Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) came to the capital city of New Delhi for the second time in its 21 years. Ethos group has been at the helm of bringing the foundation to the country, we sat down with the man himself, to understand his take on the awards, the future of India and horology and more.
The Hour Markers: So to start with, congratulations Mr Yasho Saboo for bringing GPHG in such a grand way and we couldn’t think of anyone else but Ethos to do it, your brought them once in 2014 and again this year, what is the ideology behind bringing GPHG to India?
Yasho Saboo: Well it really starts from the vision I had of Ethos when we started, it was to create a chain of stores that are at an international standard and to bring the world of haute horlogerie to India. I think there are still many misconceptions when it comes to horlogerie and India but it has changed in the past two decades, India itself has evolved and this can only be clarified with communication and meetings like these with the brands that bring forth the collectors, enthusiasts and media along with the brands. That’s when stories happen, India is put on the map and brands see where our country is gonna be. We want the labels to witness what is happening here, feel what India truly is and to meet new consumers. We have known of the inquisitivity that surrounds this industry and how it has evolved and changed drastically. There are not just a handful of people who want to buy expensive watches anymore, there are easily 300 and counting at any given moment and we want the brands to come and see that here first hand. I think that was the main idea behind GPHG, bringing together the two ends of the industry and allowing each other to mingle and feel the energy and response first hand.
THM: GPHG is known as the Oscars of watchmaking, in your opinion how important is the recognition of the foundation?
YS: Extremely, it is extremely important. The recognition that GPHG gives is a validation of watchmaking seriousness across different categories and I think it’s very very important. It’s not only the legitimacy of the award, but also there is nothing that exists of similar stature. What I’d personally love to see is more of the mainstream brands participating, but I do have to add that they do off and on and that’s great too. And more so as we see a rise in non-swiss participants, I hope to see a homegrown label also be nominated for GPHG. India is a country with watchmaking in our roots, and it’s only a matter of time.
THM: You have always mentioned India’s consumption is only increasing and Ethos is the largest retailer in the country, you have an IPO, there are so many brands in your suite of offerings, but what’s next?
YS: We have an expansion plan that shall come forth soon. A couple of years ago we used to believe that the main consumption is only gonna be in the 6-8 metro cities which is still true and valid but from our digital platform we see requests for haute horlogerie from third tier cities which is very interesting to us and we have been watching that closely which has led us to believe that our geographical spread needs to widen and we are already working on that. We will also be expanding our selection and offering of brands, specially in price points that we feel we don’t have enough. The next decade and the growth we will see will definitely surprise us all and 15 years from now we will sit back and say, “We don’t know how it happened but it has happened”
THM: Talking about expansion and diversifying your portfolio of watch labels, how do you maintain a balance between independent brands and commercial ones?
YS: It’s actually not that difficult, it happened because the market values this. And consumers want the well known brands as much as they want the independent innovative watchmakers. We as retailers are a reflection of the current demand and the digital penetration of awareness has a big role to play here as well. The presence of social media has made it possible for independent watchmakers to reach watch lovers and collectors today.
THM: In India there is still a large belief that women here spend more on jewellery than they do on watches, do you believe that perception is true or changing now?
YS: First of all, it’s globally true. Otherwise the ratio of mens to womens watches would not be what it is in the market. Women also have so many other things they can spend on, jewellery is just one of the many things they can indulge in. We men are stuck with watches and maybe cars for some. But I think it is changing, women are more aware of watches and they are more fond of watches. Women are increasingly stepping away from the 28mm size and want larger watches. And anecdotally I can say that perhaps they are now saying, “I don’t want another piece of jewellery, can I just get a nice watch instead”
THM: What would be your advice to watch collectors, perhaps to someone who has just come to this GPHG exhibit for the first time, how should they start their journey?
YS: I would say what I always say, don’t buy it as an investment. If you like it, ask yourself why you like it? And is it something you would like to wear over the next few years? If you buy a watch from a perspective of what’s the resale value going to be then what’s the point? Buy what you like, buy the story that resonates with you. Whether it is the dial or the complication or simply the brand that you like, just go for it and don’t bother about anything else. What I would also like to add is the more you know the history of a piece or a brand the more you appreciate it and so know more about what you want to buy. Which is true for everything be it art, wine or anything for that matter, educate yourself.
THM: Lastly, I want to talk about a watch that you are wearing, I believe it is an heirloom piece that has been passed down to you from your grandfather.
YS: I believe that this is from the late 50s, it’s a Breitling Navitimer, it still works beautifully including the chronograph. This came to me from my grandfather who was keen on watches and a lot of his watches also went to my brother. One of the brands that my grandfather used to love was Universe of Geneva, and the old watches by them are really something. Another one that was passed down was the Eterna Matic Centenaire 61, which is a 61 edition gold watch that belonged to my dad. It’s always nice to wear old watches. I in fact still have an HMT in good condition, I was almost thinking of wearing it today.
THM: What are the pieces that you would pass on to the next generations?
YS: I don’t plan to ever sell my watches and I hope I never have to so my collection is solely for my future generations. I actually have a Patek Phillippe 3800 which is steel and gold and it’s an old piece that I love very much. I have already promised that one to my daughter Satvika, it’s exactly the right size for her. Pranav on the other hand has his own collection tailored to his taste and aesthetic, and so I think eventually most of them are going to go to the next generation!