Bengaluru techie couple launches fine watchmaking startup inspired by HMT; to come out with women's collection next

A break from their hectic tech careers led a Bengaluru couple take the leap to become entrepreneurs in 2016. Nrupesh Joshi and wife Mercy Amalraj, both 37-years-old, had led high flying tech careers which took them across the world on work. Tired of the constant moves across the globe, the duo took a sabbatical and began exploring options on what to do next. It was then that they decided to retrace their steps towards their shared passion for watches.

Earlier, Joshi, who worked in Hong Kong as director of services for Akamai, would tour boutique watch shops with Amalraj. From A Lange & Sohne, Patek Philippe, Jaeger leCoultre, Vacheron Constantine, every luxury watch available in the world was there in the boutique shops but the duo wondered why there was none from India.

“HMT and Titan are all great watch brands with a cult following but none of them is in the fine watchmaking league of the world,” recalled Joshi.

Joshi and Amalraj decided to take it upon themselves to launch a Made in India brand and thus became entrepreneurs in the process. Both call Bangalore their home where they have been working for almost two decades before Joshi’s job took them across the world. Once they made up their mind to take the entrepreneurial plunge, they decided it had to be from their comfort zone in Bengaluru and thus was launched the Bangalore Watch Company in 2017.

Co-founders Mercy Amalraj and Nirupesh Joshi

Co-founders Mercy Amalraj and Nirupesh Joshi

They named the firm Bangalore Watch Company as they said Bengaluru has perhaps the most interesting association to India’s watchmaking past with HMT, Hegde & Golay headquartered there, and Titan’s majority operations are being run out of the city now. “So there was no better way to identify ourselves than having our city’s name proudly tied to our brand,” said Amalraj.

“Our affordable microbrand was started out of a singular desire to reacquaint gentlemen with fine watches of Indian origin,” said Joshi, who is also head of design in the firm. “There are no watch brands in the country today that produce high-quality watches, that try to tell stories from India. Bangalore Watch Company does that, and that is very unique,” he claimed.

Watch brands in India fall largely under two categories: Swiss watches in the range of Rs 60,000 and above and the affordable range starting from Rs 2,000 and below. A segment in between with fashion brands—primarily sought-after brands in apparel that also make watches—such as Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Esprit and others are available between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000. Bangalore Watch Company calls itself the bridge-to-luxury segment with watches pegged at Rs 35,000 and below Rs 50,000.

Microbrands are gathering steam world over and just like the tribe of luxury watch enthusiasts there is a growing number of microbrands in the watches category. What sets this category apart is the love of the watch and its fine workmanship. They are manufactured and sold directly to customers online and there is no offline transactions or even showrooms thus cutting the unnecessary money spent on watch showrooms and on distribution. The watches come with a two-year guarantee.

Their first collection, ‘Renaissance Automatic’ focussed on men, taking inspiration from the erstwhile HMT Janata watch launched in the 60s. Though only 500 pieces were made, the collection of six automatic watch models has had many buyers from across the globe. It is priced at Rs 38,799. “To our surprise, a lot of women purchased it as they loved it and many prefer large watches,” said Joshi.

The Renaissance watch collection comes in two variants: a standard 40-millimetre diameter case made from surgical grade stainless steel, and a rose gold-plated stainless steel case variant. On the front of the case is a domed sapphire crystal, while the back has an exhibition case, whereby one can see the movement made by Citizen, Japan inside the watch. “The stainless steel case comes from Hong Kong and the crystal from Switzerland. We source leather and a few other small components from India,” said Joshi. The final assembly is done at a contracted watchmaking facility in Bengaluru.

The company is working on its second collection which is solely targeted at women. It is an exclusive women’s collection with a limited edition of 500 watches and besides leather straps like in the first collection, will also have steel bracelets. It will be out in May.

 

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Updated Date: Jan 02, 2019 18:50 PM

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