Wearing his passion on his wrist, you will never know if this Mumbai based corporate lawyer has more watches in his closet or briefs in court. It’s a closely guarded secret couched under a “I try not to count” disclaimer! The only clue are the pictures plastered on his instagram account, through which Tapan Pati often leaves his followers awe-struck.
If movie stars change their costumes for every scene, this aficionado has watches for every occasion. Whether it’s the Republic or Independence or Teachers Day, anniversaries of Chatrapati Shivaji, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Babasaheb Ambedkar or Jawaharlal Nehru, events like the Indian Premier League cricket tournaments, or festivals like Navratri, Ganesh Chathurthi or Janmashtami, this avid collector for more than a decade, seems to have commemorative watches to match them all. It’s one thing to have such a wide array of prized possessions, quite another to ‘dial’ up a slice of history for each one of them.
A watch with a dial made from original parts of a decommissioned MIG 21 aircraft, another resembling a vintage radio, one with an image of a bookshelf which “combines” his love for books and watches, the collection of new and old ones made by a diverse set of watch-makers, is mind boggling. The assortment includes German, French, Russian Chinese or Swiss brands, not to forget our very own HMT, Hedge Golay, Allwyn, Purewal and Titan, with Indian themes.
Not having had to hum “watch-maker, watch-maker, find me a watch…,” Tapan is quite categorical that the rise of the social media has “made it easier to connect” with fellow collectors and watch enthusiasts. A trend that gave “the ascendance of micro-brands in the world of horology” a shot in the wrist. “I connect with watches at multiple levels – sometimes it’s the intricate mechanism: the so-called complications in an automatic watch, the theme very obviously displayed on the watch dial or the case back. A watch with USSR or GDR etched on the bottom of the dial sort of time machines you back to a different era.”
Although he has ‘inherited’ the hobby from his father, the collection is his own, built from scratch. Groups that buy and sell watches have “sprouted all over the internet and it is not hard to find groups focused on different types of watches – vintage digital, military trench ones used in the First and Second World War, marine chronometer watches, vintage swiss brands like Universal which did not survive the quartz revolution of the seventies, Japanese brands like Seiko, Casio and serious luxury watches.”
Then there are those priceless bespoke models that have come his way. A recent birthday gift was a handcrafted watch in a 40 mm sterling silver case with rhodium plating and a double domed sapphire glass. The attraction is its legal theme – The Lex XII Tabularam or the Twelve Tables. Don’t miss Tapan’s snappy footnotes on Instagram. Like this description of the foundation of ancient Roman law around 450 BC. The icons on the dial represent the aspects of the legal system – courtroom, lawyers, judges and the gavel.
On the subject of the ceremonial hammer, Tapan has no plans to do an Imelda Marcos and have his collection auctioned at any point! What about repairs and maintenance? “It’s hard to ensure that the mechanical watches are all working well all the time and I just let some watches be less than accurate.”
Does our ‘limited edition’ lawyer always show up on the dot? “I’m as punctual as the Mumbai traffic allows me to be!”
Keep ticking, Counsel.
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate Practising in the Madras High Court, Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)