The Time Collector

Happening Issue 126 Apr, 2012
Text by Niraj Karki / Photo: ECS Media

Every watch is a story. His fascination for watches has made Surya Man Shakya a collector and appreciator - of not only watches but also of stories.

A glimpse into the world of collectors might at first, seem centered around the physical act of collecting. Looking at Surya Man Shakya, however collecting is a means of adding value to life and while his collection comprises of watches, he has collected stories. It started when he was a boy of 10 or 12 – studying in Sikkim, with 4 annas a day as his pocket money. He found himself passing by the local watch shop not even aware of his own interest in watches until the shop owner offered to sell him his first watch – a Westend Watch for 30 Rupees. He saved for 2 months to buy that watch – doing everything from not eating to playing and selling marbles. He recalls the happiness he felt after buying that first watch – happiness unrivalled by anything he had experienced until then. To him, it was his first real happiness, his first story.

Since then he has never looked back, collecting watches and stories. His watches are neither for show nor to impress people. Collectors, he says don’t do what they do for show. The passion of collectors is one hidden from even their own families – it is a secret and intimate affair. The collector and the collection – nothing and no one else come in between. Polishing, drying in the sun, removing rust from old ones – these are small sources of refreshment from the watches.

He always looks back on how difficult it was to collect the watch, and what lengths he had to go through and remembers the stories of how the seller had sold it – and what reasons were behind him having to part with the watch. His favorite is the West End Watch Company, which even the Dalai Lama wears. He explains that they work in cold temperatures and are thus a favorite of Tibetan and Newar traders.

Watches are correct twice a day even if broken – you only have to know when to look at it. Collectors can be dangerous and merciless people he says but to be a true collector means being an appreciator. You have to be honest - corruption spoils the heart. He has impressive stories that range from making a Rolex sales clerk in Zurich realize that despite having the best watches he had no time, to more ironic stories. Collecting to him is simply the art of appreciation, of old things. It is a way of adding value to things in life, acquiring and adding stories to ones’ own life. It is not about cost and explains the stories he has collected justify the cost of the watches.