Most watch lovers have that one piece that made them fall in love with timepieces, or at least sparked a love for horology in them. For Kairav Engineer, Vice President, Strategy and Operations, Astral Limited, one of India’s leading building materials company, it was a Swatch Irony Chrono. When he was in Class 9, Ahmedabad-based Engineer was gifted one for his birthday. Accompanying his father Sandeep Engineer, founder of Astral Limited, to various watch stores further fanned this curiosity. “Though they all tell time, each brand had its own DNA and within the brand, there were collections,” says the 33-year-old, recalling those visits. “It was fun to look at a chronograph from Omega and put it against one from Longines or TAG Heuer. I used to enjoy my experiences toying with watches I could only dream of buying at that point in life.”
Kairav Engineer, Vice President, Strategy and Operations, Astral Limited
Today, Engineer is a passionate collector, and has more than 50 timepieces in his watch collection spanning Omegas, Cartiers, Jaeger-LeCoultres, and Rolexes, the last of which he has a particular penchant for. His watches from ‘The Crown’ include the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona White Dial (Ref. 116500LN), Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Black Dial (Ref. 116500LN), Rolex Daytona Green Dial Yellow Gold (Ref. 116508), Rolex GMT-Master II with a meteorite dial (Ref. 126719BLRO), Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Pepsi’ (Ref. 126710BLRO), Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Root Beer’ (Ref. 126711CHNR), Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Batman’ (Ref. 126710BLNR), Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 (Pink, Green, Red, Yellow), and the Rolex Day Date 36 Rainbow Pave Dial (Ref. M128345RBR), to name a few.
“My first Rolex was a Z Blue Milgauss. When I started my collecting journey, I always thought Rolex was too clichéd and used to overlook the brand. In hindsight, that was foolish because Rolex is now the biggest in my collection, and a favourite. In 2014,
I was looking to acquire a watch for my wedding and the sales representative at my authorised dealer (AD) asked me whether I would consider a Rolex—there was a new Milgauss that had launched at the 2014 Baselworld. He shared a few images and I picked it up. I fell in love with the watch and the brand, and haven’t looked back since,” says Engineer.
Another popular line with him is the Omega Speedmaster. His watch collection include the Moonwatch in Sedna Gold (Ref. 310.60.42.50.01.001), Calibre 321 Chronograph (Ref. 318.104.22.168.01.001), Casino Dial (Ref. 3210.52.00), and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Collection (Ref. 522.214.171.124.03.001), along with the Silver Snoopy Award (Ref. 310.32.42.50.02.001). “It is just plain fun,” says Engineer about the Silver Snoopy Award. “Its story during the Apollo 13 mission—a Speedy was used to time a burn that propelled the astronauts back to their planned trajectory—is very iconic for the brand, and after missing out on the previous iterations of the Snoopy Speedies, I wasn’t going to let this one slip. In fact, I was the first person in India to get this particular timepiece,” he says.
Another prized possession is from the 150-piece limited edition Bulgari
Gérald Genta Arena Retrograde Mickey Mouse (Ref. 103613); Engineer is one of the lucky few who got his hands on one this year. “Very few of these watches came to India and I was lucky enough to get it from my AD,” he says. “I got the call in January that I have been allotted one and I couldn’t believe that it worked out.”
From left: Rolex GMT-Master II 'Root Beer', Rolex GMT-Master II 'Pepsi', Rolex GMT-Master II with a Meteorite Dial, Rolex GMT-Master II 'Batman'
Engineer is a strong believer of being spontaneous, and he buys what he likes. Aesthetics and fit come second, and he never sells any of his watches. Complicated watches are not for him, and he likes the ease of those pieces that can be worn daily, and have time and date features that are easy to use. He seldom buys watches above 40mm. “I prefer watches that sit well on the wrist and have a comfortable lug to lug distance. Though I have a 7-inch wrist, I don’t have any qualms rocking a 36mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual either,” he says. He prefers to not chase the hype around watches, and ensures that all his watches get enough wrist time. “If you are buying watches to store them in a safe, you are not really in it for the right reasons and I wouldn’t classify the person as a collector,” Engineer adds.
The Georgia Tech alum is also the proud owner of Zenith Chronomaster El Primero 42, Zenith Elite Moonphase, and Zenith Chronomaster Revival A384 Lupin The Third - Final Edition. From Cartier, Engineer owns the Santos de Cartier Medium Two Tone, Santos de Cartier Medium Gold, Santos de Cartier Large ADLC, and Santos-Dumont Le 14 bis. Other notable timepieces in his watch collection are a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds with a wine-red dial, Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second, Girard-Perregaux Laureato 42mm Infinity Edition, Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF, and a Breitling Superocean 42, amongst others. Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition and Omega Seamaster 300
Colour plays a significant role in the watches he opts for. “Blacks, whites, silvers are nice, but boring beyond a point. I like the pop a coloured dial brings to your overall outfit. They even add an element of fun when paired with a boring office outfit. India is all about colours, and these watches work extremely well with traditional outfits, too,” he says.
Engineer primarily buys his watches from authorised dealers and says that it goes a long way in developing a relationship, which in turn helps in getting coveted watches. He doesn’t believe in any after-market customisations though is eagerly awaiting his customised Czapek, which his collector’s group, Watch Collectors India (@watch_collectors_india on Instagram), designed together. Engineer is also the co-founder of the group.
Rolex Milgauss with a Z blue dial
Given that he prefers the AD route to acquiring watches, Engineer doesn’t have the kind of hunt stories many collectors do, but certainly has interesting nuggets to share about his watch collecting journey. About his first automatic watch, a Tissot Visodate, he says that he saw it at Frankfurt Duty Free when he was on one of his initial business trips after joining work. “I started out at a very junior position in the company and I remember having saved up for it over the course of some months. I acquired it later from an AD in Ahmedabad,” he says. Engineer also says that in 2021, after the birth of his second son, he received two of his most desired chronograph watches—the Rolex Daytona Panda and Omega 321—on the same day. “My second kid was due in October 2021 and I had asked for a Daytona Panda sometime in March 2021. In April 2021, right as Delhi was about to go into the second lockdown, I got the call that my watch had arrived. On the same day, my Omega 321 arrived as well—I had waited for almost a year before it was allocated to me. I was the first person in India to be allocated an Omega 321. It was unbelievable that two of the most sought-after chronographs in the world were allocated to me on the same day!”
Tissot Visodate and TAG Heuer
Believing that watches are an integral part of his personality and not just an accessory, Engineer is now passing on his love of horology to his two sons—the elder one has started to take an interest in watches. “For me, watches are a part of my legacy that will be passed on to my next generation. I wish to take my kids watch shopping, like I did with my dad, and maybe one day take them to visit a few manufactures and watch fairs
Being left-handed, he now hopes to buy the new Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Destro’ (Ref. 126720VTNR). And Patek Philippe 5740 and Rolex Daytona Rainbow are his grail watches. “But grails do change over time or when you acquire your current grails. There is no particular end to this journey of mine,” he says.