Bangalore Watch Company - Indian Watch Brand - Renaissance Automatic Mechanical Dress Watch - Mach 1 Mig 21 tribute Pilot watch - Online interview with founders Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj of BWC

Interview A Conversation With Nirupesh Joshi And Mercy Amalraj Of Bangalore Watch Company

A freewheeling chat with the founders of the promising, homegrown watch brand, on what it means to create timepieces that carry stories and emotions of modern India.

by Amish Behl

Watches are among the most deeply personal and emotionally powerful objects, once you look past the glitz and see them as carriers of life experiences and markers of memories. If you’ve read anything on Definitely Curry in the past, you would have a hint about my not-so-secret obsession with watches and all things to do with horology. And the seriousness of the obsession has brought me the good fortune of being the country’s only Watch Expert from the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), Switzerland (I can imagine it may surprise you that such a thing actually exists).

Naturally, it’s been a personal desire to bring watches to this platform, but there’s not a whole lot to choose from when you think of Indian brands making fine watches that are interesting or remarkable. But pleasant surprises are a real thing, as I discovered with Bangalore Watch Company.

Bangalore Watch Company is an Indian watch brand founded in 2017 with an aim to create fine timepieces that are Indian at heart, made with the top quality materials and close attention to detail. Their watches have clean, conservative designs with little flourishes that distinguish them; well-put together packages, overall. The men’s watches use mechanical movements, and sapphire crystals are standard across the board.

Bangalore Watch Company - Indian Watch Brand - Renaissance Automatic Mechanical Dress Watch - Mach 1 Mig 21 tribute Pilot watch - Online interview with founders Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj of BWC

The factors that brought us Bangalore Watch Company

In broad terms, Indian watches essentially mean two brands to most people – HMT and Titan. While the former is a missed opportunity and an emotional tragedy for many, Titan charges on and continues to make battery-powered quartz watches at scale to cater to the entry-level watch buyer on a budget. This leaves a rather wide gap for those looking for mechanical watches that hold up to scrutiny of quality and finish, while maintaining an Indian connection.

Now in the last couple of years, a notable trend in the world of watches has been the establishment of new, independent watch brands that are able to take advantage of excess watch-part manufacturing capacity in the East. Without any historical design baggage, weight of expectation or bloated corporate hierarchy, they are free to create exactly what they want with ears to the ground. This is a key factor that has enabled the advent of brands like Bangalore Watch Company. 

Rise of the independent watch brand

Today’s young, independent watch brands (also sometimes referred to as micro-brands) can execute their vision, tell their stories, create for the market niche they intend to serve and pay close personal attention to design, details and quality. They are supported by centres like Hong Kong that aren’t typically considered watchmaking capitals, but are well-equipped to manufacture high-quality parts with precision. 

And while this means Bangalore Watch Company don’t make their watches completely in India; each of their watches is undoubtedly inspired by the sub-continent with a uniquely rooted identity. They are creating for India and also source locally, to the extent skills and capabilities permit (more on this in the interview below). We can indeed hope that by supporting ideas like these, the demand for better indigenous watch manufacturing will drive improvements on that front, to build a more sophisticated eco-system.

Bangalore Watch Company - Indian Watch Brand - Renaissance Automatic Mechanical Dress Watch - Mach 1 Mig 21 tribute Pilot watch - Online interview with founders Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj of BWC

BWC’s newest release – Mach 1 – takes inspiration from the MiG 21 aircraft

Though mind you, not all manufacturing in the Eastern side of the world is inexpensive and of questionable quality. Not even close. In fact, most Swiss watches aren’t 100% Swiss made (they need to have 60% Swiss value; so you can add two and two). At the moment, I’m just really happy a brand like Bangalore Watch Company exists; because they care about offering a product that’s refined in design, high on quality and proud of the Indian quotient it holds. 

Bangalore Watch Company: A brief introduction

Bangalore Watch Company was founded in 2017 by couple Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj, who are (unsurprisingly) based in the city from which the brand takes its name. They worked in different countries in the tech industry before moving back home to give flight to the idea of a homegrown watch brand that resonates emotionally with the modern Indian.

So far, they have launched three watches – two for men, one for ladies – with more in the pipeline. One of the men’s watches is an elegant, mechanical dress watch (Renaissance), while another is a pilot-style design with a more sporty vibe (Mach 1). The ladies watch is a classic, formal design with a sunburst dial and a Swarovski studded bezel (Renaissance Stri). I’ve had the opportunity to see all three in person. Honestly, looking at the diversity, attention to detail and emphasis on quality finishing really intrigued me – these traits are not all that common. With this in mind, I sat down with Nirupesh and Mercy with questions about their vision for the brand and pushing the boundaries of what an India-imagined watch can mean.

It’s a fresh take and an honest story. Let’s dive in.

Bangalore Watch Company - Indian Watch Brand - Renaissance Automatic Mechanical Dress Watch - Mach 1 Mig 21 tribute Pilot watch - Online interview with founders Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj of BWC

Renaissance Automatic – BWC’s debut watch


Interview

Amish Behl:

Having your own brand of watches is something many people only dream about, and both of you have actually gone ahead and done it. But India and watches aren’t exactly inextricably linked; so what’s your driving vision for Bangalore Watch Company?

Bangalore Watch Company:

Why do you wear wristwatches today? When you start this journey, they serve one purpose to you – to be a fashionable accessory. By the time you buy your second, third and eventually, maybe, the tenth wristwatch, you’d be more invested in buying serious wristwatches from serious watchmakers. While complications and designs are always exciting, the stories that these watchmakers tell you through their creations are what tug the heartstrings after all. Sometimes, the simplest of watches have such deep and meaningful emotional connections because of the stories associated with them. Be it the Speedmaster ‘moonwatch’ (the watch that went to the moon) by Omega, the IWC Big Pilot, or perhaps your grandfather’s vintage West End Watch Co, their stories are what makes them special

Mercy and I lived overseas when we took a special interest in fine watchmakers from around the world. When we looked back home though, we noticed that there wasn’t a watch company that was telling deep, meaningful stories from India that we could connect to emotionally. And that was the founding vision of BWC – to produce world-class watches, that tell stories from India.

 

Amish Behl:

The gap you mentioned does exist, but I imagine you’ve had to battle some misconceptions here, when catering to Indians for an object like a wristwatch? 

Bangalore Watch Company:

If I were to ask who makes the best watches in the world – the answer is almost always the Swiss. While there is an element of truth to it, the most unorthodox, innovative ideas in watchmaking in recent years have come from non-Swiss brands. I know the sound of “an Indian-origin fine watchmaking brand” doesn’t sit well when you think the Swiss make the best watches. But our challenge of having to deconstruct this perception is not just ours. Many of the Indian-origin brands – ones we’ve come to love – have had to fight those uphill battles too.

We’re committed to the cause of producing watches that we can proudly call world-class while telling stories from India. Indians at home and overseas today are well-traveled, well-read, and have begun to ask questions about the origin of products they use, and seek the stories and inspirations behind them. If you’re reading this on Definitely Curry, you’re one among them – and you give us the confidence to charge ahead!

 

Bangalore Watch Company - Indian Watch Brand - Renaissance Automatic Mechanical Dress Watch - Mach 1 Mig 21 tribute Pilot watch - Online interview with founders Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj of BWC

There wasn’t a watch company that was telling deep, meaningful stories from India that we could connect to emotionally.Nirupesh Joshi, Founder of Bangalore Watch Company
Amish Behl:

That makes your target audience somewhat niche, doesn’t it? Your newest release – MACH 1 – for example, is a very specific product. Has that ever been a concern?

Bangalore Watch Company:

If you are an enthusiast and are in the habit of buying watches often, you’d understand the technical details of what goes into a good quality watch, and you’ll have an appreciation for our watches. Whereas if you’re a buyer looking for your first serious watch, you will be able to relate to the stories our watches tell. They are compelling products in their segment – being not only high quality timepieces that you can cherish for years to come, but also ones that you can proudly wear because of their Indian connection. We’re very proud of where our watches stand in terms of design and quality and we’ll continue to broaden our catalogue to introduce more styles that appeal to new audiences. 

The BWC catalogue and how it has evolved. Renaissance Automatic, Renaissance Stri and Mach 1 (left to right).

 
Amish Behl:

Your current catalogue consists of two very distinct lines of watches. I’m sure bringing these ideas to life must be incredibly rewarding. Can you tell us a little bit about the design and development process?

Bangalore Watch Company:

Yes! It is incredibly rewarding when owners email to tell us how much they enjoyed the unboxing experience or the compliments they receive about the watches.

The time for the design and development of each collection is about 9 months long: we always start with the story. Our debut – the Renaissance Automatic – pays tribute to mid-century watches from India, and our recent release the MACH 1 pays tribute to the first supersonic fighter-jet of the Indian Air Force. 

Once the story, inspiration, and vision for the collection are clear, we move to design that starts as rudimentary mood boards and sketches. These sketches are then translated to 2D drawings, and at this point, the technical specifications (like movements, complications, components) are locked down. We then proceed to 3D rendering where colours and surface finishes are finalised. This is followed by the 2D/3D drawings being translated to manufacturing blueprints, which lead to our first physical prototypes.

By this point, we’ve already invested 3-4 months into the project and we get a first glimpse of the physical product in hand. After this, 3-4 months are spent in perfecting the prototypes and moving to production, assembly, and quality checks. It is like birthing a child; as any product owner, emotions run high when we see the first production samples in hand, but it is a very rewarding process.

 

 
Amish Behl:

Speaking of prototyping and production, we’ve not seen much local capability development in terms of mid or upper range watch manufacturing. You must have faced those challenges too?

Bangalore Watch Company:

There is a general misconception that a watch brand produces all components in-house. Most brands design their watches in-house and contract the manufacturing of specialised parts to various suppliers. There are suppliers that do a great job in finishing the watch case, and then there are ones that are specialists in producing hands. No single company can specialise in all areas – it’s very similar to the automotive manufacturing industry. 

There is a large watch component manufacturing Industry in India today, it employs thousands of people in and around Bangalore and thousands more in Gujarat. The challenge, though, is that these manufacturers are built for large volume production in quality levels that are far lower than the components we use in our watches. This is largely owing to demands from their customers and no fault of theirs. In short, over 90% of the components we use in our watches today are designed in-house and manufactured by some of the best suppliers that we’ve selected overseas after an extended search, meetings, and factory visits.

 

Amish Behl:

Do you think the India contribution can increase down the road? I believe you’ve incorporated more local components in your latest watch – the Mach 1.

Bangalore Watch Company:

The hands of the MACH 1 Collection are produced by a manufacturer in Bangalore that is arguably one of the best in the world in producing watch-hands. Our next collection will most likely have dials produced in India too. It is a constant endeavour to look for manufacturers in India that can meet our quality expectations. And we’d certainly hope to find more in the future.

 

 
Amish Behl:

That’s an encouraging sign. I’m sure you’ve studied the market here; what’s your take on the evolution of the Indian watch buyer or collector? 

Bangalore Watch Company:

I think many watch buyers are still looking for a fashion accessory that isn’t too taxing on their wallet. However, the collector’s community has become very mature in the recent few years. There is an increasing trend to move away from the well-known watchmakers to seeking out independent watch brands from around the world. I recently met with a collector in Bangalore who had a Greubel Forsey in his collection. Yet another collector in Mumbai showed me his prized Kari Voutilainen. And we recently witnessed H. Moser & Cie launch in India. So this space is getting really exciting!

 

Amish Behl:

The independent watchmakers you mentioned work with retailers in different parts of the world. Without physical points of retail, how do you connect or interact with your audiences?

Bangalore Watch Company:

As a young brand, we value the importance of understanding our customers, their feedback, their likes, and dislikes. Over the past year and a half we’ve stayed as an online-only brand and that has allowed us to get really close to our owners and patrons. We have almost a white-glove treatment with a very engaged, very vocal, owner’s community. Being a small brand, our owners value the direct interaction they have with Mercy or me when they call or email us. We’ve learned a lot from this. Physical points of retail is a very important part of our future plans.

 

Amish Behl:

What else can we expect from Bangalore Watch Company in the near future?

Bangalore Watch Company:

More collections, more stories, and very exciting watches that we hope you’ll love wearing.

 

Bangalore Watch Company - Indian Watch Brand - Renaissance Automatic Mechanical Dress Watch - Mach 1 Mig 21 tribute Pilot watch - Online interview with founders Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj of BWC

Renaissance Stri – the ladies offering from BWC

 
Amish Behl:

Finally, what’s your take on the indie, homegrown space in India? Any personal favourites?

Bangalore Watch Company:

Running an Indian-origin brand ourselves, we’re huge fans of the Indie space in India. Some indie-brands have become a part of our lives not just because we love their concepts and stories, but we’ve come to appreciate how good their products are. Korra jeans are definitely on top of our list, alongside Bombay Shirt Company, San Cha Tea, and some wonderful chocolate brands from South India.


We’ll be going hands-on with the Renaissance, Stri and Mach 1 watches from Bangalore Watch Company real soon. Stay tuned for our hands-on features.

BWC’s collections can be explored on their website BangaloreWatchCo.in. Renaissance Automatic is priced at ₹38,799, Renaissance Stri is priced between ₹28,799 – ₹32,799 and the Mach 1 is priced between ₹48,930 – ₹52,430.

BangaloreWatchCo.in

What’s your take on a watch brand from India? Do you connect with Bangalore Watch Company’s ethos? Please do leave your thoughts and questions below. And if you found this story interesting, please spread the indie goodness by sharing it!

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