All through 2024, WatchTime India’s ‘Talking Shop' series will shed light on the country’s top independent luxury watch boutiques and the people behind them, and aim to showcase how the luxury watch segment, buyers, and services have evolved in the country over the years.
Even as I write this, celebrations are on at the new headquarters of Time Avenue in Mumbai. Marking the start of its 26th year, the leading luxury watch boutique in Mumbai has shifted its outpost to a new location - 78, Turner Road, Bandra West. The space is about three times larger than its previous one, which also at Bandra, and aims to offer customers not just a more luxurious experience but a larger variety in timepieces as well.
The new flagship store is spread across more than 2000 sq ft., over two storeys. There are 11 brands showcased on the ground floor, while a VVIP lounge on the first floor is where independent watch brands find pride of place; the lounge has been developed in a way so as to facilitate conversations around watchmaking, and the importance of art and creativity. “Luckily, people have evolved, and they understand the value of art, which is unique,” says Viraal Rajan, owner and director of Time Avenue.
Time Avenue's new store front
It's evident that the Time Avenue is reaching new milestones and building upon a legacy whose seeds were sown by Viraal’s father, Jamal Rajan in 1998. He had started Time Avenue with two brands—Omega and Baume Mercier—and 22 watches. Viraal has expanded this to around 17 brands and more than a few thousand timepieces. “The expansion from 2 to 17 brands was a strategic and thoughtful process,” says Viraal. “It wasn't just about increasing the numbers; it was about enhancing our portfolio with brands that shared our values of craftsmanship and exclusivity. It was a meticulous process to ensure that each new brand would add value to our clients and help us cater to a broader spectrum of watch enthusiasts.
Viraal Rajan, owner and director, Time Avenue
Time Avenue’s arsenal today includes Rolex, Blancpain, Bulgari, Hublot, Chopard, Bell & Ross, Breguet, Longines, TAG Heuer, Breitling, Omega and more. One can also purchase / place orders for musical automatons from Reuge here, and late last year Time Avenue became a point of sale for L’Epée, an innovative and futuristic high-end clock-making brand whose legacy goes back a century. “When I saw the products, I was mesmerised by them. “It's really art and innovation and it tells time, which adds to my business also. Personally, I love the products and I love to sell what I love to buy. So it just hit the spot for me. I think it's the right product for India.”
L'Epee clocks at Time Avenue
What also sets Time Avenue apart from other retailers in the city is the fact that it is the exclusive retailer of independents like HYT, Konstantin Chaykin, Purnell, Alchemists, and Manufacture Royal. Being able to add these names to its roster has been a matter of pride for Viraal, who also counts their additions as milestones for Time Avenue.
Konstantin Chaykin at Time Avenue
Viraal says he is quite discerning about the brand he wants to stock at Time Avenue, and he gauges potential by meeting representatives and understanding the possibility for a lasting partnership. “It’s about ensuring alignment in our visions and commitment to quality and service. It's important that the brands we partner with resonate with our clientele's evolving tastes while maintaining a level of exclusivity and uniqueness”. He adds that the Time Avenue proved its mettle when it successfully added Tudor to its retailing portfolio. “Tudor was the most challenging brand to bring to the Indian market. We had to meticulously demonstrate our market knowledge, commitment to quality, and ability to reach the brand's target audience”.
While today he builds on the Time Avenue’s offerings, Viraal started working at the boutique right from the start with his father, and gained hands-on experience in every facet of operation. “My initial responsibilities were diverse, focusing on understanding the intricacies of the luxury watch market, building relationships with clients, and collaborating closely with our team to enhance our brand's presence. This period was crucial for me to grasp the depth of our business,” he says.
Though, building Time Avenue wasn’t easy. “It's much easier to sell a watch now than it was 20 years ago. Back in the time, one of the biggest challenges was explaining watches to the client. Even around 10 years ago people were not accepting a watch that was US $40,000. We had to educate them about high-end watchmaking. But the job is easier today with the access to information on the internet and things like advertisements and videos. Now every brand pushes and shows why they are special. And people have realised that it's not about time - it's about art and the rarity of a product. At this time, we have enough watches and we have more clients for that. And while the industry has evolved a lot, I think we still have a long, long way to go. Today, I also feel the need to be updated 24/7 about the changing industry to be on the top of my game”
The Time Avenue team in its early years - Viraal (centre), with his father Jamaal Rajan (second from right)
Watch connoisseurs and enthusiasts will agree that watch buying and collecting is equally an emotional decision as it is financial, and perhaps not surprisingly, it is a principle that Viraal applies to his work as well. “The one thing I learnt from my father about the watch industry is that it is important to stick to your DNA and your love for watches. This is the idea that has kept him going. “It takes time and dedication. And that's one of the main things I realised, to give time to business and understand it.”
Actor Chunky Pandey at Time Avenue
Viraal’s love for watches came from his father - his father was a watch enthusiast, so he says it is part of his DNA. “While it's a soft toy for kids as their first toy, it was a watch for me. I have been getting watches at every important phase of my life and have been an avid watch collector since the age of 10. A watch is 100 times more valuable because it likely has a memory - it's kind of like recalling a family picture or a moment that you’ve captured. Watches are with us forever, for me, my wife, my mom, or my dad. We always have been collecting and I think it is going to be a family thing,” he says. Viraal’s luxury watch collection displays the perks of being in the business of watches and features names like Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Franck Muller, and vintage Piaget, Bulgari, and Chopard.
So how is Time Avenue set to grow in the coming year? “We expect to gain the title of No. 1 title in the city,” he says.
Images: Courtesy Time Avenue