It may seem impossible to convey just how pivotal Franck Muller was when we talk about the watchmaking industry in the 80s and 90s. Franck cut a trail through the thicket of convention, secrecy, and solemnity that was later followed by Richard Mille and others who proved that great watchmaking could also be high comedy. Even if the watchmaking business has grown since his time, he will always be remembered as the original rock star of a more modest and traditional era.
Franck Muller grew up in a multicultural household after being born in Switzerland on July 11th, 1958, to an Italian mother and a Swiss father. From a young age, he was fascinated by any and all mechanical gadgets, and he quickly began making one-of-a-kind timepieces under his own name to match the level of technical excellence found in pocket watches. When he showed off his first wristwatches using complex mechanisms he’d designed, he saw the market potential for collectors of one-of-a-kind timepieces.
And now, to match that kind of legacy, it’s only fitting for the brand to collaborate with Kapoor Watch Company for a special edition timepiece! But first, let’s understand their heritage.
Founded in 1967 as a service facility by D.S. Kapoor, Kapoor Watch Company is now managed by the third generation of the Kapoor family. Their heritage continues today with one of India’s largest clientele bases and a robust retail presence. His sons and grandsons have continued the family business and made Kapoor Watch Company a household name in India. The company is now one of the largest Rolex retailers and the sole distributor of Audemars Piguet in the country. To date, they have expanded to thirteen (13) retail locations, carrying eighteen (18) different luxury brands, and operating a cutting-edge after-sales service facility for all kinds of high-end wristwatches.
Our founder at The Hour Markers, Karishma Karer, caught up with Erol Baliyan – MD of Franck Muller, Middle East, Africa & India, and the third generation of Kapoor Watch Company, Pratiek, and Raunaq Kapoor to discuss this new collaboration and more.
When we talk about Franck Muller, the first thing that comes to our mind is the master of complications. The organization has faced several ups and downs. Shedding light on this, Erol said, “Franck is still a minority shareholder and his legacy remains. He still attends our events in Asia, however, he doesn’t participate in the daily business. We still continue to do complications – the latest one being the Revolution 3, which is Franck’s legacy. All our movements in the Vanguard collection are in-house.”
Going forward, they still continue to manufacture the Mega Aeternitas, which has around 1,483 components. With the Gravity collection having the central tourbillon, as a brand what they set in the past, and the milestones they’ve achieved, they remain. The Curvex, Franck Muller’s trademark, has inspired several in the watchmaking business.
Talking about the business performance, he said, “Our Asia distributor, Cortina, will help take the brand to the next level. In the next 3 years, we will dominate the watch market. We will continue making complications that watch collectors will love. Unlike other brands, the artistry behind our complications is very unique.”
Franck Muller doesn’t have a deep history of 200-300 years like other brands, however, their success has amazed many. Talking about the way forward for the collections, the Vanguard being front and center, Erol said, “We are probably the only few brands to come out with a new collection every 2 years. Each novelty is different from the others, the latest one being the CX40. The strap is interconnected with the case of the watch and we don’t have it yet here. We’ve worked on the Central Tourbillon with great skeletonized enamel work.”
NFTs and bitcoins have also made their way into the watchmaking world and Franck Muller has joined the race. Talking about the bitcoin watch, he said, “Our bitcoin watch did really well. Earlier people thought it was a joke, and now there’s a queue for the same watches.”
Franck Muller has done several interesting collaborations with Cortina, the bitcoin watch, and now the Kapoor Watch Company. With a partnership of over 20 years, Franck Muller has reached great heights. Talking about this unique collaboration, he said, “The business after the pandemic doubled, if not quadrupled. We worked on this watch for over a year and this was the right moment, the right partner. With Kapoor Watch Company celebrating 55 years of success, the 75th year of India’s Independence, and Ranveer Singh being the brand ambassador, it all came together.”
The Franck Muller x Kapoor Watch Company timepiece is one-of-its-kind. Limited to 150 pieces. The beauty of this watch is that it is Franck Muller’s first limited-edition watch in India. It is part of the Vanguard collection in 18-karat gold, hand polished with a green dial. A leather strap backed by rubber makes it ideal for countries with heat and humidity. Fitted with the FM800DT movement and a 42-hour power reserve, 165 components, 21 jewels, and the Indian map engraved on the caseback, it makes for a beautiful watch!
Keeping up with the color trends, Raunaq Kapoor said, “Green is a trending color and it being part of our Indian flag fits well. It is more eco-friendly, so it worked out.”
Franck Muller is known to be a timepiece that’s in your face. Talking about these timepieces, Raunaq said, “In your face is what sells. We have many people walk into our store only to see how the Crazy Hour works. Everyone’s heard of it but never seen it.”
Kapoor Watch Company has a legacy, with the third generation taking it forward now. Talking about the changes and the market evolution, Pratiek said, “It’s a very emotional moment for us, to carry forward this legacy. Our grandfather was a watchmaker, so servicing has been a major part of our company. We wanted to do something special to celebrate these 55 years, focused on our key principles of long-term relations with our clients, excellent customer service, service centers, etc.”
With 18 luxury brands under its portfolio, Kapoor Watch Company holds the reins in the market. Talking about their expansion plans, they said, “In terms of portfolio, we only take brands that add value. Every brand should be a contributor and not something that’s hard to sell. In terms of stores, it is a very strategic decision. Do we have the brand to handle in the city? Is there a clientele for that segment? We only want to focus on the high-end segment.”
Three generations later, here’s what one of the pioneers of luxury watch retail in India, had to say, “I feel there has been a change in our way of approach, Digitalisation and infrastructure being the key here. The new generation is young and they know what they want and have no qualms about buying locally. However, what we do miss the most is the tourists, with 40-50% of countries dependent on that. But the pandemic did not affect us since we were locally sound.”
Out of all the brands, why did Kapoor Watch Company choose Franck Muller to celebrate 55 years? “Franck Muller was one of the first brands we started working with, in the post-liberalization era. We’ve grown with the brand, with it being one of the strongest in our portfolio. Being an independent., it’s easier to get things done. Working with Franck Muller is like family to us. We are the biggest retailers for the brands in the country, which gave us the confidence to sell 150 pieces. And, even more now, looking at the response”, said Pratiek Kapoor.
Shedding light on digitalization and the e-commerce space, Raunaq said, “60% of our contribution is from North India and 30% from the rest of India. We’ve invested heavily in the digital space. 7-8% of our revenue comes from online sales. We saw a lot of traffic due to COVID and we’ve seen the potential of the online space. You must give the same luxury experience online and with the right team, you can easily sail through. Today, we are shipping all across India within 24 hours. With our powerful legacy, we can cater to clients with ease.”
Pratiek Kapoor adds on saying, “Digitalization has a long gestation period. There are a lot of aspects to it and it requires a lot of time and effort to build the platforms. We started in 2015, with just an informative website. We’ve only changed 5 websites until now, and this investment is what you need to do consistently and patiently.”
Have you heard about the pre-owned markets? And did you know Franck Muller, very successful as a brand, has gained popularity in the pre-owned market? Sharing his thoughts, Erol said, “In the pre-owned market, I don’t think the brand will appreciate in value. That happens with brands like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille, Rolex, etc. We don’t have any intention to be appreciating in value. What happened to these brands during COVID was that the market had shrunk. After people started going out, they went on a shopping spree for luxury items. The US government pumped billions of dollars into the market and that money came into the pockets of individuals of which 60-70% were crypto buyers. With free money in the market, it got diverted to the watch market, and the prices rose by 10%, 20%, and even 100%. Slowly, the market started to collapse, and the prices came down. This is what happened to most brands. What we promise our consumers is to create a watch with an emotion that they will be proud to wear and have a personal connection with. There’s a watch for every taste. The Indian market also seems promising, with our growth being in double digits in the last 2 years.”
Well, we know the brand will reach great heights, but what makes these watches inaccessible? Talking about the inaccessibility issue and the Indian markets, Erol said, “With limited-edition Franck Muller’s that people are wait-listed for, the supply happens at the company’s discretion. With certain models that are inaccessible, the demand and supply gap remains. However, the Indian market ranks in the top 6 for Franck Muller. We’ve set up a new subsidiary to cater to the consumers. With Ranveer itself, our sales grew by 25%. With these moves, we can increase our sales by a further 20%.”
The one watch that makes it to Pratiek’s Franck Muller favorites is the Vanguard Skeleton in the white ceramic. And for Raunaq, it would be the Vanguard Skeleton in all-black. And like they say, “sky’s the limit”, we surely look forward to what’s coming next! And on that note, Congratulations to Kapoor Watch Company for the glorious 55 years!
Franck Muller’s first India limited-edition watch with a detailed map of the country on the case-back is exclusively available at Kapoor Watch Company.
With a green leather strap, these tastefully detailed timepieces come in two options, with 100 pieces of the steel and gold edition, and 50 pieces of the rose gold edition.