One to Watch This Couple Is Putting India Back On The Horological Map
For the past three years, Bangalore Watch Company has been instrumental in changing the narrative around watchmaking in India. Husband and wife team Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj are using watchmaking as a way to inform the world about the new India. Not the India that's characterized by snake charmers engraved in the casebacks, Hindu deities on the dial, or Devanagari numerals. Instead, the watches draw inspiration from India's rich research and science communities.Replica Watches
The company recently launched the Apogee, a watch that pays homage to India's great space exploration efforts. The Indian Space Research Organisation has quietly achieved incredible successes in space exploration since its founding in 1969. With ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission, India became the only country to successfully insert a satellite into the orbit of Mars on the first attempt, and the ISRO has a budget that's less than a tenth of NASA's.
Joshi and Amalraj both started off in the software industry. That's not unusual for someone living in Bangalore – India's tech hub. Joshi was in software sales and consulting and Amalraj was in quality assurance. Their jobs took them all over the world; first to Boston, consulting for a MIT-based firm, and then to Seoul, then to Hong Kong, and finally, back home to Bangalore. But it was Hong Kong that sparked their love of timepieces. "Look, we don't have an origin story that involves a hand-me-down Omega from a grandfather that inspired us to do this. We actually got into watches in Hong Kong, it was part of the lifestyle and a great place to learn. There's not one boutique in Hong Kong that I haven't been into," says Joshi.
It dawned on them that India had everything to create a rich ecosystem around horology, but they didn't produce any watches that met Joshi's standards. There's Titan, part of the omnipresent Tata Group, that produces 15 million watches a year. But those watches weren't in the same space Joshi wanted to enter. Then there's Rado, but that's not an Indian watch, despite its soaring popularity there. Then finally there's Favre-Leuba, a once-Swiss company that had come under Indian ownership. HMT, India's national watch manufacturer, went away in 2016.
But none of those met the parameters Joshi had in his head: "There should be a watch that is Indian, that is modern, and that should not cost more than an iPhone. You should be able to wear it without flinching for over 20 years," Joshi says. "We also wanted to stay below the $1,000 dollar mark because 70% of our market is still right here in India, and that's where we've seen the biggest growth."
Why We Love Them
"At the core of the brand is the idea that we want to make watches with backstories from India with a very modern 21st century point of view,'' Joshi says. "We wanted to change the perception of what it means to make watches with Indian backstories. You take any watchmaker in the world and when they do an India limited edition they put an 'exotic' Indian god and Indian fonts on the dial and call it an India limited edition."
India, in terms of science and technology, has exploded in the last few decades, but watch creators' viewpoint of the country has been stuck in the colonial era. The India of today is far more nuanced than devanagari script and depictions of Krishna on a watch dial would suggest.
The product range of Bangalore Watch Company mirrors the many facets of modern Indian culture. There's the renaissance, a dressy, three-hander with a date that picks up where HMT left off. It's inspired by the mid-century Indian watch designs that were found on millions across the country. Then there's the Mach 1, which is styled after the MiG 21 Type 77, an airframe that has served as the backbone of the Indian Air Force for nearly half a century. It was Indian-built under license and played a significant role in Indian military history from shortly after India's independence in 1947 until 2014, when the airframes were retired. Even cricket, an incredibly popular pastime in India, has inspired a watch. The Cover Drive allows wearers to track certain timed elements of the game. "You have a billion people crazy about cricket in this country," Joshi says. "There are plenty of timing opportunities to explore, along with official associations as well."
And the most recent launch, the Apogee, is perhaps "the best watch to sum up the identity of the brand," says Joshi. To him, this is modern India. The India that found success with the Chandrayaan program through persistence (Chandrayaan 1 saw major success mapping the moon; Chandrayaan 2 was lost, and Chandrayaan 3 is set to launch in 2022). The formula is tried and true –there are many watches that pay homage to a nation's space program, NASA and ROSCOSMOS come to mind – but so far the Apogee is the only watch to salute the ISRO, an organization that truly has impacted the global conversation around space exploration despite budgets far lower than other nations it's compared to. This is the India that Joshi wants to embody in a watch. Patek Philippe Replica
In the beginning, the Bangalore Watch Company had been sourcing movements from Japan and Switzerland, and cases, dials, and hands from factories elsewhere in Asia. The assembly was always done in India by a team of eight watchmakers, but now the watches are becoming even more Indian. "The hands are made here. The dial is made here. The straps are made here. The casing is done here," Joshi says.
It's a model that works for many companies in the sub-$1,000 segment. In America, a lot of components for watches in the category are actually sourced from overseas and simply assembled in the US. Instead of only doing the assembly, Joshi figured making more in India drives the mission forward in a way that sourcing parts elsewhere simply doesn't. By building a more Indian watch, he's jump-starting the Indian watch manufacturing culture again. There's a rich history and tradition of fine jewelry and gem craftsmanship, of course, dating back to the Indus River Valley era. Plus, now, Bangalore's tech and manufacturing sectors.
"I'm interested in eventually bringing horological manufacturing here to India. Even now – how could we advance technically using the stock Sellita today? Could we push in the direction of better anti-magnetic properties, increased power reserves, Silicon balance springs, maybe a bigger barrel?" Joshi is asking the right questions. He's playing to the strengths of his nation and zeroing in on what truly makes an Indian watch interesting and unique.
With HMT gone, Bangalore Watch Company is the future of Indian Watchmaking. With releases like the Apogee to the lineup, it would appear that Joshi and Amalraj are just blasting off.
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