Bespoke Watches... A Timeless Legacy

From times immemorial, Indians have indulged in luxury. Whether it was the handcrafted Patiala Necklace, created by the House of Cartier in 1928 for Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala; the custom-made Bentleys and Rolls Royce that Maharaja Ranjit Singh Gaekwad, the Maharajah of Baroda, so loved; or the famous bespoke designer watch created by Patek Philippe for the Maharaja of Jodhpur, who wore it while playing polo (auctioned by Christie’s for a staggering $2,204, 714 a few years ago)—Indians have been long-established connoisseurs of “bespoke luxury”. Of this, bespoke luxury watches have been a mainstay of the Indian horology industry for over a century.


The buying culture in India today is no different today—whether it is clothes, shoes or accessories, people are all about ‘making a statement’ and owning the ‘new thing’. The more unique and bold the design, the more beautiful the product and thus an increase in demand for it. Furthermore, for most Indians there is 1) the emotional/cultural aspect to buying things and ‘bespoke’ allows them the luxury of catering to this emotional connect with their beliefs 2) The need to either keep up with or get ahead of neighbors, families and friends is rather strong and this fosters an increase in demand for “Luxury collection” across products.  


Another point to note is that… reinforced by rising disposable incomes, global mobility and increased awareness about luxury products, the younger population, which once looked at “handcrafted” or bespoke” products as being aspirational are now cash rich and want to indulge in experiences that will “enrich” their lives. This is a clear indication that tastes are maturing and there is a demand for finer things that was once affordable only to a privileged few.


Like all luxury products, luxury watches are also headed the ‘bespoke’ way—today, custom-built watches trump mainstream watches as people are all about “donning a conversations starter”! Love for ‘made-to-order’ watches stems from the fact that they are one-of-a-kind and have been designed and created exclusively for you.


In 2019, the trade value of the Indian watch industry amounted to over 33 billion rupees, of this international brands own only 20% of the market share. According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the India watch market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 20.32% over the forecast period, 2020-2025. Clearly, the Indian watch brands market is massive and homegrown luxury watch brands have a lot of potential to grow.


But, to ensure you hit the nail right on the head, understanding the target audience is everything. For this, harvesting customer data, studying their buying behavioral patterns (in these uncertain times, we need to intently study online research and buying behavior patterns) is imperative. With this a brand can create and pitch appropriate products, thus making great headway in the current Indian watch market.


Earlier, for handcrafted bespoke watches, India did not have the kind of craftsmanship that the Swiss and Germans boasted off in watchmaking. The privileged commissioned International brands to craft personalized watches. For example: The royal families of Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur had, and continue to possess, a legendary collection of beautiful bespoke watches from marquee watch brands such as JLC, Rolex and Patek Philippe.


However, things are different today. At Jaipur Watch Company, India’s only bespoke luxury watches brand, we have seen a steady rise in bespoke commissions—exquisite craftsmanship and an artisanal quality mark the world of bespoke horlogerie.


As mentioned above, Indians love customised products and Jewellery and Watches top that list! Understanding their sentiments, we at Jaipur Watch Company customize everything—watch components, hand engraved, embossed and Guilloché dials, etc. For example: we have made watch dials with images of lord Hanuman, Ganesha, even the picture of a happy couple (They were gifting each other customized designer watches for their anniversary) embossed on the dials. I also remember a customer who wanted “Ya Ali” written in Kufic script (A script developed in 7th century Kufa, Iraq, now extinct) on his dial. For such special requests we put in a lot of research and reach out to several people to get the client exactly what he wants. Finally, an antique dealer to seemed to know Kufic, helped with the script. In fact, JWC launched India’s first 3D printed watch powered by a premium Japanese Miyota mechanical movement of 9015.


With the current global and political climate swaying in a nationalist manner, India too is working rigorously to strengthen Brand India’s place on the map. We already have established homegrown luxury brands such as Oberoi Udai Vilas, Amrut Indian Single Malt, Anandini Himalaya Tea, Ananda Spa, Kama Ayurveda, Forrest Essentials and Sabyasachi that are among preferred luxury labels worldwide.


With homegrown brands gaining momentum, manufacturing in India has totally leveled up. With the Government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, I hope Indian entrepreneurs are encouraged and incentivized to develop existing skills and establish robust brands that have the vision and the alacrity to endure the gradual growth that comes with building a niche brand. The bespoke luxury industry will always find connoisseurs, whether it is signature perfumes, statement bags and shoes, personalized dials in luxury watches or bespoke weaves.