It's not merely to keep time that we wear watches today. What was once - and still is - touted as a necessity has become a luxury and as the Swiss like to say "A piece of jewellery," today. Brands like Rolex, Omega and Longines, once associated with Hollywood celebrities are slowly finding their way into Indian households. Puneites too are not feeling bad to pay more than a couple of thousands to acquire a premium watch today.
A walk down Central mall on Bund Garden Road or Piramyds on Moledina Road will tell you just how popular premium watches are these days. Rajiv Shukla, a mass communication student from Delhi says, "It was James Bond who inspired in me the longing to acquire a Swiss watch and in school it was my dream to wear an Omega. A lot of convincing got dad to buy me one," he says.
It's not that HMT, the brand we grew up with, has nothing to offer. It’s just that today the awareness and consciousness through television, newspapers and movies is so high that we have the option of choices, colours and styles.
Automobile dealer Sukhbir Singh, a resident of Pune says, "I picked up a Rado in Christmas this year and most of my contacts in Mumbai know me as Rado Singh. It’s not that I have flashed my watch around, it’s just that the brand is premium class today and everyone knows that my Rado Ceramic is no less precious than a piece of jewellery.
Swiss watches of course are in high demand since they are considered snazzy and premium class. It’s what Hollywood movies have always promoted and the Indian middle-class has grown up on. The luxury watch market in the country is a Rs 220 crore industry and while the watch market is estimated to be growing at eight per cent per year, the luxury watch segment is moving up the charts with a growth rate of 20% per annum.
Brands like Corum, Jaeger LeCoultre and Baume & Mercier are doing so well here that Breguet is thinking of bringing its watches carrying a price tag of Rs 2.5 lakh and above.
Most of the malls in the city from Shopper’s Stop to Magnum keep a wide range of these Swiss beauties with a price band that starts at a couple of thousand and goes up to one lakh and above. The customer-base is wide - ranging from the upper middle class to the high class who don’t mind splurging on expensive brands from time to time.
And thanks to the IT and BPO boom, young corporate too are becoming regular customers. "Five years ago these watches were sought after only for marriages and for giving gifts to top of the line corporate. Today the scenario is so different. With Indian fashion making a mark on the international scene, high-end accessories have arrived," says Rafique Siddique who works at Piramyds.
It's not only the brand that is tempting. What buyers are also looking at today is durability coupled with style. And these watches have it all. In fact, most of the cross-section of customers we spoke to were of the opinion that the watch they buy is for keeps sake and have no plans of changing it for five years at least.
And features like sapphire crystal glass, diamonds and lifetime batteries make these watches even more tempting. Ashoke Mansukhani, who had bought a Cartier for her son’s wedding says, "It has been over six years that I bought the watch and there have been no complaints from my son whatsover. In fact he still thanks me for gifting him such a beautifully crafted watch. The price I paid was steep, but it was worth it after all."