The Mach 1 – Bangalore Watch Company’s timepiece paying tribute to the Indian Air Force’s MiG 21 – and the way it turned out in the metal is something I honestly couldn’t have imagined coming from an Indian-origin watch. Their Renaissance collection (which we reviewed here) was quite pleasing, of course, in terms of quality and finish, but the Mach 1 is where BWC really decided to bring the heat.
In a nutshell
The Mach 1 is a sporty, aviation-inspired (pilot’s) watch with the MiG 21 as its muse. The MiG 21 was the Indian Air Force’s first supersonic fighter jet, serving the forces for half a century. This is what the Bangalore Watch Company timepiece celebrates and salutes. There are deft touches like the IAF tricolour fin-flash on the dial, afterburner nozzle shaped crown, and a case back that has 3 MiG 21 aircrafts etched in a V-formation. This is a great example of a tribute done right.
On the wrist, the tool character of the watch is unmistakable and it’s a joy to wear because of how harmoniously each of the dial details play off each other. Every time I look down for the time, there’s a cockpit instrument looking back at me, bringing out my inner child fascinated by all things military.
While the restrained and elegant Renaissance may not be the most ‘Indian’ watch, strictly speaking, the Mach 1 is quite out there about it, without being over the top. It’s a solid watch with meaningful inspiration and sophisticated design. And this subtlety in design, along with strong focus on quality are fast becoming Bangalore Watch Company’s brand signatures.
Mach 1 Aviator: Specifications
- 42mm case made of 316L surgical-grade stainless steel; water resistant to 100 meters; 11mm thickness
- Swiss Made Sellita SW220-1 Automatic mechanical movement with 38 hour power reserve; day and date functions displayed on a colour-matched black wheel
- Sapphire crystal over dial with anti-reflective coating
- Screw-down crown in the shape of MiG 21’s afterburner nozzle; etched with BWC logo
- Engraved case back showing a formation of 3 MiG 21 jets along with other model details
- 3D numbers on the dial with Super-LumiNova
- Canvas fabric strap with leather lining; stainless steel buckle with BWC logo; quick-release spring bars (comes in black, though BWC plans to offer other colours for separate purchase in the near future)
The Mach 1 collection comprises of four watches in total. There are two dial layouts, with each layout offered in a stainless steel case or a black PVD-coated stainless steel case. The watch seen here has the ‘Aviator’ dial where the minutes appear prominently on the dial. The other variant – ‘Civilian’ – has the hour markers displayed most prominently on the dial.
In our interview with the founders, we had discussed issues around watch manufacturing infrastructure in India, and how BWC are genuinely trying to make a watch that’s more Indian. So for the Mach 1, the pencil hands are made in India, as are the fabric straps. Further, final assembly and all quality checks are carried out in Bangalore. The brand’s transparency around their supply chain inspires a lot of trust and we do hope the next release takes the share of Made in India parts a step further.
First impressions of BWC’s Mach 1
I was fortunate to see a prototype of this watch, prior to its announcement, while meeting founders Nirupesh and Mercy. It was hard to contain my excitement when I first saw the watch. Because even outside of the tribute elements, what struck me right away was what a refined and mature design it was, with quality finishes thanks to which it could confidently take on any other international product in its price bracket. Essentially, an objectively handsome, well-built watch with eye-catching design cues.
From the case’s sheen to the matte black dial to the ridged crown, each of the prominent visual elements have a sophistication about them. This is something one absolutely expects when spending this kind of money on a timepiece.
The dial, for me, is the star of the show, with its instrument vibe making for a look that’s rugged as well as smart. And I’m especially impressed with how the brand has managed to integrate each of the many dial elements in a way that maintains visual balance. It isn’t uncommon to find this harmony of proportions lacking on watches that cost a whole lot more, so kudos to BWC.
Another thing to note is that the concept of thoughtful thematic packaging is carried over from the Renaissance. The Mach 1’s box is a Pelican-style utility case with a tough, military character that vibes well with what’s inside. That the brand designed new packaging for this model says a lot about their attention to detail because it’s all too easy to go for a one-and-done approach with something like box design.
What makes the Mach 1 a great tribute watch?
Simply put: subtlety and quality. Because let’s face it – the sound of an IAF MiG 21 tribute watch will catch your attention and stir up some emotion. And therein lies the temptation to magnify and amp it up. Bangalore Watch Company practiced admirable restraint here.
In the case of the Mach 1, there are three key tribute elements – tricolour on the dial, afterburner nozzle shaped crown and the etched MiG 21 aircrafts. The tricolour represented is the IAF’s fin flash (a global identifier for the forces) rather than going for the national flag; the afterburner crown is a subtle twist on the onion crowns typically seen on Flieger or pilot’s watches, and the MiG 21s themselves are invisible until you turn the watch over. So neither of these really jump out at you, allowing the Mach 1 to feel more subtly tasteful, notwithstanding its sporty constitution.
From numeral typography to the paint on the red-tipped seconds hand, the watch exudes an aura of quality no matter which way you slice it. The machined crown looks great, as does the case-back engraving, without any half-measures or rough edges.
Without this focus on subtlety and quality, an IAF-inspired watch could have ended up looking gimmicky. Instead, we’ve got a smart, everyday watch, but with enough juice in the backstory to form an emotional bond with the wearer.
Speaking of strong emotional bonds, Bangalore Watch Company actually made another variant of the Mach 1 in a very limited run of 21 pieces, called the Mach 1X, where the dial was actually made from the skin of a decommissioned MiG 21! Doubtlessly, they sold out fast. Very fast. I’m really glad that that wasn’t the only variant of the Mach 1, because for a product this solid, I feel more people should get a chance to experience it.
Mach 1 on the wrist
The Mach 1 has a 42mm case, but appears a little more compact, thanks to short, downward sloping lugs, a pie-pan rehaut (which reduces the size of the dial cutout) and a dial which has a few things going on. Lug to lug, it measures 48mm, making it easily wearable even on my 6.25 inch wrist. Legibility is great, the grippy crown is fun to operate and the strap is comfortable enough once it breaks-in, as it starts out a bit stiff.
The review unit was accompanied by an extra grey fabric strap that I quickly swapped out with the black that comes stock on the watch. It was a breeze thanks to the quick release spring bars on both. I felt the grey strap accentuated the military look and appeal of the watch and was very enjoyable. I also got the impression that the watch would look great on a range of leather straps too – from distressed browns to dull reds.
A switch to leather is also something to consider if you’re looking at the Mach 1 as a daily wearer, which it is more than capable of being. The fabric strap is a great design fit with the mood and genre of the watch, but does limit wearability in more dressy situations.
The feel of living with the Mach 1
Apart from wearing comfort, thanks to the 11mm thickness and compact lug-to-lug distance, there are two things which really stand out as most enjoyable. One is the general sense of adventure and purpose I felt by strapping on a watch with uninhibited tool character. This ‘who-do-you-wanna-be-today’ is just something that good, purpose-built watches inspire. Second was the torch bright lume, which went bonkers at the slightest exposure to photons of any kind. The 3D numbers, which provide good depth to the dial, seem to have been given an exceptionally generous application of Super-LumiNova. My appreciation for everything that went into making the Mach 1 only grew as I spent more days with it, mostly because of how good I felt at every instance of checking the time.
Between the sapphire crystal, screw-down crown, 100 meters of water resistance and a nicely brushed case, you’ve got all boxes checked on a sturdy watch that you don’t need to worry much about because it’ll comfortably take the rigours of daily life and more. Accuracy is decent on my review unit – about +15 seconds per day, which is acceptable for the category.
A (very) brief history of pilot’s watches
The design approach to the Mach 1 Aviator and Civilian variants is loosely inspired by the style of watches that were produced for pilots of the German Air Force during World War II. An airman or aviator in German translates to “Flieger” and over time, this term has come to define the entire genre of pilot’s watches.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the German administration commissioned watches for pilots with two types of dials – Type A, where the hour markers were prominently printed on the dial, and Type B, where the minute markers were prominently printed instead. These were large watches with 55mm cases that stressed on legibility and the ability of these watches to be worn over flight suits, with crowns that could be operated with gloves on. This single-minded dedication to purpose and utility is what, in large part, drives the appeal of military watches for watch collectors today.
Bangalore Watch Company have created their own take on the Type A (on the Mach 1 Civilian) and Type B (on the Mach 1 Aviator) dials. What’s great is that it’s a spin on an idea without being derivative in any way. While I personally prefer the Type A dial on more traditional Flieger designs, I found the Mach 1 Aviator (the one featured in this hands-on) singing to me more because of dial balance and the appearance of complexity due to more markings on the dial compared to the Mach 1 Civilian. In either avatar, I’m just glad the Mach 1 exists in context of Indian watches.
Buying and pricing
Stainless steel versions of the Mach 1 (both Aviator or Civilian) have a price of ₹48,930 or $680, whereas black PVD versions known as the Stealth Fighters have a price of ₹52,430 or $730. The watches can be ordered online on the Bangalore Watch Company website BangaloreWatchCo.in. Details of all available variants of the Mach 1 can be explored here.
Pricing is higher than the Renaissance Automatic, but BWC have addressed two of the most common points of feedback they received when the Renaissance Automatic launched – one was using Swiss Made movements rather than Japanese and another around having a more Indian back story.
The question of value is subjective, as always, but it most certainly helps to see the watch in the metal to appreciate the extent to which all details have been considered. That’s what happened with me in the process of spending time with it for this story. Being an online brand at the moment, Bangalore Watch Company doesn’t have any physical points of retail. But look out for city events they’ve started hosting around the country – they post all updates about it on their Instagram handle. Even otherwise, founders Nirupesh and Mercy are very responsive and enjoy speaking to anyone with an interest in the brand. So reach out to them with any questions you may have ([email protected]).
All things considered, the Mach 1 is a great timepiece for watch geeks and Indophiles alike. The watch makes a strong case as a sporty, daily watch as well as a meaningful memento that proudly draws from the military history of independent India. It’s a refined design with the right amount of tool character and is made to a high standard; this is why it’s been received so favourably by the international watch media as well.
Though the brand itself is nothing like HMT, per se, and operates in a very different segment, this is the HMT Pilot of our modern time, if you know what I mean. I say that because the Mach 1 is able to stir emotions in a somewhat similar manner – whether through Bangalore on the dial, the tricolour fin flash or the laser-etched case-back.
In case of the Mach 1, the pilot’s design has been combined seamlessly with the aviation backstory, while resting on the strength of its quality and detail-driven approach. This has resulted in a timepiece that I’m truly proud to call Indian at heart.
Who’s it for: Aviation buff or military fan with a fondness for fine watches
Talking point: No, they didn’t get the flag wrong; it’s the Indian Air Force’s fin flash
Best thing about it: The subtlety with which tribute elements have been integrated
Winning combination: Refined design + top-notch execution
One thing I’d change: I wonder how the watch would look if the hands were *just* a tad broader
Amish is India’s first Watch Expert, certified by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), Switzerland.
If you have any questions or thoughts about Bangalore Watch Company or its watches, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!