Bangalore Watch Company’s Growing Reputation 
Bangalore Watch Company’s Growing Reputation 

Bangalore Watch Company has a growing reputation among watch aficionados in the country for their speciality watches. As the company turns five, we speak to co-founder Nirupesh Joshi on the challenges of building an Indian-origin watch brand

In 2014, when Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj were trying to gauge the Indian watch buyer’s appetite for a quality, made-in-India watch, several people in the trade told them not to bother with it. Nearly everyone the husband-and-wife duo — former Hong Kong-based software consultants — met with dissuaded them from starting an Indian-origin watch brand. They were told that their company might not even “see the second year in business.”  


The advice went unheeded, and 2023 marks five years of the Bangalore Watch Company (BWC). Today, the outfit, India’s first independent watch brand, sells five collections of automatic watches, with prices ranging from Rs 45,000 for the dressy Renaissance Automatic, their first watch, to Rs 79,680 for the Apogee Deepspace, their space and ISRO-inspired timepiece. Prices for BWC’s limited editions, such as the recently released Synchro, a tribute to Indian Airforce’s Suryakiran aerobatic team, are available on request.  



BWC’s watches, which use Japanese and Swiss automatic movements, are driven by stories: the Renaissance, launched in 2018 and its first watch, pays homage to both Bangalore and the HMT era; the Mach 1 pilot watch is a nod to the MiG 21; and Cover Drive references the game of cricket. The company, which sells over a thousand watches a year and has patrons in about 30 countries, recently opened its studio in Bengaluru. Its patrons include aviation geeks, Supreme Court lawyers, and businessmen, says Joshi, who was in Mumbai in early December for an open house. Here, he talks to MW about the singular challenges he and Amalraj faced while setting up a modern Indian watch brand, the evolution of the Indian watch buyer, and the company’s future collections. 



People switch their iPhones every two years, but would they spend a similar amount on a watch that would last 20 to 30 years? That was kind of what we wanted to know when we first thought about making premium watches in India. Consumer research suggested that there was a growing appetite for Indian-origin brands across categories: clothing, leather goods, beauty products, whisky, coffee… These were the trends we looked at to arrive at the conclusion that there was a growing population that was well-traveled but was seeking out Indian brands. And, frankly, when we looked around, we found that there was nobody else in the watch category that was trying to push the envelope to the degree we wanted to. It was only after this that we said, ‘Okay, now what exactly does it take to start a watch company? Where do you design a watch? How do you design one?’  


Any manufacturing ecosystem is mostly going to cater to the demands of its largest customers. It was the same with watches here. In India, an ecosystem for high-quality watch manufacturing didn’t exist. We had to go overseas for a lot of the components in the early days. Over the last five years, the story has changed. Earlier the ratio was about 70:30, today, for instance, about 60 percent of the parts used in the Apogee, including the dials and hands, are made here. Our vendors supply to many Swiss brands and we have a lot more flexibility now that we are closer to the manufacturing process. 



Watch manufacturing today is no different from, say, how the automotive industry works. There is a well-oiled system of OEMs that supply parts and take our design and engineering and manufacture to our specification. We share our supply chain with top Swiss companies, but as a small, independent brand, the challenge is to get them to work with us. In the early days of BWC, it was tough to get them to buy into our vision. Plus, we were not promising them 10,000 pieces every year or the highest margins. There was a lot of hesitation from suppliers abroad, but we did break through in the end. What surprised us more, though, was the reaction from those in the watch trade in India. Some of them even asked us if the kind of attention to detail we wanted in our products was really necessary.  


We’ve made a lot of mistakes and we’re learning from them. But luckily, I don’t think we’ve made any mistakes that are biting us in the back now. For example, right at the beginning, we decided to go with sapphire glass in the front and at the back for the Renaissance. We also used a higher-grade movement instead of the cheaper Seiko NH35 movement. As a result, our service return rates are absolutely low, and we know we’ve made the right decision.  


We started as a digital-first company and that obviously helped because as any other direct-to-consumer brand, the barrier to entry is in a way low compared to physical distribution. But we also believe that only a small percentage of people know about us. So, in the coming year, we are going to double down specifically on international markets. About 35% of our business now comes from international markets. In India, we are trying to figure out what the future looks like, and maybe an omni-channel approach is what’s really needed.  



We are working on several things at the moment. The Mach 1 and Apogee have both laid a strong foundation and both aviation and space are hot right now in India, so there are definitely going to be new stories coming in from both these lines. We also see ourselves working with new materials and new complications. We are also aiming at entering a new category by the end of 2023, and that could be outdoor.  


In India, enthusiasm for watches can be found in multiple pockets. You will find a passionate group of HMT enthusiasts and then there’s this closed, small group of people that only go after independent brands. The willingness to engage with more brands has shot up in the last couple of years. Unlike in the early days, when you had to smuggle watches in, it’s all mostly organized. The GST system has streamlined everything and import duties have been streamlined as well. That allows the enthusiast community to engage with brands that they couldn’t even have imagined five years ago, such as H. Moser, or Grand Seiko. These are mostly brands coming from the left field, niche brands that only the enthusiast would know, and I think it’s phenomenal to see the enthusiast community warming up to brands like these. 

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