featured 16, Nov 2018 11:55am
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A Toast to Time

The watch collector’s club that reflects India’s growing fondness for luxury timepieces.

Monday. The most dreaded day of the week. This particular one, however, steps up its game with a light, cool breeze, marking a perfect ending to the unexpected rains that embraced Delhi earlier in the day. The warm glow from the lanterns at En, a Japanese restaurant, promises a gratifying evening, with just one thing missing—stimulating conversation. Enter J9. A group of serious Indian watch collectors, who chose to beat their Monday blues by unwinding with passionate discussions on their one vice— watches. The reason behind the name? A key-press typo; we’re not kidding.

During the initial few months, one of them had their phone in the back pocket, and it accidentally typed J9. Voila. Founded three years ago, J9 includes a group of over 40 collectors based in Delhi, NCR, Punjab, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kerala, and a few from abroad. Originally named Honest Watch Talk, the group was found on two of the most popular social media platforms for watch enthusiasts today: WhatsApp and Instagram. “We

" Their holy grail’s range from the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk to the Patek Philippe 2499, and even the Konstantin Chaykin Joker."

started this group collectively, to be honest,” says Mohanish Kalra, a Delhi-based businessman. “Wherever you live in the world, you always end up finding people who share the same interests as you. So we found each other.” Kalra was looking to move on from conversations about HMT or Seiko, which is what most collectors were doing in his previous group, and was joined by another watch freak, Aman Kathuria, a businessman from Delhi. He got along some more enthusiasts and the tribe grew. “I’m not critical of anyone’s choices, but there comes a time when you want to learn more and move on to other brands and have all kinds of conversations. This is when a few of us got out and formed our own little group,” says Kathuria.

There are six members who have gotten together this evening, each carrying a box full of their most prized possessions. One brand you see throughout their collections is Rolex. “It’s one of the most common brands we discuss. We love it, criticise it, analyse it, over analyse it, and even try to predict the new launches,” says Kalra. We also spot an attractive trio of Seiko Ripley’s re-edition on the table. Inspired by the custom-designed Seiko watch made for the James Cameron movie Aliens in 1986, these three watches were especially sourced from Japan. “I got this watch first and then there were more requests, so I asked a dealer in Japan to send us four of these,” says Kathuria. Most of them have had an interest in watches since they were kids. Kalra buys himself a watch to commemorate special occasions and anniversaries. He marked his graduation in Italy with a Radiomir 1940 from the Florence-based Officine Panerai and celebrated a promotion with a Rolex GMT Master II.

Amish Behl, founder of the web portal Definitely Curry, grew up in a family of collectors and has been a watch fanatic since his school days. “The longevity of a timepiece as an object and the sheer emotion it comes with are just irreplaceable. My first watch was a Citizen and then I got

"Kalra buys himself a watch to commemorate special occasions and anniversaries. He marked his graduation in Italy with a Radiomir 1940 from the Florence-based Officine Panerai and celebrated a promotion with a Rolex GMT Master II."

myself a Tissot post graduation. My favourite watch is the Nomos Tangente, which I picked up on my first work-trip overseas in Germany,” says Behl, who eventually wants to explore vintage watches at auctions. “I keep myself tuned into the auction market and I’m looking forward to the day I actually pick up a vintage watch at a jaw-dropping price!” The star of the evening for us was the man with the very classy Saxonia from A. Lange & Söhne, in pink gold. Puneet Singh, a fan of classic designs, added this beauty to his collection recently. “I had been eyeing the Saxonia automatic for a very long time. I love its simplicity. I enjoy the romanticism associated with fine watchmaking,” says Singh, who also owns a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grande Taille and is now eyeing the Tudor Black Bay 58.

Just when we thought we had seen it all, Arvind Nayar walked in with his Patek Philippe Calatrava 5120J. New to the collectors’ circle, Nayar

"I keep myself tuned into the auction market and I’m looking forward to the day I actually pick up a vintage watch at a jaw-dropping price!" Amish Behl Owner, DefinitelyCurry

spends a lot of time reading about and researching timepieces, and is now planning to travel to the prominent watch fairs across the world. “It’s nice to know that I’m not the only watch lunatic around. We are all crazy about watches and here we get to learn a lot from each others’ collections. A lot goes into feeding this hobby—it includes participating in forums, discussions among us and spending at least an hour or so daily on WhatsApp and Instagram,” says Nayar.

From their love for customised straps to new materials in watchmaking, the members of J9 have their individual quirks and that makes the group even more fascinating. While Kalra and Kathuria are sneaker heads, Puneet Singh collects pens. “[Collecting] watches is a bad hobby because it’s too expensive, but it still has our heart,” says Kathuria. With brands innovating and experimenting with different materials today, Kathuria is eager to have a watch in every metal available. “I end up buying watches every alternate year and I like them to be unique. I have watches in stainless steel, titanium, gold and PVD. The two metals I’m missing right now are bronze and sapphire, but hopefully I will get them soon,” he says. While Kathuria’s favourite watch is a Rolex Hulk, he also owns a Breitling Superocean Chrono, an IWC Ingenieur and a stunning Breguet Marine Royale with an alarm. “The Breguet Marine Royale is my favourite dress watch. It keeps me sober on late night-outs,” he says. How would a watch keep one sober, you might wonder. “Well, whenever I go out I make sure to set the alarm for 2am. So, whenever the alarm goes off, I know it’s time for me to stop drinking and to head home.”

One of the most intriguing watches in Kathuria’s collection is the Amida DigiTrend—the inspiration behind MB&F’s Horological Machine No. 5. “It

"The star of the evening for us was the man with the very classy Saxonia from A. Lange & Söhne, in pink gold. Puneet Singh, a fan of classic designs, added this beauty to his collection recently."

took me three failed attempts to acquire this watch,” says Kathuria. “I finally found an old watch guy in Turkey who used to keep pocket watches. So, I wired him the money and he shipped the watch to me.” Kathuria also likes to experiment with straps for his Breitlings and Rolexes, but it is another man who has a serious strap fetish—Delhi-based collector Eesh Dewan. “I have around 15 to 20 straps. I love dressing up my watches, especially my Panerai,” says Dewan, who loves his tool watches and had placed an order for another strap the previous evening. “Even my Rolex Submariner has seen straps varying from a bracelet, a cartoon strap, several NATO straps, and also a Japanese-custom made strap.”

"One of the most intriguing watches in Kathuria’s collection is the Amida DigiTrend—the inspiration behind MB&F’s Horological Machine No. 5."

With the Indian audience’s passion for timepieces growing at the rate that it is, it won’t be too long before we get to meet more aficionados from the country. Their holy grail’s range from the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk to the Patek Philippe 2499, and even the Konstantin Chaykin Joker. Now that certainly makes for a toast, doesn’t it?

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