Where the rich are investing 2016

The Accidental Collector

Abhimanyu Bansal takes us through a pick of his burgeoning watch collection, that includes stunning, unique inherited pieces and a vintage pocketwatch

The 29-year-old director of Indonesia-made furniture company Warisan India, Abhimanyu Bansal’s very first timepiece was a limited-edition Panerai, that he bought with his signing bonus as an intern in finance company Blackrock on Wall Street. “I was a senior as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, when I got this internship,” says Abhimanyu, at his Asiad Village, New Delhi showroom. “Everyone in finance was wearing these awesome watches. I probably should have saved the money, but I went and blew it on a watch.” Not just any watch, but a precursor to a growing collection, with some sought after, and others inherited.

 “I wanted to own something unique and that’s how I got interested in owning watches,” says Abhimanyu. He tells us about the time when, in pursuit of a Franck Muller Conquistador Cortez Black PVD, he had to track it down over a year and a half because it had been discontinued. “It’s not very popular, as people usually prefer the gold or white gold option,” he says. “This one has a rubber strap, and the entire casing is in special black PVD coating – under it is the gold casing.”

He shows us a vintage gold antique Omega. “This one has a special story,” says Abhimanyu. “It was bought by an Iranian businessman who visited India in 1976, and presented to my nanaji, who gave it to my mum, who put it away in a bank locker for 20 years. No one knew of its existence, and it was only while I was emptying the locker and put it on, that it started immediately, because it’s an automatic!” 

A timepiece that Abhimanyu is particularly fond of is his TAG Heuer Formula 1 Kimi Räikkönen men’s watch, a special Grande Date Chronograph limited to 10,000. “It’s like a F1 watch, but signed by him,” says Abhimanyu. “I bought it because I race as well. I do a lot of dirt driving. I’ve done the Great Himalayan Rally with my own rally car, which has the shell of a Gypsy, but it’s tuned up. I’ve done the Royal Rajasthan Rally, and a couple of short-format autocrosses in the last 3-4 years. And the TAG Heuer is the watch I wear when I am racing.”

Other watches that form the highlight of his growing collection is a white gold pocketwatch made by Touchon & Co., an exclusive Swiss company that supplied to Tiffany & Co., and known in its day for making fine watches as good as those by Patek Philippe. These are highly valued today, as they were only produced between 1907 and 1921, after which the company was bought over by another watch company. “This is a mechanical hand-wound pocketwatch, owned by my grandmother’s brother who lived his entire life in Santa Barbara, California,” says Abhimanyu of the exquisite pocketwatch he inherited from his great-uncle after he passed away. 

Among Abhimanyu’s more recent acquisitions is an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Black, “an amazing watch (he) bought for (himself) recently last year, when the Franck Muller was getting serviced for one year”. “I have a thing for black watches,” says Abhimanyu, “And my expensive watches are all black – I don’t have too many dressy watches except for the Santos 100 by Cartier, that has a brown strap and steel case with 18 kt yellow gold bezel, and steel crown. In the Santos 100 series the dials are slightly larger, and are perfect squares.”

Ever since he began his collection, Abhimanyu says that most watches are high-maintenance. “It’s like maintaining a car,” he says. “I’ve learned from experience that rather than digress into boutique brands, where service can be an issue, I would rather stick to mainstream brands like Cartier.” He also suggests studying the brand and going for those that make their own inhouse movements. And his next purchase? “I want the Panerai Radiomir as it’s a bit out of the ordinary, and the TAG Heuer Smartwatch,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate, as three of my watches have been gifted to me.” And that’s no accident.