A dialogue with time: An interview with Nirupesh Joshi of Bangalore Watch Company

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In the bustling streets of Bangalore, amidst the hum of technology and the pulse of innovation, there exists a haven of tradition and craftsmanship – Bangalore Watch Company. Founded in 2018 by Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj, this unique horological venture is not just about telling time; it’s about capturing moments, weaving narratives, and embracing the cultural tapestry of India.

In a conversation with Business Today, Nirupesh Joshi, co-founder of Bangalore Watch Company, we delve into the heart of this burgeoning brand. Beyond the glitz and glamour of luxury, we uncover the soulful essence that sets Bangalore Watch Company apart – a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity, storytelling and precision.

In this intimate conversation, Joshi shares the inspiration behind the brand’s inception, the meticulous process of bringing each timepiece to life, and the profound significance of infusing Indian narratives into their designs. From the iconic Mach 1 collection to the heartfelt homage paid to women in aviation with the Silk Scarf series, every watch tells a story – a story of resilience, of heritage, and of the indomitable spirit of India.

PD: Can you elaborate on the inspiration behind the creation of the Bangalore Watch Company and its vision for redefining luxury wristwatches in India?

NJ: Bangalore Watch Company was created with a vision to build high-quality watches from India with modern-Indian narratives. We strongly feel that the grammar of Indian watch design is outdated – India is not just a country of gods, snake-charmers, and elephants anymore. India-themed watch designs are still stuck in the past, and we feel that modern stories like our space program, our sports, and our women personalities of 21st-century India should be brought out through thoughtfully designed narratives in watchmaking. That is what the brand set out to do, and that is what we’ve been doing since our founding in 2018.

PD: How does Bangalore Watch Company incorporate elements of Indian culture and heritage into its timepiece designs, particularly with collections like the Mach 1, Cover Drive, and Apogee?

NJ: First, everything starts with a story. We look for deep and meaningful stories that inspire us and ones that could potentially inspire others. We then spend months in design figuring out how to translate the elements of the story into design features of the watch. For example, all the MACH 1 watches have a crown that is shaped like an afterburner nozzle of a fi. All our Apogee watches have the Sriharikota spaceport’s lat-long location on the dial. These design elements in the watches make us very proud.

PD: Could you discuss the significance of the MACH 1 Silk Scarf collection in honouring women in aviation, and how it reflects the brand’s commitment to storytelling through its watches?

NJ: The MACH 1 collection was created in 2019 as a celebration of stories from Indian aviation. Since 2019, the MACH 1 has included watches that celebrate our Air Force stories, and ones that celebrate stories from our naval aviation. Through Silk Scarf, the MACH 1 collection enters the realm of India’s civil aviation.

India leads the world with 15% women as commercial pilots whereas mature markets like the USA only have 5% women pilots in commercial aviation. Indian women in aviation inspire millions of young girls to look up and aspire.

This is a story worth celebrating, and the Silk Scarf celebrates this story.

PD: What sets Bangalore Watch Company apart from other luxury watch brands, both in terms of design philosophy and craftsmanship?

NJ: All luxury watch brands are now available in India. We understand that our customers have several choices in the price segment we operate in.

However, Bangalore Watch Company is the first, and only watch brand to bring modern Indian narratives in watchmaking. This has never been done before, and we’re very proud of setting the direction here. We are committed to telling modern Indian stories through world-class watchmaking.

In terms of quality, all our watches are world-class – they are meant to last our customers a lifetime of wear. We promise this through the quality of components used, the fit and finish, and the attention to detail in finishing.

For instance, all our watches are powered by Swiss-made automatic movements (that require no batteries) that are also used in Swiss luxury brands, they’re all built with the highest grade of steel that guarantees corrosion resistance, and all our watches come fitted with anti-scratch Sapphire crystals.

The designs we choose, and our commitment to quality give customers a story they can wear on their wrists for a lifetime.

PD: How has the response been to Bangalore Watch Company’s approach to blending modernity with Indian themes in its timepiece collections?

NJ: Today, we make about 1000 watches annually. 25% of our customers are overseas, while the rest are in India. Since 2018, we have shipped our watches to more than 30 countries. We have had a very positive response to the themes and designs over the past few years. Notably, the aviation and space collections are highly regarded worldwide both in the watch circles and otherwise.

PD: Can you share insights into the process of designing, engineering, and assembling watches in Bangalore, and how this local approach contributes to the brand’s identity?

NJ: An interesting trivia – we consider Bangalore as ground zero for watchmaking in India. HMT was headquartered here, and there is a lot of watchmaking industry here still.

Our process of designing, engineering, and assembling watches in Bangalore is a meticulous journey that spans 12-14 months for each collection. First, our design team draws inspiration from stories we see around us today, incorporating elements that reflect the essence of modern India. The engineering phase focuses on precision and innovation, ensuring each timepiece’s design meets our high standards matching the Swiss NIHS standards.

The assembly process is a labour of love, with skilled watchmakers meticulously bringing together the components in our workshop in Bangalore. This local approach emphasises our commitment to quality but also creates a unique identity for the brand. Bringing watches to life in Bangalore is a celebration of our roots.

PD: With the increasing prevalence of digital watches and smart wearables, what do you believe draws consumers towards the timeless elegance of analogue watches?

NJ: Smart wearables offer a very tangible benefit – we hear our customers use smart wearables not because they’re ‘cool’, but because they help them keep track of their health and wellness goals.

An automatic watch that is well-made does not really offer a tangible benefit. You don’t need one to tell the time. But it allows you to create emotional bonds – be it a watch that was passed down in the family, or one you purchased for your promotion, there is always a personal story associated with a well-made watch that cannot be replaced by any digital gadget. Digital devices have a short life, while a well-made watch lasts you a lifetime.

PD: As co-founder of Bangalore Watch Company, what challenges did you face transitioning from tech-consulting careers abroad to venturing into the world of watchmaking in India?

NJ: I’d be dishonest if I said it was easy!

Transitioning from a tech-consulting career abroad to venturing into the world of watchmaking in India posed its own set of challenges. Adapting to a new industry required a deep dive into the intricacies of horology, and understanding the nuances of design, engineering, and the technology specific to watches.

Navigating the local business landscape in India, with its unique dynamics and regulations, presented its challenges too. Building a global supply chain, establishing partnerships with skilled workers, and ensuring quality control are tasks that demand a hands-on approach. The shift from a consulting background to the luxury industry required a mindset adjustment and a commitment to learning the ropes of a different trade.

However, I see them as opportunities to grow, unlearn, and reinvent yourself. Thanks to our customers worldwide, the journey has been both personally and professionally gratifying.

PD: How does Bangalore Watch Company aim to expand its presence in the luxury watch market in India and beyond, considering the competitive landscape and evolving consumer preferences?

NJ: Building any brand is hard, but building a luxury watch brand brings a very unique set of challenges – operational, technical, and financial. Since our beginning, Bangalore Watch Company has been operating as an online-only brand. This allowed us to focus on building out collections, listening to our customers, seeing what designs are received well, and the ones that aren’t. By keeping operations direct and online, we reduced the operational, and financial complexity while staying focused on our customers. We also used these years to build an Ownership Experience program that my Co-Founder Mercy Amalraj oversees today.

With this solid foundation, the plan for the next few years is to simply reach out to customers in more places. This will involve an omnichannel strategy, marketing activations, and brand partnerships.

We hear loud and clear that our customers want two things from our watches – they want an authentic story, and they want exclusivity. If we continue to stay as a small-independent brand making just a few thousand watches each year with incredible backstories, our customers will continue to love what we do!

PD: Can you speak to the future direction of Bangalore Watch Company and any upcoming collections or collaborations that enthusiasts can look forward to?

NJ: We play those cards very close to our chest. So, I won’t be able to reveal much. However, the general direction for the brand will be the following:

Tell new stories within the existing themes of Aviation, Sports, and Space. There will be new watches in each of these lines in 2024.”

Continue to look for new themes that inspire us, and hopefully others too. We have identified 3 new themes that will launch in succession starting in 2024 and well into 2025.

There are also brand collaborations in the pipeline that allow us to tell these stories more impactfully. We’ll have to speak later in 2024 so I can tell you more.

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