The Watch Man From Jaipur
The Watch Man From Jaipur

Jovial, curious, and offering tons of excited insights into the world of horology, Gaurav Mehta’s life is a collectors’ dream. Between brushing shoulders with India’s watch collection elite and a stunning new launch, the watchmaker and founder of Jaipur Watch Company gives us a closer look at the ‘complications’ of running one of India’s most unique micro luxury brands 

Often spotted with either a beaming grin or a furrowed, curious frown, watchmaker Gaurav Mehta isn't the type to leave a conversation unexplored. As a breed, collectors can come off as gated, even snobbish. On the contrary, Mehta's affable, warm approach to following his coinage passion and sharing it with the world is downright infectious — a charming combination of enthusiasm and deep knowledge that draws you in before you notice it, and touches upon the primal human instinct to explore, curate, preserve, and discover. 


It’s been just over a decade since Mehta set off to revolutionise India's global watchmaking footprint with the Jaipur Watch Company. This proved to be an uphill battle, considering that Indian watchmaking was largely relegated to long-haul players such as Titan and HMT. Today, with multiple eclectic collections that respect and elevate India's intertwined relationship with art, numismatics and philately, Mehta's brainchild and love-letter to old-world India continues to flourish, expand, and bring generations both old and new into a blooming space within India's burgeoning homegrown luxury landscape. 


We caught up with the watchmaking maven at the launch of his latest boutique in Ahmedabad's Vastrapur, taking a moment to talk collections, business, motivation, family and more. Excerpts: 


(L-R) Mehta sports a custom watch bearing a portrait of his grandfather, as well as a new, limited-edition stamp watch | Credits: Jaipur Watch Company


Why did you start working with coins in your timepieces? 

It was something of a coincidence! I've always loved watches. I own over 400 watches from brands other than my own, and I’m the kind of guy who loves to open up his watches and see how they function. I have also been collecting coins for a long time — it's a childhood thing. I used to buy them from eBay, from auctions, here and there. Nothing too expensive, but I collected them. 

One day, I was opening up a watch and there was a coin — a one-piece coin with a hole — that was placed on my table. It had freshly arrived from eBay, and somehow, the idea struck me; why don't I put it in the watch and see how it looks? It was an eureka moment, or something. Feviquik se chipka ke, I started wearing the watch and then a lot of people started asking me, ‘where did you get it from? Can you make it for me?’ 


Moving on from coinage, what other visual ideas have you played with? 

Last year, our biggest and most interesting collaboration was with Raja Ravi Varma’s artworks. I’ve been a history buff for ages — never studied it formally, but I love history. It was just while sitting around casually with friends, over drinks — we discussed artists, famous paintings, their valuations, things like that. I asked about Indian artists, and just two-three names came up. I asked about RRV, and while the name was familiar to them, they didn’t know about any of his famous paintings. This was a shock for me — all the visuals of the Hindu gods we pray to were conceptualised by him. The ‘human’ touch as it were — it was given to these deities by Ravi Varma. I felt that I had to do something about it, it really struck a chord with us. 

But… we were from Jaipur. Kerala was unexplored territory for us — we didn’t have much in the way of contacts with local people, and no mutual connection to Ravi Varma. Luckily, I happened to discover a collector from Baroda, who owns the largest collection of Raja Ravi Varma oleographs and paintings. He in turn connected me to Rama Varma Thampuran, who is an eminent classical musician and Ravi Varma’s sixth-generation descendant. While Ravi Varma’s paintings are now in the public domain, these aren’t just prints — they’re actual oleograph reproductions, with the cracks and flaws which we’ve used as is. [Thampuran] also helped us by personally signing certificates of authenticity and by helping in the selection of final artworks. Ravi Varma made over a thousand oleographs — I asked for fifty, which I then narrowed down depending on what fits in the watch case. 


Tell us about the new vintage stamp-themed collection. 

If you’ll observe, the hobby of philatelist — stamp collectors — and numismatists — coin collectors — both go hand in hand. A lot of auction houses that present catalogues of coins also offer stamps, as well as medals. These hobbies usually go hand in hand. 

So, I always had some stamps, even though they weren’t my focus. They still excited me because it’s so easy to commemorate occasions using stamps. Let’s say, for example, that you want to issue a coin on someone, it’s a lengthy process. When you want to print a stamp, it’s very easy. There are first-day covers, stamps for special occasions, animals, defence, aircrafts, ship carries, army generals, every theme imaginable — stamps bahut hote hain. In fact, it’s why I didn’t focus on stamps early on; where would I begin? 

Since we were known for coins, we decided to take the step and do stamps… it would give us access to so many interesting opportunities in the future, where you can have unlimited themes and build collections around that. For this initial launch, we’re starting with around 36 variants and plan to add further iterations in the future. The pièce de resistance from this collection is the King George VI 3 Pies stamp that dates back to 1937. We’ve also made a special one-off watch using the world’s first postal stamp — the Penny Black from 1840. 


Glimpses at the assembly of Jaipur Watch Company's latest stamp watch collection | Credits: Jaipur Watch Company


Can you tell me more about your personal collections? 

There are times when I love the idea of rectangular watches, times when I’m looking for a vintage watch… you cannot define a watch collection for anyone, I think. Very few people stick to very specific watches; I think the more involved you get, the less specific your watches will be.  

I’ve collected a lot of HMTs — about 250 of them. Just yesterday, I picked up a very rare model, a pendant watch that very have heard of. Most of the watches in my collection are brand new, untouched boxes. Apart from these, I love vintage Omegas — that’s Dr Shaah’s influence, he’s been a mentor in that space for me. I happen to own a De Ville from the 1960s that is extremely rare; it’s one of my most expensive watches. 

Apart from watches, coins, and stamps, I also love collecting socks! If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that I have over 600 pairs right now. 


We know that you’re a family man — how does your family perceive your work as a watchmaker? 

My wife has been my biggest initial supporter… when I started this business, I told her to be prepared — for 4-5 years, there would be no holiday or shopping, or family planning *laughs*. She supported me a lot. My sister’s father-in-law has also been a great mentor to me — he’s India’s senior most coin collector, and an authoritative jeweller from the Kothari family of Jaipur. ‘Babu, jo bhi product banao, quality pe dhyaan dena’, he said. ‘Bees saal ke liye thumhari gadi kaharaab nai hona chahiye’. 

I also have seven-year-old twins — one girl, one boy. They know what I do, and they know that I make watches using things like stamps and coins. They keep visiting my store and office too. My daughter recently asked me ‘do you know how expensive your watch is?’ She was playing a videogame on a phone, and an ad for Jaipur Watch Company popped up!’ 


There’s something very human about having a collectors’ hobby, isn’t there? What itch gets scratched for you when you work on building a new collection? 

I think what sets collectors apart is the way we view uniqueness and rarity… we hoard, you know. We buy a hundred things, but only ten of them are special; and sometimes, you have to buy a hundred things to gain access to those ten special things. A lot of watch companies also work on this philosophy — buy something from us, and we’ll give you the opportunity to join our waitlist. 

I first bought an HMT for Rs 600, and today that watch is worth Rs 15,000… so there’s also an aspect of legacy for me. I want to build something for my future generation in the form of my collection. 

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