November 19, 2018
by Ariel Adams
Bangalore Watch Company is an enthusiast-driven (I reject the term “microbrand”) watch brand based out of Bangalore, India. The husband and wife team who run the brand recently debuted their first product collection with the Renaissance Automatic, which I review today. More about the story of the Bangalore Watch Company can be found here. Having lived in Hong Kong for some years prior to returning to their native India, the duo was able to not only get some of the right watchmaking contacts but also developed a strong understanding for what makes a mechanical watch popular and appealing today. The resulting collection of very sensible Renaissance Automatic timepieces is another lovely example of where the bigger brands are totally missing out in terms of appealing to a really important price point.
It is strange to think that in a world where traditional watches are increasingly becoming mere toys for the fortunate, and that the majority of sales are of products produced by large, corporate brands, entrepreneurialism is alive and well. Despite what it might look like on paper, the “little guy’s watch brand” is easily the hottest type of company for many watch collectors these days. It isn’t just a matter of price – although that is a big part of it.
I think more so it is about the consumer being able to relate to both the product and the messaging of the brand. You buy an expensive luxury watch from a historic brand when you want to feel like part of a traditional club. When you want your watch’s personality to speak louder than you, and when you want to blend in with the settled and complacent, you can opt for a dress watch that decidedly has “luxury product” associated with it. When you want to make your own way, or are in the process of doing so already, why not opt to wear a timepiece from people with as much ambition as you?
Increasingly I promote the idea of “buy watches from people with shared goals and values as you have.” I’m not talking about BS “feel good, save the world and its people” marketing messages that we are assaulted with on social media. I’m talking about values like practicality, self-improvement, education, ambition, and responsibility. If a brand isn’t doing a good job of explaining who they are to you, then skip them. If you feel that a brand’s marketing practices alienate your interests, skip them too. Luckily, you as a consumer have absolutely no deficit of watch options to choose from.
The Bangalore Watch Company story is about two watch lovers who returned to their native country to celebrate a traditional art form and trade. The company doesn’t serve to homage any particular historic Indian watch company or timepiece style, but rather is trying to deliver a thematic experience and capture a mood with a product that has a lot of universal appeal to watch enthusiasts and merely those want a “nice timepiece” to wear on a regular basis as opposed to an overt luxury item from a famed prestigious name. Being produced in smaller quantities and not being widely available in retail stores is a key area of appeal for those who will like these watches. Moving on to the Renaissance Automatic watch collection itself, let’s talk about why this simple, nicely-made, and fairly-priced dress-style watch is one of my favorite affordable timepieces this year.
Bangalore Watch Company isn’t trying to win any design awards with the Renaissance Automatic. It’s not boring but it lacks originality in the way a lot of us want from a new timepiece product. So why do I like this watch? Because I am not seeking originality in a dress watch at this price. What I am seeking is an excellent emulation of a theme that has some character behind it. I really like the conversations that begin with, “so this is a mechanical watch from Bangalore?” Yes and no. The watch is clearly Asian-made from Chinese parts with a Japanese movement.
Nothing at all wrong with that since it is the resulting product which I care about – not who made it. India itself still has its massive Titan watch group and a really nice history of making watches. There is real watchmaking in the culture and in my experience, Indian watch collectors are some of the most expressive and open-minded out there. India’s passion for watchmaking as well as the art of watch design is solid, and some of my favorite people in the watch industry have Indian heritage no matter where they live in the world.
As a product, the Renaissance Automatic is very approachable and easy to understand. Given that you select a color option that works for your skin tone and fashion sense this timepiece is very fashionable and versatile. Right out of the box you’ll have no trouble realizing that such a design style works with almost anything from when you want to be formal or just “maturely casual.” I find myself enjoying the watch when I simply want to look professional without wanting to call too much attention to my wrist. This is a watch that you wear, it doesn’t wear you.
At 40mm wide the medium size is ideal for this design. The case is water-resistant to 100m and is about 12mm thick with a 47mm lug-to-lug distance. Bangalore Watch Company made sure the case was very polished with contrast polished and brushed surfaces that easily make this appear akin to much more expensive timepieces. Over the dial is an AR-coated domed sapphire crystal which helps add to the “higher-end” look. Another sapphire crystal on the rear of the watch allows for a view of the automatic movement. Attached to the case is a 20mm wide strap. Bangalore Watch Company includes a quick-release bar allowing you to swap out the strap with whatever else you like if the stock leather crocodile-print strap doesn’t match your current attire. Bangalore Watch Company also reminds you that it uses a Nubuck liner on the bottom of the strap so as to make it more sweat and water-resistant. Unlike bracelets, leather straps do need to be replaced from time to time due to wear.
Arrow-head style hour markers and lume-strip applied dauphine hands mark the main personality traits of the dial. Bangalore Watch Company offers the Renaissance Automatic with three dial colors right now including anthracite, ivory, and argentum. The steel case itself is either naturally finished or offered with an attractive rose gold tone. The dials are complete with a window for the date and a track of dot-style minute markers. The overall design of the Renaissance Automatic is eye-pleasing and effective. Though it lacks a lot of originality. This is a company emulating an existing look for a new generation of watch owners.