It’s difficult being a watch enthusiast in India. To be sure, most of the best watches in the world are available here, but most of us just don’t have the kind of money to afford them. The problem is that most of the best options, when it comes to badass affordable timepieces, are simply not present here.
In this regard, one of my biggest grouches is with Timex. Now, that brand has been in India for decades, and whether on their website or on places like Amazon, you’ll find more Timex models than you can shake a stick at. But despite the plethora of models, the truly good stuff are not available. This, for me, includes two of the coolest Timex Qs that have been launched this year: the quartz Q GMT and the Q chronograph, and the mechanical Timex Marlin.
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As I’ve written earlier in this column, the one thing that drives the global watch industry is nostalgia. And when it comes to re-tooling classic 1970s designs, few brands do it as well as Timex. Now, the brand has been well known for its low-cost, functional and fun quartz watches since the Seventies. But before that, Timex used to make excellent mechanical dress watches as well, such as the Marlin in the 1960s.
In 2017, the brand threw a curveball by re-issuing the Marlin as a classic 34mm handwound dress watch, boasting of a period perfect size, with a mechanical Miyota movement inside. Not seen since the 1960s, it quickly became a hit. Since then the brand has also introduced automatic versions of the Marlin. The latter are often available in India, but with a 40mm case size, and a day and date complication, it’s a little large and busy for my taste. What I wish is that the mechanical Marlin were available instead, but I’ve never seen any sight of it.
Buoyed by the success of the Marlin, in 2019, Timex revised another old line, the Timex Q line. With their period-perfect angular tonneau case in wearable sizes, and integrated bracelet design, the Q has been a deserving hit. But since I already have much more capable—and better looking—sports watches, I never really considered getting one.
Until I saw photos of the Q GMT, which Timex launched in April this year. Coming in an all-black (dial and bezel) version on a rubber strap, a ‘Pepsi’ GMT (blue-red bezel), and a ‘Batman’ GMT (blue-black bezel). The watches use a Swiss quartz GMT movement and the bi-directional rotating bezel essentially allows you to track three time-zones at any given point. Highly reminiscent of the vintage Rolex GMT Master, both the functionality, size and price of the Q GMT makes it a winner.
The Q chronograph, released earlier this month, is no slouch in the looks department. A classic racing chronograph, it comes in two dial variants: the white panda and the black reverse panda. With its 450mm case size and pump-style pushers, it totally rocks a vintage 1970s aesthetic, something close to a classic Zenith El Primero. Sadly, neither of the new Qs are yet available in India.
Another brand that I wish were available in India is Hamilton. The brand makes some of the best affordable Swiss watches and it is rightly the toast of watch fans everywhere. The manufacture’s main jam is the military-inspired field watch, and both the Hamilton Khaki Mechanical and the Hamilton Khaki Automatic are absolute gems in this field. The brand’s chronographs and dress watches are no slouches either. For the life of me, I can’t fathom while Indian watch dealers don’t represent Hamilton in these shores! I hope that will change someday.
And when it comes to luxury watches, the same can be said for Tudor. Rolex’s sister brand makes some of the best “affordable” luxury watches out there—especially the Black Bay 39 dive watch and the Black Bay 36 sports watch—and it’s a mystery why the brand isn’t available here.
Finally, let’s talk about boutique watch brands. The sole reason these exist is for watch enthusiasts on a budget. Not everyone can afford to buy a Tudor Black Bay, let alone a Vacheron Constantin. And beyond a certain price point, say around ₹70,000, no matter how refined the watch, you start to get diminishing returns. Indeed, the best value—quality of the movement, the crystal, the case finish and the bracelet—resides in the ₹20,000- ₹70,000 bracket. And while budget-friendly brands like Seiko continue to push their prices further up, it’s the boutique (or microwatch) brands that have stepped into this space and thrived.
Two of my favourites are the American brand Lorier and the French brand Baltic. They’re both part of the neo-vintage trend of classic designs and wearable case sizes, and take an original approach to re-creating and updating these design cues for the modern use. Both these brands, like most others of their kind, offer wonderful collections of dive, dress, and sports watches, all around the $350-500 price point. It’s a pity that these options aren’t available in India. You can order them online and have them shipped here of course, but import duties and taxes will double the price of the watch, and you lose the value. How cool it would be if there was an Indian company that would represent these brands in India!
Handwound is a column on watches and watchmaking.