In a first, Titan goes for in-house movements to boost premium range

Titan sells close to 17 million watches every year
More than 30 years after it started business, Titan Company, the country’s largest watchmaker, will shift gear and move up the value chain by making its mechanical movements in-house for the very first time, in a bid to give a booster shot to its premium range of products. The plan, which has been in the works for at least a couple of years, represents a leap in engineering. 

Titan sells close to 17 million watches every year, and plans to launch at least half a dozen entirely new automatic pieces starting next quarter under the Titan brand, S Ravi Kant, CEO of the company’s watch and accessories division confirmed. For its present range of automatic watches, it outsources movements. 

The majority of the new line-up of automatics is expected to be priced between Rs 20,000 and Rs 25,000, hinting at Titan’s efforts at increasing its prowess in an industry dominated by Swiss and Japanese manufacturers. Now, the majority of Titan’s watches are priced at Rs 10,000 and below, but premium-priced watch sales are expected to grow by leaps and bounds in the future. That’s expected to happen on the back of a growing disposable income amongst working professionals and income categories, Kant said.

Titan also makes and sells automatic timepieces through the storied Swiss brand called Favre-Leuba, which it acquired in 2011. 

Favre-Leuba’s watches, which are regarded in the world of watches and have history in India, haven’t yet generated volumes nor excitement because of two reasons: There’s more brand-building needed and the firm came in top-down with its expensive Raider series that range from Rs 1.6 lakh to Rs 6 lakh. Kant says there are plans to rejig the strategy there by bringing in lower-priced newer models and going bottom-up, strategy and product launch-wise. 

The last three years have seen Titan recover from slowed sales, declining volumes and market pressures that came about as a result of changing tides in the watch business. Fastrack, Titan’s youth brand, was under pressure because younger buyers were leaning towards wearables such as Fitbits or cheaper alternatives, and in some cases upgrading their phones instead of buying new watches. General awareness is growing about the absence of residual value when it came to battery-powered or quartz watches. 

Yasho Saboo, founder of Ethos Watch Boutiques, a luxury retailer of timepieces which include Rolex, Breitling and Jaeger Le Coultre, says even if Titan goes as premium to introduce automatic gold watches in the price range of 

Rs 4 lakh and Rs 5 lakh, it could become successful. “The important point will be to figure what brand to sell them, but I think it is an idea whose time has come,” he said. 

Beyond mechanical watches, Titan has seen smartwatches add 10 per cent to its sales volumes and is growing at a rate of 85 per cent annually, says Kant, adding its growth has been supported by the launch of seven smart products over the last two years that include the Sonata Act, SF Rush, Titan WE, and Fastrack Reflex WAV. The company also makes fitness bands and in the near future will be unveiling a product that will be game-changer in terms of price-point for a smart watch, Titan’s executives say. 

Rachit Mathur, partner and director, India lead of consumer practice, Boston Consulting Group, says the market size for watches is around Rs 10,000 crore and growing at a brisk clip. 

The opportunities for both premium and smartwatches are budding but need be tackled cautiously, he says. “India is a market where watches can be found for Rs 800, Rs 8,000, Rs 80,000 and also Rs 8 lakh,” he said, adding the challenge was to get a new product right, and its positioning. “Anyone launching a new premium automatic watch will be competing with the Rados of the worlds and so the consumer will ask if he or she wears an Indian brand, will it give them the same halo.”

Capability-wise, the market opinion is that Titan is best suited to pull off such an effort, given how it upgraded its local jewellery business to a designer retail framework with the Tanishq label.