Bangalore Watch Company’s ‘Liftoff’
Bangalore Watch Company’s ‘Liftoff’

Amalraj’s watchmaking efforts have seen a careful study of by-the-books Swiss watchmaking principles; carefully pastiched onto the world of Indian aviation, cricket culture, and more. With their sights set on the final frontier with this month’s Karman Line launch, Bangalore Watch Company continues to impress—offering a captivating glimpse into an Indian watch company that is firmly focused on the future, rather than dwelling on the past

It’s easy to question the inception of a watchmaking company; especially one in India. Surviving in a cutthroat market with plenty of established Swiss and Japanese players doesn’t make it any easier, and with expectations and trends constantly evolving, it seems that the only answer is to play ambitiously, or not at all.

Bangalore Watch Company (BWC) has, in effect, accomplished this over its near-half-decade of crafting watches. Built off the life savings of husband-wife duo Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj, the globetrotting IT industry power couple found themselves channelling their passion for watches into a business—one that’s touched upon a variety of national motifs. The Cover Drive—a personal favourite of Joshi’s—riffs on cricket-world motifs and playfully practical nods to the Gentleman’s Game, while the Mach 1 channels a tribute to the world of Indian aviation.

The Apogee—a propreietary ‘CeraSteel’ cased sports watch designed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Indian Space Program—was the brand’s focus this week, as they unveiled a breathtaking achievement for Indian watchmaking; creating a truly space-worthy watch. The ‘Karman Line’ project, as it was named, began when BWC collaborated with a UK-based space-engineering firm to plan and conduct a stratospheric flight in early 2024. An ultra-light carbon-fibre spacecraft, carried by a high-altitude balloon, transported an Apogee watch to outer space, exposing it to the harsh environment of outer space.

The craft reached a peak altitude of 35 km above Earth, three times the height of commercial jets, before being remotely guided back to Earth for recovery. Despite extreme conditions, including -65°C temperatures and high shock forces upon re-entry, the watch remained functional throughout its spaceflight. Multiple 4K cameras captured the flight, documenting the watch's journey back to Earth.


Karman Line Desk Shot.jpg

Naturally, the company seized the chance to craft one of their most fascinating limited-editions to date. Fifty examples of the new ‘Apogee Karman Line’ were showcased this week, aiming to recreate the same quality standards of the original test Apogee, with an exciting twist; a dial made of blue PVD-coloured Muonionalusta meteorite. A rare relic from before the formation of the Earth itself, this delicate iron-nickel material offers a unique, Windmanstatten pattern that differs from watch to watch, and certainly steps up India’s game when it comes to sheer horological craftsmanship.

We caught up with Joshi as BWC showcased the new watch in Mumbai this week. Excerpts:


You lived in Hong Kong for quite a while before embarking on the Bangalore Watch Company journey. How did the city’s connection to luxury lifestyle culture influence you?

I joke about Hong Kong, and I say, "Hong Kong does not have a marathon." You need 42 kilometres for a marathon. If you do that in Hong Kong, you'll run into the Great Wall. Bad joke. When you're in such a small city, but there's such a concentration of luxury brands all around you, you cannot escape that buzz of luxury all around you. And obviously, you know, we lived in Boston for a while, we lived in Seoul, South Korea for a while. Then we moved to Hong Kong for a few years. 

Hong Kong is where the bug caught us. We started spending a lot of time in the watch boutiques in Hong Kong. Every time we picked up a beautiful watch at one of the boutiques and put it on our wrist and said, "I'm very close to buying it." And then I wonder, what do I have to do with NASA's 1965 mission? I'm a space buff; I love space. I've watched all space movies, read all space books, but I don't relate to it. I love Omega for what they do: the meta-certification, the technical complexities, the achievements, but emotionally, there was always something missing. Every time I picked up a luxury watch from one of the brands, and I put it on, like, "Fantastic watch. I love it. I can afford it." It just doesn't pull all the strings that I hope it would pull. I look back home and I say, "Is there something back home that gives me the same emotion that I want from this watch?" Unfortunately, that was missing. I have huge respect for Titan. For 30 years, we all grew up listening to the Mozart symphony of Titan. But then again, I wish the storytelling that comes from a respectable brand like that is related to the modern narratives that we want to see and not about some past, as you rightly said, right? So yes, absolutely. Hong Kong is probably where the spark was lit.


Other Watch displays by Bangalore Watch Company (1).JPG


What was your understanding of desirability before you started this company, and how did it change once you started becoming a watchmaker yourself?

I think desirability is evolutionary in nature. We all know Maslow's hierarchy of needs; our hierarchy of needs changes as we grow and mature and age. When we are younger, we want social recognition. So, we put on like a Michael Kors—and all due respect to Michael Kors—we put on like a Michael Kors or an Esprit watch and go tell our friends that I just bought an Esprit watch, or I just bought a Fossil watch. As you get older, you probably aspire to put on a Seiko because you think in-house movements are fantastic. And then when you go up, you want the Omega, and then when you're up as a VP in the company, you want the Rolex. And then when you're a president or a vice president, you want the Patek Calatrava, and then you get a Nautilus. 

When you go further up even from there—when you become a partner in an investment bank—they call it ‘F U money’. When you get F U money, you're back to the G Shocks because you don't give a damn about what anybody thinks about what you're wearing anymore. So, my point is, desirability is relative to your stage in life.

Now, we believe that desirability works very differently because there's a growing sentiment of people around the world that crave for using products and services that they can emotionally connect with. I think there's a growing number of people around the world where they crave for something that they can emotionally connect with. The definition of desirability is changing. People's desirability definition is now bringing them back closer to home than it was a decade ago. And this is an undeniable fact. 

The issue is that the desirability quotient hasn't reached all categories. We acknowledge that some categories benefit from being homemade, yet for others, I still gravitate towards European products. For instance, I'm not personally acquainted with Louis and Philippe or Peter and England, but their brands are the ones we've grown accustomed to wearing. Nevertheless, this trend of desirability is shifting.


Apogee Karman Line watch (1).JPG


Bringing things to the Apogee Karman Line—how did your team react when you presented the concept to them?

People didn't take me seriously when I first pitched my idea *laughs*. They dismissed it as "one of NJ's wild ideas," a reputation I've apparently earned in the office. I insisted, "We're really doing this." They responded, "Okay, when it takes shape, let us know, and we'll assess its feasibility from a customer standpoint." 

Mercy, who manages the ownership experience, and her team would then need to consider how to effectively present and package it for the customers, transforming what could be dismissed as an overly ambitious dream—like sending a watch to space—into a viable product. After all, we are running a business.

It took you two years to finish the project—what are some challenges you faced along the way?

Yes, I think there were two main issues. One was a very tense moment towards the end of the project with several false starts. We were uncertain about the launch—constantly oscillating between launching and not launching. We were remotely coordinating over the phone, which was nerve-wracking. We had set a target to launch the product in April, meaning everything needed to be ready by February. However, February is a challenging time to launch in the UK due to the weather. We kept asking over the phone, "Did the payload come back?" The reply was, "Yes, but we can't confirm if the watch is working because it's outside cellphone coverage. We'll know in three hours." We stayed up until midnight or later, anxiously waiting for that call to confirm if the watch was functional. That moment would determine the project's success.

The other issue was the sudden shortage of meteorites, crucial for our product's unique feature—the brilliant blue finish. We received a call out of the blue about this problem, which significantly complicated our planning. However, we managed to navigate these challenges, and we're now in the final stages with the product on pre-order, setting a 30-day expectation for deliveries. I believe we should successfully complete this soon.


Co-Founder Nirupesh Joshi at the launch of Apogee Karman Line by Bangalore Watch Company.JPGCo-Founder Nirupesh Joshi at the launch of Apogee Karman Line by Bangalore Watch Company


An interesting sales point is that a BWC is unlikely to be someone’s first expensive timepiece. What do you think about this?

You're right. A BWC watch is unlikely to be anyone's first expensive watch. We understand the market dynamics very well after six years of observation. Typically, people start with brands like Titan and Timex, then move on to what I'd describe as 'shopping mall watches'—brands like Esprit and Fossil, priced around 10,000 to 15,000 rupees. From there, they progress to Seiko or Tissot, and eventually to higher-end brands like Longines and Frederic Constant, continually moving up the ladder.
Currently, our watches are priced within the affordable luxury range, between one lakh to two and a half lakh rupees. 

We intend to maintain this price point. We recognize that it's more likely for people who already own luxury watches like Omegas and Rolexes to consider our brand as a secondary option, rather than someone moving up from lower-priced brands to choose a BWC as their first expensive watch. We understand this and are prepared to accept that compromise. Building the kind of aspiration that turns today's Seiko or Tissot buyer into a BWC buyer could take a decade, but we've priced our watches in a way that supports sustaining our position for the next ten years until that aspiration is achieved.


The meteorite dial on your watch, I’ve been told, is extremely easy to break during machining—it has an 80% failure rate during the manufacturing process. How do you, as an entrepreneur, deal with such a challenging prospect?

I think our drive stems from our desire to create something truly unique. We're not interested in just checking a box or being one among many. We aim to craft something distinctive, something that stands out and will endure for decades beyond our own lifetimes. Mercy and I don't have successors in our family to continue this business. 

We're establishing this as a professional luxury watch company, one that will be managed professionally long after we're gone. That’s our vision for sustainability. Building a luxury watch brand from India requires boldness. You have to make daring decisions and avoid the trap of conformity, where the safer path seems more appealing. If we were interested in safe bets, we would have continued in our consulting careers, perhaps overseas in Hong Kong or Japan, and enjoyed a comfortable life. However, our goal isn’t to play it safe.


So, you guys have played now with cricket, you've played with space, you've played with the armed forces. What's the next big idea from BWC?

We play those cards very close to our chest, so unfortunately, I can't provide specific details. However, there is definitely more in the pipeline. We are in discussions with a leading airline in the country, who wants us to create a line of limited-edition watches to celebrate their brand as they approach a significant anniversary.

This will be a big opportunity for us. We are also having active conversations with an Indian automotive company to create a line of watches that celebrate the spirit of automotive excellence."


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