There are watches for when you’re on the putting green, for when you’re fraternizing with underwater life, or flying your Cessna. We thought creators of timepieces had given us a watch for every need. Until Chitra Subramaniam-Duella and Marc Aeschbacher, co-founders of Switzerland-based Borgeaud Watches, discovered that there was a centuries-old astrological custom which didn’t have a timepiece devoted exclusively to it.
“Two years ago, I was talking about the Panchang (the Indian almanac that packs logic through a series of mathematical calculations on the movements of the sun, moon and planets) with Chitra and about how, for most Indians, rahu was its most important function,” says Aeschbacher. The rahu period, which lasts 90 minutes, occurs at different times every day of the week; important decisions are generally not made, or new projects started, in this phase.
The idea that occurred to them next was quite predictable. That is, if you were a Swiss watchmaker. “It was so obvious that we couldn’t believe no one had created a watch like this before,” Subramaniam-Duella says. The duo figured that if they could translate the Panchang’s complex mathematical calculations into the mechanical and use them for the complication of a watch, it would serve an existing need for millions of Indians.
The watch that makes you wait
What made the task more interesting was the fact that the rahu period does not occur at the same time every day. Creating that complication, which shows the rahu period every day, in real time, was the biggest challenge, they say.
But their team of five professional watchmakers figured out what is now being seen as an achievement of sorts in the watchmaking world. The first watch from The Panchang line (it’s Borgeaud Watches’ first line) will be launched in India in September, after debuting at the Basel Watch and Jewellery Fair in Switzerland in April. Both the male and female versions have a complication or dial which shows the time at which the rahu occurs daily. There’s also a drop-shaped counter on the women’s watch which fills up during the 90 minutes, like a countdown. The men’s watch has a similar countdown, in the form of a chronometer.
The duo says their focus was on creating a new dimension of time. “It’s driven by an Indian notion of time, but is not India-centric,” says Subramaniam-Duella. The team liaised with pro watchmakers as well as Panchang experts while researching.
Subramaniam-Duella and Aeschbacher say they think the rahu is very relevant, even today. “The most important use of the Panchang is the muhurat. Nothing in India happens without muhurat,” says Subramaniam-Duella. The first scene of every Bollywood film to be shot, called a “muhurat clap”, is conducted at an auspicious time. Aeschbacher, a former senior vice-president of one of Switzerland’s largest private banks, says: “It was difficult to understand why Indian business people, especially gold traders, didn’t trade during certain hours. They would discuss the transaction, but would wait for an hour to send the order. They make sure there is no money involved during that period.” He says he found it easier to start trading at 9am on Monday mornings rather than at 7.30am, which is when the rahu starts. Subramaniam-Duella recalls a headline last year in an Indian newspaper which read that former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, who was to undergo open-heart surgery, had been advised to postpone it till the rahu period had ended.
“But we don’t advocate you get carried away. If you have a plane to catch on Monday morning, you’re going to catch it,” explains Subramaniam-Duella.
Tata Consultancy Services CEO and managing director Subramaniam Ramadorai was their mentor. “We wanted a real person who understood science to be with us during the process and give us their opinion,” says Subramaniam-Duella. The watch (prices start at Rs1 lakh) can be custom-made to include birthstones or the Navratna gems. And they’re planning to extend the line to include a tourbillion as well. Make sure you get yours at the right time.