It’s a late Thursday evening when the WatchTime India team sits with Dr Lovenish Goyal to discuss his watches. It is a rare opportunity for all of us to dig deep into a watch collection together – in Dr Goyal’s case, it is over 40 watches that lie carefully spread over three monogrammed watch boxes in front of us. Dr Goyal, who is the Head of Oncology at Aadhar Hospital in Hissar, has been more than gracious in giving us this opportunity, coming down from the city three hours away with his timepieces.
A part of Dr Lovenish Goyal's watch collection And the drive and the ungodly traffic haven’t deterred his enthusiasm. “I hounded the brand for this watch,” he says, picking up his Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retro, which was introduced by Bulgari in 2021. “I got after Bulgari, which has a showroom in Emporio Mall, Delhi, to get me one. It was difficult because not many Gerald Gentas had been sold in India then. I sent around 15-20 emails to them, and they finally agreed – I was the first one in India to get this model,” Dr Goyal smiles as he recalls this. The Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retro It would seem like a Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retro would be the pick of a seasoned collector, but Dr Goyal has only been collecting watches for the past three years. Over this period, he has come to own a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team, Zenith Defy, Grand Seiko White Birch and Shunbun, H. Moser & Cie Pioneer Centre Seconds (which he booked the day it was launched, in 2020), Louis Erard Excellence Guilloche Main and Main II, a blue Santos de Cartier, Roger Dubuis Sympathie, and several microbrands including anOrdian, CIGA Design, Kurono Tokyo, Baltic, Bangalore Watch Company and more. Vast and varied as his watches are, it was no surprise that at the last annual meet of the collector group Watch Enthusiasts India held in New Delhi, his watch boxes drew the most attention – it’s where I saw his timepieces for the first time as well.
Dr Goyal’s interest in watches however is not recent. “When I was a kid, there weren’t too many games available. You could play a board game, or you could play cricket. So, I found myself being drawn to watches. My father had a Citizen, Titan, and an Omega, and I was often curious about them. I would ask him questions like what ‘Automatic’ on the watches meant,” recalls Dr Goyal. “Around 1984, when I was 12, I got my first Casio Data Bank, which had a calculator. I loved that watch so much, but one day while playing it got ripped off my wrist. I was very upset, so my father gave me his Casio. I wore that, then for a few years a Citizen, and finally got an Eco-Drive, which I wore for about 14-15 years.”
Dr Goyal with his Corum Admiral 42 Bronze This interest in watches was unfortunately cut short as Dr Goyal pursued his medical studies and eventually set up his own practice. It was then in 2011-12, when he actively started reading WatchTime India and A Blog to Watch, that he realised that there was an entire universe of Swiss watches he knew little about. That’s how he bought his first serious watch, a Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Open Power Reserve in rose gold. “At that time there were no authorised dealers for Zenith in India. So I wrote to the brand, and after some back and forth, they said that they would send it to Zimson, and I could buy it from them,” says Dr Goyal. “I loved its mechanics, the dial, and I was very happy wearing it, but like many others, I too had the Rolex itch. So, I bought my two-tone Rolex Submariner Date with a blue dial in 2013.” For the next seven years, he was three-watch man, wearing his Rolex on weekdays, his vintage Omega that his father gave him, on Saturdays, and the Zenith on Sundays. Dr Goyal's two-tone Rolex Submariner Date with a blue dial, and Cosmograph Daytona
Then COVID struck, and Dr Goyal’s life took a turn. During this time that was especially hard on doctors, he started to look for an escape from his day-to-day challenges, and ended up attending a webinar on Oris in August 2020 - it seemed to reignite his interest in watches. Soon after, he joined the group Watch Enthusiasts India. “Whatever free time I had, I spent on the group, and realised that I wanted to chase this hobby again, something I had forgotten in my busy practice.”
Having made several purchases as a newbie collector – a starter experience common to most – today Dr Goyal has narrowed down his interest to unique dials and microbrands. “What appeals to me are simple watches - three-handers, maybe with a date complication. The dial is what grabs my attention. Take for example the Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto. The way they have put the complication together is amazing – a chiming watch with excellent dial design.” Another watch he talks about is the Baume & Mercier Baume Skate - Aurélien Giraud Special Edition, with a case made of skate decks and a dial made using skate grip tape – Dr Goyal loves the idea of upcycling that the watch presents. Centre line, second from right: The Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto Other unique dials he owns include the CIGA Design Blue Planet, which he discovered when it was nominated for the 2021 GPHG; the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 with the orange dial, the Czapek & Cie. Antarctique in salmon, and the boutique exclusive IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team, which a friend in the US got back for him. Others that tick the box are the limited editions Bell & Ross Red Radar, Corum Admiral 42 Bronze, and Oris New York Harbour and Pro Pilot Coulson. “I can’t really wear these to my OPD. So, I put them on Sundays, which I call my fun watch days,” he says. Microbrands is another category that Dr Goyal invests in. “I have realised they have so much to offer. They have better price points, and a microbrand will experiment like crazy. For example, I love what Bangalore Watch Company has done. They have a Sellita movement, but the Indian connection in their watches is excellent. I love how they were able to think about it and execute Synchro, inspired by Suryakiran, the Indian Air Force’s Acrobatic team watch. There is also Czapek - their dial, the micro-rotor movement shows out-of-the-box thinking.” Saying this he quickly pulls out his enamel dial anOrdain Model 2 OT: Edition in Off-White. “This is a beautiful vitreous enamel watch with syringe hands, and a Sellita movement. Enamel has a very high failure rate. Nowadays, this watch has a 2-year wait.” Bangalore Watch Company watches (top rightmost and second from right), and anOrdain (first from left, centre row)
Building a watch collection today
Dr Goyal admits that he is still very instinctive about his purchases - if it appeals to him, he considers picking it up. However, there are some bigger questions he forces himself to answer, especially in light of the fact that he doesn’t want to let go of his older watches. “If I like a watch, I compare it to my current collection. If I have something similar, I don’t buy that piece. I need to say no because buying watches has to be sustainable for me. I also give myself two days – if I still like the watch after two days, I’ll pick it up.” But this rule doesn’t work for limited edition watches he likes. “You should order those immediately. No point in waiting, they get sold out.”
Czapek & Cie. Antarctique with salmon dial Zenith has a special place in Dr Goyal’s heart, given that his first serious watch came from the brand; other Zenith pieces he owns are the Defy Skyline with a white dial and the Chronomaster Original. “The brand, heritage, in-house movements, and the finishing – everything is great about Zenith.” And given its dial and finishing, Grand Seiko also excites him. However, the watch that he is currently pining for is an A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk. “This is a grail watch for me. What a beautiful movement! A digital display on a mechanical watch with a minute change! The mechanical complexity in the watch is awesome.” Zenith Chronomaster Original
Dr Goyal says that over the last three years, watches have changed his life. In the mornings, I first decide on the watch and then decide what to wear. Monday is a ‘blue watch day’, on Tuesdays I wear a chronograph, Thursdays are for Oris, Fridays are for lumes or fume, and it's Seiko Saturday,” he laughs. A member of collecting groups like RedBar Bombay, Watch Collectors India, and of course, Watch Enthusiast India, he talks about how watches have given him the opportunity to forge friendships with people he otherwise has nothing in common with. It’s also a good distraction from his day-to-day work. “I see patients for about 10-12 hours a day, a lot of who go for palliative care. I see the frustrations of the family, the caregivers etc, and often take that burden home. When I interact with other watch enthusiasts, it becomes a sort of escape. My wife always says that whenever I am on these WhatsApp groups, she sees me chuckling and smiling – that’s why she is very happy with me being a watch enthusiast. Watches bring me joy.”
Images: Sanjay Ahlawat