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More on Gandhi’s Zenith Alarm Pocketwatch

Fellow Blogger Maddy has also provided an extensive analysis of Gandhi’s pocketwatch(es). After reading Maddy’s analysis, I think I’m going to have to agree with his presumption that since there are multiple seemingly credible sources describing watches belonging to Gandhi as an Ingersoll and a Zenith, it seems likely that Gandhiji may have owned both and given one as a gift to Abha Mehta, his assistant and grandniece who was also charged with helping to ensure his punctuality.

Maddy was also able to help locate a link to source document for the account of Gandhi’s description of the Zenith alarm pocketwatch that had been stolen in the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi:

Excerpt from "The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi" with Gandhi's descrption of the Zenith Pocketwatch.

Excerpt from "The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi" with Gandhi's descrption of the Zenith Pocketwatch.

So in that sense, my earlier belief that the Zenith alarm pocketwatch presented for auction by Antiquorum is perhaps genuine wouldn’t seemed threatened. But then I noticed Maddy had discovered this on Flickr:

Zenith alarm pocketwatch attributed to Gandhi with different dial and set pins found on Flickr. Photo Flickr user SunnywinterZ

Zenith alarm pocketwatch attributed to Gandhi with different dial and set pins found on Flickr. Photo: Flickr user SunnywinterZ

For Comparison: Zenith Alarm pocketwatch presented by Antiquorum.

For Comparison: Zenith Alarm pocketwatch presented by Antiquorum.

I don’t know what to think of it. The Flickr user doesn’t provide much in the way of expository info about the image; given the extensive photo touch-up work it could simply be more of a work of artistry than an actual attempt at factual historical documentation. However, the differences between this watch and the watch in Antiquorum lot 364 for this weekend are notable. The missing hands are still present, the dial printing is different (appears to contain the addition of retailer name and the “Swiss Made” text at 6 o’clock.), and the set pins to the left and right of the pendant are completely different. Clearly, it’s not the same watch. Again, I’m not sure if this image is meant as a factual or fictional depiction of Gandhi’s Zenith pocket watch, but if it is it would present a number of new questions about the one presented by Antiquorum.

The controversy in India about the sale of Gandhi’s items also continues to grow it appears, with the outcries continuing that the private sale amounts furthering the “flight of national treasures” problem that has palgued India for decades. I’d be challenged not to agree, as if the accounted presented by the Telegraph is true it seems that the items were taken from India by German memorabilia collector and chairman of the GandhiServe Foundation in Berlin Peter Ruhe for private gain with exactly that intent in mind. Something that seems to be overlooked in the process as well is that Hr. Ruhe couldn’t have accomplished this on his own – Gandhi descendant Gita Mehta, the adopted daughter of Abha Meta who inherited the items, agreed to sell them to him after all. [EDIT: A clarification – the seller was not Hr. Ruhe but US collector James Otis.]

And as well, I’m at an utter loss to explain how it is that the chairman of GhandiServe, a charitable organization ostensibly dedicated to serving the memory of Gandhi’s legacy, could serve the memory of the humble man by selling his memorabilia by selling them privately to a collector at substantial profit. It would seem to me that somebody somewhere lost their way somewhow. But what do I know, I’m just a simple after all.

Posted in Vintage Watches.

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2 Responses

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  1. Frederick Lawson says

    The only old Zenith’s I have seen in India are those with the Favre-Leuba label on the dial.This makes them a watch with a double history!However,an explanation might be that Favre Leuba had a good slice of the Indian watch market till the late sixties with their own outlet in Bombay.
    I would like to think that the Mahatma,being a man of profound simplicity,had an Ingersoll pocket watch out of choice.He was no doubt later presented with the Zenith Alarm pocket watch by one of his doting followers.

  2. Rrryan says

    As stated previously, the “doting follower” was purportedly Indira Nehru herself. The timeline isn’t very clear, but the Mahatma may still have been in South Africa at the time.

    It seems he may have carried both alternately, as Gandhi wrote that the Zenith was stolen from him while riding on a train. It was later returned.