By N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe
March 29, 2023 (IANSlife) In modern times, a watch is used not only to check the time and keep us on track when performing tasks or activities, but it has also become a fashion statement. Over time, various brands and designs have emerged to meet a variety of budgets, and needs, but have you ever wondered who the creative people are who come up with new concepts for the watch market, and what goes on in the thoughts of the founders?
As a young history-obsessed child, Gaurav Mehta, the founder of the Jaipur Watch Company, discovered tremendous excitement in old coins and stamps. Always one to tinker with his father's tools, he devised the brilliant notion of creating his own, one-of-a-kind clock. An expression of himself, an extension of his hobbies, one that would become his signature, leading to the creation of the first coin watch.
Gaurav Mehta speaks exclusively to IANSlife about his experience in designing the first coin watch and the birth of India's first and only bespoke Watch Company.
Give us an overview of the Jaipur Watch Company and its journey. What was the insight behind its launch?
GM: Jaipur Watch Company started in 2013. Growing up, I was fascinated by ancient coins which spurred my hobby of coin collection. I collected a variety of coins ranging from various periods of the history of Indian coinage, which became an extensive collection over a period of time. While I was collecting ancient coins, I was also fuelling my love for watches. Having had a very deep connection with coins and watches, I decided to combine both elements into a piece that was worthy of being an heirloom. Also, I always had a realisation that India had limited expertise with regard to fine watchmaking, and the blend of all these thoughts and ideas led to the formation of the Jaipur Watch Company.
What gave you the confidence that this idea of coupling watches with rich Indian history would work?
GM: My earliest memories are from the days of playing with toys when I would open up most of my toys to see what makes them work. The same thing continued when I started opening up watches from the age of 12 but this time, I could put them back together (most of the time). In fact, it was this habit of opening up and putting back watches together which led to the birth of the Jaipur Watch Company when I accidentally placed a coin inside a watch and started wearing it.
I was asked by a number of people about the brand of the watch and where it was purchased. That gave me confidence and a boost that this idea could actually turn into something big.
Which was the first coin that you picked for a watch and why? How do you go about deciding which coin will feature as a part of your next collection?
GM: The first watch by Jaipur Watch Company was the Imperial I Wristwear, which ultimately led to our first-ever collection. It featured a One Rupee King George VI Coin on its dial. The coin dated back to the years 1938-1945. The watch image was run as an ad on Facebook. Someone from Delhi happened to see it and made a purchase instantly. He is now a regular client of ours.
As a coin collector myself, I keep sourcing coins from numismatic societies. If I get my hands upon a similar lot of UNC coins, I plan my collection around it. This is a very tedious and time-consuming process. The scarcity of perfect coins that are put upon our dials is why most of our collections are limited editions.
How do you feel now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and renowned actor Amitabh Bachchan own your watches?
GM: We have had the pleasure to design and manufacture watches for some eminent personalities and celebrities. It has been an honour and privilege to spend some time with PM Modi who appreciates and encourages Made in India products. We have catered to Sports personalities like Rahul Dravid and KL Rahul, Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan, some politicians, CEOs of different companies, and even people from Royal families.
I would like to highlight our expertise and experience in artisanal horology. JWC has crafted a made-to-measure timepiece for His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singh which sums up to be our most memorable creation. This timepiece was infused with elements that essay the Maharaja's love for the royal equestrian sport of Polo. True to the unmatched polo tradition, JWC's limited edition collection titled 'JWC Polo' embeds various elements of the equestrian sport. An amalgamation of royalty with the eagle (coat of arms) and the official polo emblem, these timepieces are crafted in the Swiss Movement with a jump hour mechanism and water resistance. The first in this series 001 is a bespoke piece handcrafted for the royal His Highness as the purveyor of the royal sport in the region.
Tell us something about the Filigree II and Imperial III collection - how you arrived at the design, what sets it apart from your previous designs, pricing, etc
GM: Filigree II Wristwear: Filigree is a delicate embellishment in which skilled jewellers painstakingly solder fine, pliable threads of precious metal which are then twisted or curled into a beautiful artistic motif or design of the jewellery, or in this case, the Filigree Wristwear. The word can also be used to describe anything that is very delicate or fanciful. This technique, which has been used for hundreds of years, can take the shape of gorgeous scroll-work, lacy flourishes, symmetrical Art-Deco style designs, and other fascinating motifs. This particular coin was selected as the centrepiece of the Filigree Wristwear because of its flower-shaped scallop design. The dodecagon curve represents the twelve hours of a timepiece.
Imperial III Automatic Wristwear: The third series of its maiden collection, Imperial III houses an antique 70-year-old King George VI coin. George VI was the last ruler of the British Empire and the first head of the Commonwealth. His reign witnessed the transition of India from a colony to a democracy.
These self-winding or automatic watches are crafted with an Automatic Miyota Movement from Citizen and have a power reserve of 50 hours. Sitting on top of the gold-plated case is a dome-shaped sapphire crystal. Inspired by the edges of a coin, the Bezel has a similar design. The watch has an analogue display and weighs 110 gm. This entire range of watches is water resistant and can resist water up to a depth of 50 meters (5 ATM).
How was your experience being on Shark Tank India and what is the lesson that you learnt from it?
GM: It was a metamorphic experience to be debuting my brand on a global show. I learnt a very valuable lesson from the sharks that lay impetus on the importance of having retail outlets in an era when everything is virtual. We immediately took up the learning and opened two stores, in Delhi and Jaipur, right after the episode. I am very happy to share that Anupam Mittal has become our client and ordered two watches from us. He recently got a watch made for Amitabh Bachchan and gifted him on the sets of KBC. In addition to this Jaipur Watch Company's website got over 50000+ visitors overnight and gained 1000+ followers on Instagram.
How large is the market for bespoke watches in India, and what are the challenges and opportunities present in this space?
GM: When it comes to Bespoke watches, crafting every watch is a meticulous process, as we aimed to create collectibles and heirlooms connoting a story and the mastery of artistry. The creation of each watch is a combination of multiple steps/parts. The challenge we face is the lack of ancillary industries offering components for fine watches. Moreover, since the product we offer is unique and one of a kind, it requires extremely limited quantity but the superior quality of parts. Sourcing them at this quantity is an issue, thus we end up developing most of the products in-house, in order to create limited yet supreme quality products. Lack of quality infrastructure is a challenge that is a primary concern for domestic watchmakers.
How has the market for luxury watches evolved over the last five years?
GM: When we started in 2013, there was no player nor was there a concept of a micro brand fine watch manufacturer in India. It was a new territory for anyone to explore. We took the leap of faith based on the confidence that there will be an opportunity for a unique offering and the risk has paid off.
The Indian market has been heavily dominated by Swiss Brands when it comes to Luxury Watches. The Indian Watch market at present is approximated to be at a size of INR 10,000 crore with a contribution of roughly 20 per cent from International Brands.
Our Journey is just 10 years old in this market, but from our experience I can comment that the market has matured, there is space for newer brands and with the matured audience there is certainly a liking and appreciation for Indian Fine Watches.
The sale from last year has increased by 250 per cent, which I guess is a decent jump. 50 per cent of our sales happen in the same circle. We had been restrictive for the first five years. We have operated through direct retail and through stores within hotels. In the coming years, we now want to enter major cities and want to start tying up with trade partners. We want to test the waters.
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N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe can be contacted at email@example.com