Lustrous gold in all its glory was the Malayali’s only idea of accessorising until a few years ago. In those days, the oval shaped watch set in yellow gold adorned every housewife’s wrist like a proud piece of jewelry. While men went berserk for square dials and wide gold bands, women adored the sheer feminine designs that came with affordable tags. Later brands like Rado and Omega became the Gulf returnees’ luxe trophies. When Indian watches such as HMT and Alwyn disappeared in a heap, came Titan as a breath of fresh air with its array of novel designs in the 80s. And recently, luxury brands such as Rado, Tissot, Calvin Klein and Gucci entered Kerala market with a bang. Ardent watch lovers couldn’t stay away from the lure of luxury watches for long.
Today, a wristwatch for a Malayali is a style statement that reveals his taste for good life. Kerala markets first witnessed a watch revelation in the early 2000s with Titan’s Fastrack.
It arrived in loud colours, snazzy designs and affordable price ranges easily becoming the first choice of youngsters. At the time, owning a Fastrack was even an issue of pride for the youth. Following Titan’s footsteps, many a watch brand came with innovative and fluid designs that shook the market. Calvin Klein, one of the current favorites among watch aficionados, has a wide range of feminine and masculine time-tellers.
“For a man, a watch signifies his personality since that is the only ornament he may wear. Hence, ever since I started earning, it was my dream to own a good watch. During those days Rado with all its sheen was a Gulf returnee’s signature style and I did not want that tag attached to me. I did my research and bought my first Tissot, which was comparitively less known in Kerala, from Bombay in 2000,” says Aravind, an entrepreneur.
The times have changed and the same youngsters who vouched for Fastracks for its style and popularity are now favouring Tissot and Rado for their quality and brand value. Feminine designs and thin straps are no more a fad among ladies; they go for chunky dials and fat metal chains as their wrist buddy.
“The concept of spending less on a watch is passé. Today, we have customers who buy three or four luxury watches as a collection,” says Reneesh, manager of the newly established Malabar Watches in the city. The outlet which has exclusive ranges of Swiss luxury brands such as Rado and Tissot swears that the Kerala crowd is ready to spend as much as ` 4 lakhs on a piece of metal.
When the IT crowd go for the informal Calvin Kleins and Casios, the business class is all for Omega, Rado and Tissot. Brands like Cartier, Bvlgari, Tag Heur and Chopard are yet to arrive in Kerala markets, but that does not stop watch lovers from owning them. Those who travel abroad find time to browse through watch shops until they stumble on their best bargain.
“When I returned after my studies in London, I had brought back eleven watches with me, all belonging to big brands like D&G and Calvin Klein. I bought all of them during sale seasons and got them at good prices,” says Ananya, a hotelier.
Swatch watches, a hot favourite among youngsters for its vivid patterns, have recently released a range of touch screen watches. “The youngsters are looking for novelties and they will certainly experiment if something new is in the market,” says Reneesh.
Style Plus, a lifestyle store in the city which also has a range of imported watches, has DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Fossil, Diesel, Police and Titan in its collection. The shop says Guess, known for its gaudy styling, is one of the most sought-after brands in the city. “Even though there are many takers for the imported brands, Titan’s demand is no less. The women still come asking for Titan’s Raga range. While youngsters are all for style and design, the middle-aged men and women prefer traditional brands such as Citizen and Titan,” says the watch sales man of Style Plus.
The current trend shows that it is not only the elite class that goes for expensive watches. The middle-class youth who clinch jobs at a young age like to splurge on brands rather than going for replicas.
“I believe a watch represents one’s personality. My belief is that it is better to not wear a watch rather than going for a replica of a branded watch,” says Diya, a software engineer.