By Karishma Karer
Indian watch aficionados have finally been graced with the opportunity to come face to face with the finest craftsmanship in watchmaking and engage directly with some renowned industry professionals. The GPHG 2022 Exhibit in New Delhi hosted by Ethos boutiques took the city by storm, all puns intended. Let me take you through my journey.
As the Capital gets hit by unexpected stormy weather, the GPHG 2022 exhibit kicks of with an exclusive dinner reception at the Embassy of Switzerland, very graciously hosted by Mr. Rolf Heckner, Ambassador of Switzerland to India and Bhutan, Mr. Yashowardhan Saboo and Mr. Raymond Lauretan, the President of the GPHG. The grandeur of this evening is inexplicable and I must say even I underestimated the outcome of what I witnessed. An evening filled with knowledge, fun and laughter as friends of both the domestic and International watch fraternity came together to celebrate the GPHG 2022 exhibit in New Delhi, India. From the man who sparked the vintage watch boom – Aurel Bacs to varied members of the Indian Watch fraternity, the evening was a testament to the superpower that India is.
We caught up with Yashovardhan Saboo, Founder and Chairman of Ethos Limited, YS as he is fondly referred to, “ It all starts with the vision of Ethos. It was to create a legitimate chain of stores to bring the world of International haute horlogerie to India. But the vision was also to introduce the world of haute horlogerie to India. Over the last two decades various misconceptions of India have reduced, however they still do persist. India has evolved and events like these rightly put India on the map. When we come together, stories happen. The brands now recognise India for what it is going to be and not as per the conceptions or misconceptions they’ve had based on past experiences. In the next 10-15 years, the growth in India is going to surprise us”. “The recognition that GPHG gives is the validation of the seriousness of watchmaking”, says YS.
“We know that India is one of the biggest watch markets and the fact that the very best of the best are here, be it connoisseurs or the people from the industry, it is a signal of the Indian watch consumer being taken seriously by the brands. It is one thing to digitally see the watches, it a whole other ball game when you can physically see these watches in your own country. GPHG coming to India is also very good for the overall watch category that often tends to get classified as something that is not as vibrant and thriving with every passing decade. There was a time when there were talks of smart phones and smart watches taking over but there is something so essentially beautiful about the watch category that it will never die. Beauty never dies afterall and I think the GPHG Exhibit in Delhi is bringing that to life reinstating that this category has so much beauty and joy to offer. To sum it all, the presence of GPHG here today is just the beginning of an exciting era for the watch category in India”, Suparna Mitra, Chief Executive Officer – Watches and Wearables division TITAN.
Will we see an Indian watch on the list of finalists soon? Well Suparna did not completely negate that thought. I guess we will just have to play the waiting game.
With the weather clearly not favouring us this weekend, it was heartwarming to see the turnout of watch aficionados from across the country make their way through the thunderstorm in the Capital to experience the extravagance of the GPHG 2022 Exhibit at the Leela Palace Hotel. The day began with a ribbon cutting ceremony by YS and Pranav Saboo and the varied invited International delegates. The curtains were raised. Being a part of the world of watchmaking, I have to say I do have the privilege to view and review these exquisite timepieces quite often which often translates to me taking these moments for granted. To see the awe factor, the level of interest, to witness the knowledge and true passion for fine watchmaking amongst varied groups of Indian watch collectors all under one roof was such a privilege and most certainly an eye-opener.
“It was a privilege to witness the watches and be a part of such a wonderful exhibit. I truly believe that the Indian watch collector market for independent brands is thriving and GPHG coming into India, helped by our largest independent watch retailer Ethos watches, reconfirms that fact. Indian collectors get to experience brands like Gronefeld & Rexhep Rexhepi which are on par with bigger markets like Switzerland, Hong Kong and Dubai. Here’s to hoping that we have many more events like these that celebrate horology and Indian collectors” Sarat Bhogavalli Managing Partner, Moksha Consulting & Moderator J9 collectors India.
“Another marquee event by Ethos! The GPHG 2022 exhibit is more what any watch enthusiast could have dreamed of. From physically being able to view the exceptional masterpieces to the best hospitality in the industry, the weekend was fantastic. You don’t just come across watches crafted by master watchmakers like Kari Voutilainen and Stepan Sarpaneva. The communion of the entire Indian watch family together interacting with the legends of the Global watch world was a delight for all of us from RedBar. So yes, a big thank you to the Saboo family for fueling our passion further and being such gracious hosts.” Punit Mehta, Chapter Leader RedBar Bombay.
As we came to the end of Day 1 after some intriguing panel discussions, it was time to celebrate in the true Delhi style. After a traditional lighting of the lamps, which the Saboo family very graciously also invited me to be a part of, the ball room was taken over by a burst of colours and energy as a bunch of bhangra dancers, a traditional Punjabi folk dance that originates from the farming districts of the Punjab region in India took over. The dance was associated primarily with the spring harvest festival Baisakhi, and it is from one of the major products of the harvest—bhang (hemp)—that bhangra drew its name. In a typical performance, several dancers executed vigorous kicks, leaps, and bends of the body to the accompaniment of short songs called boliyan and, most significantly, to the beat of a dhol (double-headed drum).
Before one could realise, these invigorating dancers had Yashowardhan Saboo, Raymond Lauretan, Jean Marie Schaller, Nicholas Hoffman, Leila Kamali and various other delegates giving the Bhangra a go. The warmth and energy in that room at that very moment cannot be described in words. What a welcome indeed.
Coming to the various panel discussions, the one that truly caught my attention was the discussion around responsible luxury and sustainability and the response of the watch business coordinated by Patrik Hoffmann for Raymond Loretan, Suparna Mitra, Jan Edocs, CEO of Doxa Watches, Mohit Hemdev, Country Manager in India for Officine Panerai and Leila Kamali, Oris Watches. It was nothing short of gratifying to understand the efforts of brands that are adopting sustainable practices and giving back through socially responsible initiatives. As Leila Kamali rightly pointed out, “Almost a decade ago, the term sustainable was not sexy enough for the watch industry”. Today almost all brands emphasise on the CSR and ESG approach. Be it the materials like Panerai’s new E-steel watches or Oris’s new sustainable recycled deer straps, the inevitable change is happening. It is also imperative to mention Ethos’s Million Tree Project wherein since 2021, for every watch that is sold, one tree will be planted and as we speak they are at 42,500 tree’s. Kudos Ethos.
However, the key missing link here is the level of transparency and the accessibility to knowledge about these factors, as Patrick Hoffman rightly pointed out. As much as I appreciate brands taking these initiatives, is the consumer today really that conscious? Well I certainly hope so.
And finally the real heroes of the weekend, the watches. The two aspects that did stand out was the dominance of the indies (independent watch brands) and the diversity of the nominated brands, reinforcing that the “Geneva ” Grand Prix is not just about Switzerland. As Aurel Bacs rightly mentioned in his speech, “There is a dominance of independent brands at the GPHGs, which shows that excellence and recognition is not about the millions that can be spent on the marketing of a product, but on the attention that is given to the product itself,”.
So that’s a wrap of my weekend at the GPHG 2022 exhibit in India! From interacting with seasoned collectors to industry professionals, the weekend was the perfect amalgamation of knowledge, fun, laughter encapsulated by the warmth and hospitality of the Saboo family. As Yashowardhan Saboo sums it up just right, “It’s time for fine watchmaking to rediscover India”.
Here’s putting India on the map yet again.
To know more about GPHG and the finalists click here
Also read the interview of Raymond Lauretan, President GPHG here