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An hour in British India | Business Standard NewsUntitled-2

An hour in British India How about a watch that goes back in time? The author checks out a collection showcasing British India coins

Ranjita Ganesan  June 21, 2014 Last Updated at 00:27 IST Add to My Page Read more on:    Mehta | Coins | Jaipur Watch | British India Coins | Jaipur Watch Company | The Big Door | King George Vi Related News An hour in British India Cash is king: Asian investors look to coins for big returns Import of gold coins banned New Rs 5 coins to mark Vivekanada's 150th birth anniversary Dept of posts floats tender for sale of domestic gold coins About a year ago, Gaurav Mehta set about creating a physical manifestation of the belief that time is money. omega watches Uniting his two hobbies of collecting coins   watches, the 31-year-old had an antique coin embedded in the dial of one of his timepieces. omega watches When it became a conversation piece and elicited positive reactions at meetings and parties, Mehta decided to expand the idea into a business. For the risk management graduate, who dabbled in insurance and family entertainment businesses earlier, Jaipur Watch Company (named after his home town) has been a fruitful gamble so far. swiss replica omega watches The series, which features British India coins that are 60-70 years old, began with watches made with coins showing King George VI , the last British emperor of India. swiss replica omega Three months ago, the company found a retail partner in Mumbai’s The Big Door , a heritage furniture and jewellery store. replica omega It plans to step into Delhi and other big cities next.   Mehta confesses he is not among the more serious numismatists. fake omega watches To tell the difference between fakes and authentic coins, for instance, he relies on the expertise of senior enthusiasts. So he consulted them while looking for the best coin with which to launch the watch collection. Several qualities tipped the scales in favour of King George VI. Unlike many vintage coins, these coins are machine-struck, guaranteeing consistency of size and shape. They also contain some silver, which boosts the value of the piece. What fascinated Mehta the most was the story of King George VI, the second son of King George V who was unexpectedly crowned after his elder brother decided to marry an American divorcee. Behind the proud side-profile etched on the coin was a vulnerable man who struggled with a stuttering problem, a fact made famous by the Oscar-winning film, The King’s Speech , starring Colin Firth. The coins come with a statement of authenticity, as certified by veteran numismatist Prakash Kothari. They were minted from 1939 to 1945 but coins from the early years of the period are rare. Based on their state and year of minting, the coins may be valued at Rs 700-5,000 a piece, says Kothari.   The first prototype that Mehta had himself sported was made by a somewhat reluctant local watch repairman, who had to be coaxed and supervised throughout the process. Now, the parts are sourced from regions like Japan and Switzerland and assembled by watchmakers in Jaipur. Coins are bought from collector’s societies and private collectors to avoid the problem of fakes that sometimes creeps up on websites like eBay. The coins purchased are not always in top condition. Nearly half of them are damaged and are either returned or retained in Mehta’s own repository. Those with an intact flip side are still used. It took a year of experiments to arrive at the final design for the product. The dial is covered with scratch-proof sapphire glass and a sapphire is studded on the winder for decoration. The straps come in options of leather and silver- or gold-plated stainless steel. If you wore a coin watch while taking a dip in the sea, it could resist water for up to 30 metres. The current collection uses Japanese quartz machines because they are said to be slimmer. Since the watches are unisex, the size and thickness of the strap were determined in a way that would suit diverse wrists. They cost between Rs 17,000 and Rs 20,000 depending on the design.   Event manager Manisha Solanki ordered the watch for herself and a corporate client after discovering it on Facebook, where Mehta had been promoting the products. “I always look for exclusive and exquisite things. I had never heard of such a watch before,” she says. The piece, she claims, attracts as much attention as a diamond necklace. Vikas Gupta, founder of The Big Door, too was browsing through Facebook when an ad for the Jaipur watches pulled up. His interest piqued, he travelled and met Mehta the same week. That is how the watches came to be a part of a trunk show held at the store in April and are now showcased in the permanent collection. The store has been selling eight to 10 pieces a month, says Gupta. Not entirely impressed with the shiny red box the watches come in, some customers enquired about the antique-looking one used for display at The Big Door. That, in fact, is an old barber’s tool box lined with a cushion and a print of a British India note. The company is working on creating smaller versions of that box. In August this year, Mehta will launch new collections featuring a one-pice coin of the colonial period and a Queen Victoria coin. They will include a Swiss automatic machine and likely cost more. Mehta says he wants to revive the watch manufacturing industry in India. “Indian watch magazines that never wrote about local companies are putting us on the same page with Cartier, Omega and Rolex. It gives us the confidence to design and invest more.”

Read more on:    Mehta | Coins | Jaipur Watch | British India Coins | Jaipur Watch Company | The Big Door | King George Vi