The luxury watch market in India is living through interesting times. While, on one hand, consumer spending is yet to unleash its full force despite the uptick in market sentiment since the Modi government took over, on the other, electronics giants like Samsung, Sony and LG are attempting to woo Indians with the latest smart watches, which are likely to change the way people look at wearable products.
But despite caution and pessimism sobering the animal spirits in consumer spending, the luxury market grew at a rate of 30 percent in 2013 to reach $8.5 billion. It is also likely to grow at a healthy pace to reach $14 billion by 2016, a recent KPMG luxury report said.
“The aspiration for brands is increasing. India’s luxury watch market is growing at near 15 to 20 percent each year,” says Biren Vaidya (popularly known as Bee-vee), MD of the 30-year-old Rose Group, which sells at least 20 global brands through jewellery and luxury outlets in India. The Rose Group clocked a 15 percent jump in revenues between April and September this year, compared to the same period last year, he says.
Another top Indian retailer, Viraal Rajan, who heads family-owned watch boutique Time Avenue in Mumbai—a popular destination for Bollywood stars—is confident that “everything sells” in India’s luxury watch market. Rajan identifies Bell & Ross, among others, as a brand that is becoming popular with the rich and famous in India.
As we usher in the festive season and put on the best of fineries, keep an eye out for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Unique Travel Time collection and Bulgari’s Lucea range of watches, which are set to hit showrooms in Mumbai soon. Here’s our pick of some of the best watches in the country:
Backes & Strauss
Berkeley Rose Gold Monarch 40
Why you need it: A British company best known for its jewellery, diamonds and watches for women, this one stands out as a unisex watch. But buyers beware, this is only for someone who likes and can carry off a lot of bling. The setting in every watch consists of ‘ideal cut’ diamonds. This means that the diamonds are cut in such a perfect symmetry and proportion that when light enters the stone, it refracts internally from 57 faced facets only to disperse through the top of the diamond, giving it maximum fire and brilliance.Price: On Request
Ferrari King Gold
Why you need it: From the makers of the official timekeeper for the recent Fifa World Cup in Brazil comes a limited edition watch (500 pieces), which was showcased at the Baselworld 2014. Hublot combines with Ferrari for a comprehensive partnership—not just a one-off product or sponsorship—but an agreement in terms of brand image and commercial activities of both brands. This watch redefines chunkiness in a unique gold case material and is water resistant up to 100 metres.Price: Rs 29,12,700
Master Ultra thin Tourbillon
Why you need it: Another fine tribute to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s finesse in developing ultra-thin watches. This 40 mm diameter stands out for its elegance, coming in a new pink gold case with taut lines and a case thickness of merely 11.3 mm. Price: Rs 43,30,000Ulysse Nardin
Why you need it: This 45 mm diameter watch goes beyond the conventional, being stripped of its dial and hands, and totally lives up to its name. Here’s why: At the centre of the Freak Cruiser, the lower bridge indicates the hours, while the upper bridge—bearing the gear train, the balance spring and the exclusive Dual Ulysse silicon escapement—shows the minutes. There is a 7-day carrousel tourbillon (“whirlwind” in French, a device to counter the effects of gravity), and you can ensure that the time is kept perfecting by manual winding. Price: Rs 57,60,000
Why you need it: The Breitling Navitimer’s traditional features stand out with a complicated black face, three sub-dials and a variety of scales that had made it a favourite for pilots and navigators. This self-winding red gold chronograph comes with an 18K red gold Navitimer bracelet for more style.Price: Rs 34,01,530
Why you need it: Coming from one of the most powerful global brands, this 40 mm everose gold, self-winding cosmograph was designed to meet the demands of professional racing drivers. Water-resistant up to 100 metres, it goes slightly beyond the understated but remains elegant.Price: Rs 23,71,500Audemars Piguet
Royal Oak Gold
Why you need it: Part of the Swiss maker’s iconic collection and designed originally by watch designer Gerald Genta, it boasts the eight-side octagonal dial, which first appeared in 1972, when most other watches were still round, flat and thin. A self-winding watch with a simple date and centre seconds, it is presented here with a pink gold bracelet. Price: On RequestGreubel Forsey
Why you need it: Another watch that goes beyond the conventional and incorporates into the timepiece a terrestrial globe completing each anti-clockwise rotation in 24 hours—the same direction in which our planet spins. This Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey GMT watch also boasts a back display with a world time disc synchronised with the globe and bearing the names of 24 cities, each representing one of the 24 world time zones.Price: On Request* Prices, wherever mentioned, are the approximate prices at the time of going to press. Indian government imposes various import duties and taxes and as a result prices could vary or be significantly higher. Prices at retail showrooms and stores could also differ, as some offer schemes and discounts.
(This story appears in the 14 November, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)