afford to buy some good watches many times for not having the extra cash." 

The lost art of collecting watches

Starting a watch collection is a surprisingly complicated business and today’s generation is more interested in collecting smartwatches rather than conventional or vintage ones. 

This might be because maintaining mechanical conventional watches gets really time-consuming. Moreover, the people who were in the watch repair service are mostly dead or are very old, and the money they get by repairing watches, compared to time and patience, is not good enough.

Ehsan has had his fair share of problems, “The biggest problem that I face is in getting old parts to repair vintage watches. Some of my very valuable watches were completely damaged by some watch repairers that I trusted for a long time.”

Ehsan keeps his collection in watch boxes, “I often check them and clean them occasionally. Especially the batteries of the Quartz ones.”

The history of watchmaking is very long – a tiny mechanical piece that is devised of hundreds of parts and yet, manages to work flawlessly, setting a watch in motion. An art centuries-old, improved and reappraised is truly wondrous.