Confessions of a Swiss Watch Dealer

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“Many watches costing Rs 20 lakh or more are bought on behalf of other people. These include lawyers and politicians”

It’s difficult for expensive watch brands to do business in India. Though it’s a lucrative market, there are many government controls and taxes. These squeeze the dealer’s margins.

The market for high-end watches is growing at a phenomenal rate. Luxury watches range from Rs 100,000 to a crore or more. Our customers swing between those who value a brand and display a single piece for a decade and those who want fashionable features. They may not know how to swim, but they want a feature that displays impressive underwater depth.

Swiss watches are bought for their heritage, manufacturing precision and appearance. They also make good gifts or modes of payment. Many watches costing Rs 20 lakh or more are bought on behalf of other people. These include lawyers and politicians. Lawyers earn a lot but pay little income tax. They devise ingenious ways to accept their fees. One of them is Swiss watches. This way, they declare the watch as a gift and reduce their tax burden.

Politicians too are a huge market. Most buy costly watches for high-ranking government officers. Recently, a former Karnataka CM bought six watches for Rs 35 lakh. It included a Rs 43 lakh watch which was sold at a discounted price of Rs 23 lakh. The only problem here was that the former CM’s personal secretary, who came to collect the watches, wanted to pay in cash. This is where our dealers help out. They have no problems accepting cash.

Some film stars are our brand ambassadors. They are paid a small amount in cash and the balance in watches and accessories. They are contracted to wear these watches prominently. These stars play truant and we have a tough time reminding them of their commitments. They give silly reasons like the watch not going with their outfit.

(This Bangalore-based businessman has been the official Indian dealer for a luxury Swiss watch label for the past five years)