Jaipur Watch Company's Raja Ravi Varma Collection, Timepieces That Pay Tribute to the Artistic Legacy
Jaipur Watch Company's Raja Ravi Varma Collection, Timepieces That Pay Tribute to the Artistic Legacy

If Raja Ravi Varma were alive today, what would he think of Jaipur Watch Company's (JWC) Raja Ravi Varma collection? According to Sachin Kaluskar, an art entrepreneur and owner of one of the largest collections of Varma's oleographs in the country, the artist would have embraced the idea wholeheartedly. Kaluskar emphasizes that Raja Ravi Varma was not only a painter but also a shrewd businessman who had become a brand in his own right, making this collection a fitting homage.

The limited-edition collection features several of the artist's beloved works adorning the watch dials and the inner surface of the sapphire crystal, lending a touch of sophistication to their ubiquity. The release of this collection couldn't have been better timed, coinciding with the 175th birth anniversary of the artist-entrepreneur. Varma's oeuvre, ranging from divine paintings to regal portraits and lithographs produced at his eponymous press, democratized art and significantly influenced popular culture.

Gaurav Mehta, the founder of JWC, clarifies that the Ravi Varma watch is not meant to be a "first watch" for anyone. Rather, it is intended for individuals who have an appreciation for Indian art, products made in India, and collectors looking for something distinctive to add to their collection. Mehta, who dedicated the past decade to building India's first microwatch brand, launched JWC with watches featuring rare colonial-era coins as dials. The company's product lines also include watches with engravings, pichwai art, and hand-painted timepieces. With funding from startup accelerator Marwari Catalysts and Dexter Angels, JWC reported a turnover of Rs 4.5 crore last year. The brand has flagship stores in Jaipur's upscale C-Scheme, a boutique in New Delhi, and plans to open stores at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur and Koregaon Park in Pune. Mehta also hints at an upcoming project inspired by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso.

Art has frequently served as an inspiration for watchmakers, gracing the dials of timepieces from various brands. For instance, Swatch's recently launched Art Journey series celebrates the works of Roy Lichtenstein, René Magritte, Sandro Botticelli, and Katsushika Hokusai. Meanwhile, Vacheron Constantin's Metiers D'Art collection showcases miniature enamel paintings and other intricate decorative techniques.

Mehta explains that the Raja Ravi Varma collection didn't incorporate hand-painted dials because replicating the artist's style was an insurmountable challenge. Instead, JWC imported a specialized machine from Japan to recreate Varma's oleographs on the watch face, using high-resolution digital images sourced from Kaluskar. They also collaborated with the Kilimanoor Palace Art Trust, managed by the artist's descendant, Rama Varma Thampuran. (Ravi Varma was born into an aristocratic family in Kilimanoor, in Kerala, in 1848.)

Each 40mm watch, powered by a Miyota movement, comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by Rama Varma Thampuran. The timepieces utilize either a disc or a traditional three-hand setup to tell the time, with the crown set with a sapphire stone. The strap is crafted from nylon with a synthetic leather base, and prices start at Rs 65,000. The collection features approximately 14 Ravi Varma paintings, with "Radha in the Moonlight" being a standout choice.

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