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Watches, for just a few crores

March 05, 2004 15:41 IST

Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre's tryst with India began over 70 years back. In 1931 Indian polo players had complained that, frequently, while playing the glass on the watch broke.

JLC came up with the idea of a reversible watch, which would save the glass top. Over the years, the Reverso became the most popular of the JLC  lines.

Globally Reverso makes for close to 50 per cent sales of JLC watches.

On Thursday, the company launched in Delhi a new watch -- the Master Compressor Dualmatic -- and made a formal entry into the Indian market.

Besides Reverso and Master lines, the Calibre and Atmos collections among others will also be available to Indian consumers. Price tags start at Rs 150,000 and can go up to a few crores.

"We think the Indian luxury market is a sensitive one. It's growing and we want to be part of that growth. We also want to educate the customer and help him in differentiating between brands," says Nicolas Baretzki, international director, JLC.

According to industry watchers, the market for luxury watches (those that are priced upwards of Rs 100,000) would be roughly Rs 250 crore (Rs 2.50 billion). The Indian consumer already has Bvlgari, Patek Philippe, A Lange & Sohne and Cartier to choose from.

"Super luxury items will always be a niche market and there is enough space for all the players. Our first job in India is to see if customers know of our brand. It is important to be seen. We're not thinking in terms of bulk selling," explains Baretzki.

For the time being JLC will be sold by three retailers -- two in Delhi and one in Mumbai. Plans are on to appoint retailers in Kolkata and Ahmedabad by the end of the year.

This is in keeping with the company's retailing philosophy of not having too many points of sales. Across the globe it has only around 1,000 retailers.

JLC officials are not thinking of celebrity endorsements to plug their products. "It's too risky," says Delhi-based Gurinder Sahni, managing director, Jot Impex, the company that has been appointed as the sole distributor for JLC watches in India.

"We'll send direct mailers and hold exclusive exhibitions for our customers," he adds. Neither Baretzki nor Sahni are willing to divulge their sales target.

Yusuf Begg