J S Andrews Watch Company
by Donita Justin, Fathima Rasheed, Nargees P.V, Saranya. C
In those days having more than one watch was considered to be a crime!
Robinson Andrews is a third generation watch maker. As the time strikes 10 in the morning Mr. Robinson Andrews the time maker opens the watch company. J.S Andrews watch company is located at the busy S.M Street in Calicut. But the busy life in the street has not influenced the watch company. The owner Robinson Andrews was very excited and proud to say that J.S Andrews watch company is the 1st watch shop in Calicut.
This watch shop was set up by Mr. Justin Samuel Andrews in 1896. After his death in 1942, his elder son Christy Andrews continued his
father’s business. In 1970 Christy Andrews’s younger brother George Andrews took over the business. As his son Robinson Andrews was very naughty and didn’t concentrate much in his studies, he helped his father in the business. From his childhood itself he learned the repairing of watches from his father. Robinson received Rs. 3/- per week as salary. When his father was suffering from meningitis, Robinson took charge of the business.
In 1896 they bought the room which is situated in the 1st floor of Kadhus building in S.M Street (where the shop runs now) for RS. 2 1/4. They had to pay a rent of 75ps. for a month. Earlier the S.M Street road was called “Huzur Road”. It was the British who named it S.M Street (Sweet Meat Street).
As mentioned earlier J.S Andrews Watch Company was the 1st in Calicut. During that time the shop did both the repairing work and selling of watches. Later on the selling of watches were stopped as the owners were not able to pay the license fee for selling. The watches sold during that time were no.1 Swiss made watches which reached the shop owners through smuggling. Smuggling was widely accepted those days because the watches were available in cheap rates. However, smuggling was also a reason for stopping the sale of watches as the vigilant police and customs officers were searching for the culprits. 59 year old Robinson still recalls the days of his life. “In my teenage (17yrs) one day I was standing on the road with 3 watches. At that time there was a customs raid. Unknowingly I stood there. Only later I knew that it was a customs raid. The consequences would have been severe if I was caught then. Because at that time having more than one watch was considered to be a crime!” says Mr. Robinson.
1995 Feb 17th at 11:45 pm the watch shop was completely destroyed in a fire disaster that occurred in S.M Street. All the tools were burnt in the fire. The tools were Swiss made. It took 7 months for the reconstruction works to finish. In the fire even the old clocks and watches like ship clock, cylinder watch etc. were destroyed. The expensive tools and accessories were engulfed by the fire. Now all the tools are Indian made. The new tools are not at least near to the quality of the old Swiss made tools, laments Mr Robinson.
The J.S Andrews watch company was the agent of Swiss Watches. The tower clock of Asoka Hospital was over hauled by J.S Andrews watch co. It is an American clock. The clocks and watches which could not be repaired from Kolkata and Delhi brought here for repairing.
“In my childhood I was very crazy for boating and fishing. And also I was thrilled in driving to distant places even in the night.” While saying this Robinson’s eyes were shining with the brightness of a smart young boy remembering those days.
Robinson is a very simple and friendly man. We did not felt that he was a stranger to us. He was very happy to answer all our questions. He told us more than what we asked him.
Even though he is a watch repairer he does not have a watch for himself. After repairing a watch he would return it only after checking it by tying it in his hand. He is very sincere and hardworking.
Till date Mr. Robinson Andrews is continuing his ancestral business. He is enjoying his business and does not want even to renovate the
shop. Even though it is not so convenient shop, he is not willing to stop or change the business. He wishes to handover this business to the next generation also. But he disappointingly says that even though his children at times help in his work they are not interested to take it as a full time profession. As this is a job which need patience and time, he wonders whether the present generation be willing to do this.
When we leave the place the pendulum clock hung on the wall
strikes 4 times……. reminding us of the song Till we meet again by Jim Reeves.