The moving story of Malhar, a watch created in memory of a late watch collector

Prashant Pandey contracted Covid-19 earlier this year. He died in May, aged 39. Malhar had been his dream project, a watch that would be everything he thought a watch should be. Now, his wife and friends have worked to make it a reality. The watches are set to be available, via Ajwain, in January.
The Malhar model will be available in two variants: a matte black dial, for the monsoon clouds, and a silver dial to represent lightning. PREMIUM
The Malhar model will be available in two variants: a matte black dial, for the monsoon clouds, and a silver dial to represent lightning.
Updated on Oct 16, 2021 05:30 PM IST
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ByMelissa D’Costa

Prashant Pandey was a rare timekeeper. He studied horology (the science of measuring time) in his free time, and had a collection of over 1,000 watches.

“HMT was his favourite brand. His passion for HMTs was contagious and his knowledge about different editions and iterations of dials and watches was phenomenal,” says his wife Juhi Pandey, 39, an HR executive in Bengaluru and also a watch enthusiast.

Prashant Pandey contracted Covid-19 earlier this year. He died in May, aged 39.

After his death, Juhi found herself scrolling, over and over, through the HMT Watch Collectors page he had started on Facebook. “He had written elaborate posts about his vision for a watch he had named Malhar,” she says. “Reading the posts, I remembered how much he had talked about it to me too, at one time.”

She spoke to some of their watch-collector friends and together they decided to do something unusual to honour him. They decided to launch the Malhar collection.

The face of each watch will bear the word Malhar in an elegant font chosen by Prashant’s daughter Shubhangi, 12. Curled into the stem of the ‘h’ will be a small P in deep red.
The face of each watch will bear the word Malhar in an elegant font chosen by Prashant’s daughter Shubhangi, 12. Curled into the stem of the ‘h’ will be a small P in deep red.

Always a connoisseur, Prashant had wanted a very specific dial for these watches. “He was keen to have a deep-domed dial with 12 applied metal bars for numbers, which is no longer done in India due to the technical complications involved and the cost,” says Vikram Narula, founder and CEO of the Mumbai-based Ajwain watches and a family friend.

Juhi knew her husband had discussed the collection with Narula, and they had found that pricing would be an issue because of the dial. But she decided to approach him again. What followed set gears in motion that would wow any fan of timepieces.

First, Narula said yes. The dials would be an issue. If the dial was a dome, difficult enough to do these days, the applied metal bars would need to be curved too, and very precisely. All this would need some very specific equipment. But he knew some manufacturers who might be persuaded to help.

Each watch case will bear, on the back, this image of Prashant wearing an Omega Seamaster purchased on his last birthday.
Each watch case will bear, on the back, this image of Prashant wearing an Omega Seamaster purchased on his last birthday.

Narula contacted one, in Delhi, who still had some of his old machines from 30 years ago. The man didn’t normally do limited editions, but he agreed to make an exception when he heard the story. Could he restart his old machines and make the domed dials? The man said he would try. The machines, including a 20-tonne press, were cranked back to life, and work has begun on the Malhar collection.

Ajwain is working to release the line by January: 100 pieces, priced at 9,000 each. “Prashant’s vision was for a simple, elegant watch that could be worn in all seasons,” Narula says. “Keeping this in mind, Malhar’s design is minimalistic, contemporary and timeless. The dial is reminiscent of the golden era of watch-making, and it’s a hand-wound model, which makes it extremely rare in itself.”

There will be some unusual finishing touches too. Each watch case will bear, on the back, an image of Prashant wearing an Omega Seamaster, purchased on his last birthday. On the bottom of each dial, beside the Ajwain logo, will be the tag ‘PP39’, for his initials and “his glorious journey of 39 years with us”, Juhi says.

In a final tip of the hat, the face of each watch will bear the word Malhar in an elegant font chosen by Prashant’s daughter Shubhangi, 12. Curled into the stem of the ‘h’ will be a small P in deep red.

CAPTION: Malhar will be available in two variants, as Prashant Pandey had wanted: a matte black dial to represent monsoon clouds, and a silver sunburst dial to represent lightning.

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Thursday, December 02, 2021