Tinkering with Time

Tinkering with Time

The Pancholi Watch Company is located right in the heart of the Chembur market. Since the entrance to the shop is directly opposite the Chembur local train station, the shop has become a landmark. The Pancholi Watch Company started functioning in its present location on the ground floor of the Shree Adhinath Co-operative Housing Society in 1958. The owner of the shop, Kantilal Pancholi, whose family originally hails from the Mehsana district of Gujarat, got the shop in a rather unexpected and unusual way. The Shree Adhinath Co-operative Housing Society was the very first building to be constructed in Chembur, and the owner of the shop was a noted astrologer. He was a close friend of Kantilal Pancholi’s father, and it was his great desire that his good friend take a shop in his upcoming building, free of cost. Pancholi Senior demurred – he was not interested in acquiring a shop, and certainly not one that came free of cost. His son Kantilal was employed in the Favre Leuba Company, where he was doing well. Favre Leuba, a reputed Swiss company, established in 1737, was the second oldest watch manufacturing company in Switzerland. In 1865, Favre Leuba established an outpost in Bombay, India, post the turmoil in Europe in the aftermath of World War II. India soon became Favre Leuba’s most flourishing, and important market. 

But the time for change had undoubtedly arrived. Kantilal Pancholi’s father gave in to his friend’s persuasion and acquired a shop in his under construction building, at a very nominal price. Kantilal Pancholi who had been working at Favre Leuba for about a decade at this time, resigned from the company, to strike out on his own. He started the Pancholi Watch Company from rented premises at the now defunct Asha Biscuit Company in Chembur. His shop was a sales and service centre, and he stocked watches from many brands, including Favre Leuba.        

In those days however, all wrist watches were mechanical ones that had to be wound up manually – the quartz watches that run on tiny cells that we are so familiar with, had not even made their appearance! Quartz watches appeared in the Indian market in the late 1970’s. Till that time, the Pancholi Watch Company sold and serviced only wooden wall clocks with pendulums, alarm clocks, cuckoo clocks, pocket watches, and other analog time pieces. 

Kantilal Pancholi’s son Navinbhai Pancholi joined him in his business soon after he established his shop in the Adhinath Co-operative Housing Society, and they worked together till 1997, when Kantilal retired. Navinbhai Pancholi had two sons – Hitesh and Umesh Pancholi. They studied at the General Education Academy in Chembur, and in 1992, joined the family business, working alongside their father. By the time Kantilal Pancholi passed away in 2007, the Pancholi Watch Company that he had established was the best known watch dealer and repair company in Chembur. All the watches, clocks and timepieces from Raj Kapoor’s RK Studio were serviced only at Pancholi’s. 

Navinbhai Pancholi retired from working actively in his shop a couple of years before the pandemic hit in 2020, and the stewardship of the shop passed on to his sons Hitesh and Umesh. Hitesh Pancholi has a son, and Umesh has two daughters – these young people are students, and Umesh Pancholi says that none of them has, till now, shown interest in working in their family business. Will the fourth generation of Pancholis take an active part in the family business that has become such an integral part of Chembur, and served its community with such distinction? Only time will tell…