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From Space Program to Women Aviators, Bangalore Watch Company Represents a Modern India

Bangalore Watch Company is making a compelling case for homegrown Indian watches that embody storytelling, workmanship and luxury all rolled into one.

Did you know that the luxury watch market in India is all set to generate a revenue of US$0.54bn in 2024? Interestingly, this is projected to experience an annual growth rate of 0.46% (CAGR 2024-2028) as per a report titled ‘Luxury Watches – India’ by Statista. The country is seeing an uptick in its affinity for luxury watches, reflecting changing tastes and preferences, as Indians become increasingly aware of international luxury trends. And among the organizations that are leading this change is Bangalore Watch Company (BWC), whose watches don’t just tell time, but also a story.

Living in Hong Kong with well-paying tech jobs, husband-and-wife team Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj, saw watches everywhere.

“I think it was over a night of dimsums and Tsingtao beer in Hong Kong when I said ‘Hey, why don’t we start a watch company in India?’ And Mercy must have been quick enough to slap me on the back of my hand and say ‘Are you out of your mind?’,” remembers Mr. Joshi. But of course, Ms. Amalraj sided with her husband’s craziness, and well, Bangalore Watch Company was born. “That’s what happens when you have a partner who stands by your side,” says Mr. Joshi fondly.

Mercy Amalraj & Nirupesh Joshi of Bangalore Watch Company.
Mercy Amalraj & Nirupesh Joshi of Bangalore Watch Company.

So, fascinated by the world of fine watchmaking worldwide, the couple returned home from their stints at Boston, Seoul and Hong Kong to start BWC. “We are outsiders to the watch industry; we are proud of the perspectives we bring from our diverse experiences,” say the duo. Time-telling is a vestigial function that even a simple home appliance can perform. And since we don’t need a watch to tell the time anymore, wristwatches serve a larger purpose as they allow us to create a strong emotional bond. “It could be a watch that was passed down in the family or something that you bought with your first paycheque. Very few objects today offer this emotional connection,” explains Mr. Joshi.

Story telling

What sets European luxury watch brands apart – along with the quality and workmanship – is storytelling. For example, a watch that went to the moon, or one that is inspired from a world-event. “These are what makes owning luxury watches special, and this is what caught our attention the most. European watch brands have a long legacy, they’re also excellent storytellers. A watch brand built on Italian navy heritage, or one built on Space are examples of what makes them special. Our opinion is that the grammar of India-themed watches is outdated. We are not only a country of elephants, snake charmers, and oriental motifs. Twenty-first century India is about space exploration, one of the fastest growing economies, a technological powerhouse, and our women flying fighter-planes,” say the duo.

BWC Silk Scarf watch

The fascinating stories behind BWC watches is what makes them unlike any other. For instance, the pastel pink hued ‘Silk Scarf’ is part of their MACH 1 Pilot collection and they call the colour Aerobloom which is an immediate attention grabber. Moreover, this watch has an interesting back story. It is an ode to Sarla Thukral, the first Indian woman to acquire a flying license. She was just 21 years old in 1936, when she entered the cockpit of a Gipsy Moth aircraft wearing a sari. In those days, women in aviation was very uncommon, and today that number is at 15% in India – much higher than the global average of 5%.

As the global narrative of India is changing, these watches tell stories inspired by a modern, 21st century India. Stories that people from around the world can connect with and be inspired by. “Our MACH 1 collection tells stories from Indian aviation, most recently celebrating women in Indian aviation. Apogee celebrates India’s space exploration, with our most recent watch paying tribute to our Moon mission, and Cover Drive is a set of watches that celebrate the spirit of Indian cricket. This unique storytelling, combined with the highest quality craftsmanship in the bridge-to-luxury segment has allowed us to build an engaged community of owners from around the world. Our designs are contemporary with subtle hints to the India-story, so they are embraced by a global audience,” says Ms. Amalraj.

The Manzinus by Bangalore Watch Company proudly sports a 9mm disc made of the Muonionalusta meteorite.
The Manzinus by Bangalore Watch Company proudly sports a 9mm disc made of the Muonionalusta meteorite.

Collections galore

In their five years old journey, BWC has launched five distinct collections – each with its own iconic design elements. They have also launched multiple limited editions – watches made of material recovered from Indian fighter-planes, or a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite. “Usually, we launch two-three new watches with unique stories every year. Some of them are extensions to the existing collections, but others are entirely new collections. In the summer of 2024, we will be launching a new watch that will create an entirely new collection and theme,” say the duo excitedly.

While there are other watch brands from India that create India-themed watches, like Jaipur Watch Company, they refuse to be drawn into comparison with them. “What sets our brand apart is our ability to look for modern themes around us and create watch collections based on them. Our constant efforts to push boundaries in watchmaking – that has never happened before in India – with materials, construction, and technology,” they explain.

BWC Cover Drive watch

And if you are a fan of cricket (if that is a valid question to ask), the Yellow Jersey is one watch you must check out. Part of the ‘inspired by cricket’ collection, this stunning yellow hued watch has a 12H marker shaped like the wicket. While the counterbalance of the seconds-hand is shaped like a cricket bat, the 4 and 6 o’clock markers are cut out to signal the boundary shots. You can turn the unidirectional rotating bezel to track elapsed overs in a 50-overs or a T20 game.

Matter of workmanship

BWC only makes mechanical watches and run on the laws of physics, they do not ever require a battery change, and are powered automatically if the wearer is active through the day. The watches use Swiss movements to power their watches – the very same movements used by leading Swiss watchmakers with the same quality, accuracy, and reliability standards.

“The materials used in the construction of our watches are world-class. We use the highest-grade steel or titanium, scratch-resistant sapphire crystals that are as hard as diamonds, paired with some of the best leather straps in our segment. We are constantly pushing ourselves here with the creation of a proprietary material called Cerasteel™ since 2022 (a combination of steel and ceramic), use of exotic materials like materials recovered from Indian fighter planes or aircraft carriers, or outer space meteorite rocks,” says Mr. Joshi.

BWC Synchro watch

Quality is paramount and in 2022 they invested in a Swiss-certified laboratory in Bangalore. They now perform water-tightness testing, shock-testing, anti-magnetic resistance checking, and regulate all their watches to their internal standards of accuracy and power reserve performance.

Future perfect

Recent studies have shown that the wristwatch market in India is estimated to be US$ 1.98 billion, with an expected growth of 5.25% in the next four years. Luxury watches (upwards of INR 100,000) are one of the fastest growing sub-segments in this market. “The high disposable incomes, an increase in discretionary spending, and aspirational purchases only indicate a growing desire to purchase and wear luxury watches. Customers have several choices now with most European luxury watches available in India through organized retail. However, we are uniquely positioned because of the differentiated storytelling, and our quality promise,” says Ms. Amalraj.

Being a digital first brand, the team is recognizing the value of physical experience too, and have established a Studio in South Bangalore. The Studio is not just a retail space, it also hosts their Swiss-certified lab and a workspace for the team. “We set up visits to our studio by appointment where customers can come in, see the watches, and talk to our team in a more relaxed environment, without the pressure of being in a retail store. They can choose to make a purchase at the studio or later view our website. However, the studio has its own limitations in terms of location and operating hours. The plan for 2024 will be to set up an experience center in Bangalore in a location, and with operating hours, that help our customers. We will also look to set up an experience center in Mumbai in the next 12 months,” they say.

BWC Officers blue watch

Looking ahead, the focus will be on expanding the line-up of products with new stories and themes, and being available to customers where they want BWC be. “For our first five years, we have been a customer-funded brand. There has been no infusion of capital besides the initial capital by the founders. We are in talks with select family offices in India and overseas that are invested in the vision of creating an Indian luxury watch brand,” they conclude.

As India takes a leap with all things luxury, these watches are statement pieces that are going to have a special place in the hands of its connoisseurs.

 


 

The article was edited on May 15, 2024, to add more details.

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