While a Rolex or a JLC instantly gratifies the vanity of the wearer with its signature designs and trademark engineering, it also enhances the stature of the person choosing, wearing or gifting it
Some five years ago, 34-year-old Shiv Kapoor started reading about mechanics and movements of high-end watches, and was intrigued by the craft of making timepieces that run with great precision. He bought a Rolex, which set him back by a good Rs 10.5 lakh. Says Kapoor: “That experience helped me make spot decisions, push boundaries and take risks in life. Those who get into analysis paralysis end up leading average lives. Sporting this watch reminds me that I am better than average.”
Welcome to the world of luxury watches. “People ask me what the difference between an ordinary watch and a luxury watch is,” says Rakesh Mohunta, Advisor, Ethos group. “Anybody buying a luxury watch over a regular one is actually stretching his budget to make a social impact, be it Rs 40,000 or Rs 40 lakh. The difference is that a regular watch merely gives you time, whereas a luxury watch expresses your time signifying, you have arrived.”
He says quite plainly that a luxury watch is nothing but men’s jewellery. Seventy per cent of those who buy expensive timepieces are men and 30 per cent are women. While women have quite a few things to indulge in, such as bags, jewellery and accessories, men are partial to watches.
Brands to watch
Louis Monet, Rolex, JLC (Jaeger-LeCoultre), Zenith, Panerai, Omega, Corum, Oris, Rado, Tissot are among the most coveted brands in the Indian market and their prices may vary from a few thousands to a few lakhs (see price chart below).
Omega and Rado are among the most popular brands, and Tissot rules the youth segment. But watch retailers say nothing can beat the sway of Rolex. Anybody who has arrived and has done well in life will invariably wear a Rolex, says one watch marketer.
You can shop offline or online for these watches at Ethos Watch Boutiques, Helios Watch store, Kapoor Watch Co, Zimson Watches, among others. People also buy watches online at Tata CLiQ Luxury. Says Gitanjali Saxena, Business Head, Global Luxury, Tata CLiQ Luxury: “Customers are becoming comfortable buying luxury watches online for the seamless shopping experience. Credit cards and debit cards are the popular payment modes.” Tata CLiQ Luxury retails a range of high-end watches including the recently-launched Lagado in the Rs 22,000-32,000 price range and Rado timepieces from Rs 30,000 to Rs 3 Lakh.
Between online and offline, which format clicks depends mostly on the ticket size. For deals below Rs 50,000, online is good. But the moment the price crosses that threshold–and it could go up till Rs 50 lakh and beyond–it’s important to be able to play with the watch, try it on the wrist, touch it and feel it.
Watch retailers share that people normally take 3-4 days before they settle on which one to go for.
Smart watches do not compete with this segment. Digital and non-digital/mechanical are, in fact, poles apart. Says Anand Ramanathan, Partner, Deloitte India: “Smartwatches and wearables such as fitness trackers have grown tremendously on the back of increased consumer focus on health and fitness, especially post-Covid. In addition, features such as SPO2 tracking and heart rate measurement help meet consumers’ need to stay on top of their health metrics. On the supply side, increasing penetration of smartphones and entry of premium electronics has significantly expanded the customer base. However, while smartwatches do offer a variety of features and have a greater appeal to the millennial customer, they have only been able to make a dent in the entry and mid-level watches.”
Ramanathan says the demand for high-end luxury watches has largely been resilient because of its appeal as gifts during occasions and major life milestones. In addition, luxury smartwatch makers have effectively adopted digital technologies and new methods of sales (e.g. omni-channel and video calling) to keep the HNI consumers engaged during a high-involvement purchase. Going forward, with richer access to data, retailers will be able to make more personalised recommendations and improve targeting of their consumer segments.
How do people select their watches? The starting point is the budget, after which come the brand and the occasion.
Each brand has its own history and uniqueness, intricacies of movement, mechanism and workmanship. A Rolex, for instance, remains the most popular among the rich and famous because of its old association with the Indian luxury market. Panerai, known to have been the official timekeeper of the Italian Navy in the 20th century, combines Swiss technology with Italian design and has a massive external crown protector (which it has patented), where the lever keeps the crown in the desired water-resistant position. Then there is the JLC or Jaeger-LeCoultre, whose defining feature is its unique rectangular case which the wearer can completely flip to the reverse face–you get two watches for the price of one. They say people who buy a JLC really know their watches and join the ranks of an elite luxury watch clientele.
Longines and Rado are the go-to brands for gifting, especially at weddings. It is common among elites to be gifting a ‘his ’n her’ set of Rado which costs approx Rs 1.2-1.5 lakh, while a Longines pair costs 1.8-2 lakh.
Innovative watchmaking is the cornerstone of Omega’s heritage, but it is inspired by sports timekeeping. In fact, Omega is showcasing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2021 as the official time keeping partner for the 89th year.
Watchmakers also launch limited editions of their watches from time to time. Take the case of Rado, which recently launched its “Over the Abyss”, a design collaboration with New Delhi artist duo Thukral and Tagra. Says the artist duo: “It comes with a unique time display that superimposes the local time of the wearer to several time zones of the world. These different time zones are symbolized by 37 hands that are painted in a gradation of colours ranging from blue to pink and look like enchanting fireworks in the middle of the dial. Two discrete but mighty Super Luminova dots indicate the local time.”
According to Rado India’s brand representative, “The beauty of a Rado watch is that it lasts forever-–it’s durable, beautiful and a watch for life. And behind it all, a tradition of visionary research and cutting-edge materials technology such as from high-tech diamond to high-tech ceramic.”
Specs of a watch
There are different preferences for strap material such as platinum, gold, diamond, steel and rubber. In Rolex, the steel meets gold (Rs 10-17 lakh) is the bestseller according to a spokesperson from the Rolex exclusive store at The Chanakya mall. Also, the ones in pure gold worth Rs 21 lakh and in rubber for Rs 30 lakh have their own patrons.
Each watch has its own types of movement. Says Ishaan Mehra, General Manager-Sales & Operations, Ethos, “There are three types of movements. The first is the battery-run quartz. Then there is hand-wound, or manual watch, which gets its energy from, as the name suggests, being wound up by hand and this may even have a power reserve (that helps you store energy and power the watch for at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours, depending upon the brand). The third is an automatic watch, also known as self-winding watch, which is a mechanical timepiece in which the natural motion of the wearer provides energy to run the watch, making manual winding unnecessary.”
Chronograph, which is basically a timing function for measuring and recording time intervals, is also one of the visible stark features of the brand. Other features that make a difference are the date and the day and then as you move up in terms of the spending power as well as brand, you will get additional features phases of the moon, an annual calendar and a perpetual calendar. These are called ‘complications’ that get added to the watch and make it expensive, unique and remarkably different from a regular watch. By definition, a moon phase watch is one that relays the 29.5-day lunar cycle by exhibiting the current moon phase in an aperture on the dial.
Maintenance and repair
Brands and top watch retailers have their own servicing centres. For instance, Ethos has its exclusive service centre in Saket, New Delhi.
Says Ethos’ Mehra: “Like your car, you need to maintain your luxury watches. Ninety per cent of watches are never serviced in their lifetime. A watch is evergreen and can last you forever–or at least 30-50 years–if you maintain it and keep it in pristine condition. These watches also have nuts and bolts, parts, movements, screws that require greasing and overall care every now and then, as there is general wear and tear.”
A lot depends on what kind of lifestyle you have. If you are a person who is very adventurous and goes bike riding, engages in physical activities, goes underwater then there is far more wear and tear as opposed to someone having a sedentary lifestyle.
How many timepieces should a watch lover own? Says Mohunta of Ethos, “It’s like asking if you’re fond of cars how many cars can you keep–ultimately there is only one that you can travel in. Similarly, you can only wear one watch at a time. But most of the rich people tend to keep 2-3 watches–one for formal occasions, one for sporty events, and then there is no end to it. It’s like this: after owning a Merc, it’s time for a Rolls Royce and then one fine day, one may think of even buying an aircraft.”
Luxury has no binding and your wallet and whims may go as far as your thoughts take them.
Table: Indicative price list of some of the world’s top luxury watch brands
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Source: Ethos Watch Boutique