After HMT and Titan, India has not had any significant homegrown watch brands. Four independent watch makers are looking to change that.
BANGALORE WATCH COMPANY
“We started Bangalore Watch Company out of a singular desire to reacquaint gentlemen with fine watches of Indian origin,” says Nirupesh Joshi, who founded the Bengaluru-based BWC along with his wife Mercy Amalraj in 2017. Their tech careers took them to Hong Kong and Seoul, but Bengaluru was the city they always called home.
It was during a sabbatical in 2016 that the idea to start a watch brand took shape, and BWC was born in January 2017. Fine watchmaking never took off in India as much as fine jewellery did,” says Joshi. “We’re determined to put India on the radar as the country’s first independent fine watch brand.” The company is self-funded, with the duo having invested most of their life savings in it. While Amalraj takes care of the customer experience processes, Joshi handles sales, product design, strategy “and anything else that falls between the cracks.”
The first collection from BWC that opened for pre-orders via their website in March this year was the Renaissance Automatic. It is a vintage-inspired mechanical automatic dress watch, produced in a limited edition of 500 pieces with six variants, each made with surgical-grade stainless steel cases, sapphire crystals, Citizen Japanese Miyota 9015 automatic decorated movements, leather straps and intricate circular brushed dials. Parts are sourced from across the globe, and while micro-assembly happens overseas, the final assembly and quality check is done in Bengaluru, before they are couriered to customers across the globe. The Renaissance Collection is priced at Rs 38,799.
“We believe the Indian market is flush with contemporary fashion brands producing quartz watches in the price range of Rs 5,000 – 20,000,” says Joshi. “But there are no Indian origin brands producing serious watches in the sub Rs 65,000 price range.”
JAIPUR WATCH COMPANY
Gaurav Gupta cannot remember a time when he wasn’t fascinated with ancient coins and watches. He started reassembling watches when he was just 12, and one day he decided to modify a watch with an ancient coin in the dial. All his friends who saw it were mesmerised. This spurred him on, and passion and business merged to form India’s first private, micro-brand watch company, the Jaipur Watch Company, in 2013.
Starting off with coin watches, today the company also specialises in bespoke watches. “As a ‘Made in India’ brand, our USP is the fact that it is the only place where you can customise your own watch that echoes the possessor’s characteristics and is completely designed as per the choice of the client,” says Gupta. The company is based out of Jaipur, with its manufacturing plant in Bengaluru. They retail through their trade partners in Delhi, Mumbai, Udaipur, Chandigarh and Dubai.
“The coins that we use come from personal collections and numismatists all over the world,” explains Gupta. “The watches are waterproof with stainless steel, inspired by handcrafted designs. They come with a sapphire crystal as standard in all our coin watches. We set out to create a fusion of the contemporary with the ancient, and we believe that is what makes our watches unique beyond everything else.” They have launched nine collections, including a peacock-inspired one as well as a range of pocket watches. While the Pret collection starts from Rs 16,000 and goes up to Rs 55,000, the price of the bespoke watches varies from product to product.
Hailing from Mumbai, with his roots in Gujarat and Maharashtra, Chinmay Shah of Aiqon watches may have had an educational background rooted in numbers, but says his “left-brain skills are as strong as the right-brain ones.” This led to the creation of Aiqon watches, which allows the wearer to wear a bit of India on their wrist.
“I am a believer in the cult of the luxury brand, and wristwatches are a starting point, given their 3D canvas and range of surface finishes,” says Shah. Growing up, Shah always nursed a love for history and encyclopaedias, and most of his watches are strongly India-centric. In fact, the first piece he designed was a Maximum City 1888, a rose gold piece with a square dial, inspired by the architecture of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. This watch was priced at Rs. 3,200.
“The business model is based on targeting the core middle class of India – looking to spend between Rs 2,000 to Rs 19,000. At the lower price points, it’s the design conscious youth; at the higher range, it’s the mature customer looking for value for money. Certain watches will have designs unique enough to speak for themselves; other models will focus on the quality-toprice ratio,” says Shah.
Currently Aiqon are focussed on mass manufacture, and while their collection is limited, the response has been positive, according to Shah. He designs all the watches himself, thereby adding to their exclusivity. “We are at a moment in history when we are developing machines and software that will overtake human capability in almost every sphere,” he says. “Perhaps even creativity tomorrow will be automated. But there might still be space in people’s hearts, where the creativity and the finishing of the watch, when human-made, is worth the spend. This is the reality we are targeting.”
Having spent almost two decades dealing with the world’s leading luxury watch brands and independent watch manufacturers, and driven by a passion for horology, Mumbai-based Rajeev Asrani launched HORPA in 2017, along with friend Deepak Choudhury. “A collaboration of horology and passion – Horpa was born with a vision to be an acclaimed independent watch brand from India, identified and celebrated for its design and craftsmanship in the world of horology”, says Asrani.
“I design all the watches myself,” says Asrani. “The process of coding starts with translating the creative inspiration into hand-sketched design roughs. Multiple iterations then lead to the final sketch being transformed into machine codes through computer aided design, to create a reflection of what it would transform as an offering.” The components are sourced from across the country, while the assembly is done in Mumbai.
Horpa recently launched its first collection – C1, for men. A contemporary chronograph watch, it has a 45mm solid stainless steel case and bezel with fine polish and sand-blasted satin finish. “The most integral element of this creation is the dial, which has been inspired by the concept of the grid,” he says. “Infused artistically, the hand-crafted, three-layered semi-skeletonized dial with a lacquered and satin finish forms the crux of the watch.” It is available in eight variants and is priced between Rs.14,500-16,500. Their next collection is the C1 Lady, and they hope to launch the C2 by the end of the year. They retail exclusively through their website as well as through personal connections.
“Our focus is to bridge the gap between fashion and luxury and develop watches with solid constructions, combining design excellence with exceptional craftsmanship and finesse at an accessible price point,” says Asrani.