Anish Bhatt: "The Big Reason Why People Buy Watches... Is Status"
Watch what the watchman wears.
BY Lestari Hairul | Jan 18, 2017 | Interview
In the world of Instagram watches, Watch Anish rules the realm, effectively popularising that standard expensive-watch-against-car-wheel post. The pictures are more than just casual shots taken on a normal day out, as it transpires. We spoke with Anish Bhatt when he was in town recently for Montblanc’s 110th anniversary.
Esquire: How do you decide what watch to wear each day?
Anish Bhatt: I used to work in fashion, and I was already collecting watches before then. I’ve always linked it to what mood I’m in, or what I’m wearing, or where I’m going. I don’t really have a set watch for occasions. It depends and I’ll choose a watch that matches.
Esquire: Are most of your pictures planned or off the cuff?
Anish Bhatt: It’s kind of a mixture, to be honest. Probably 75 percent are off the cuff. We try and do more real-life content, in real-life situations, so there are a minimal amount of pre-planned photo shoots. Even like the stuff that we did with Montblanc, for example; we knew the locations and the outfits that we were going to use, but in terms of the scenario and the type of shots that we were going to do, it’s kind of unplanned. We went to Spago, and we noticed there’s a little ledge hanging right off the side of the restaurant overlooking many of the big monuments. Without really asking anyone, we had Steven [his employee] sit down on the edge to pose for a picture. It’s quite impromptu, the stuff that we do. We don’t plan poses or anything like that. It’s all done as natural as possible.
Esquire: You weren’t in the pictures?
Anish Bhatt: I wasn’t in the pictures because I think Steven’s look fits better with Montblanc’s Southeast Asia-specific campaign.
Esquire: So do you frequently use other models?
Anish Bhatt: Yeah, we do, but on my Instagram, not so much. I mean, it is about me, yet it isn’t solely about me. Even when it’s me modelling, I try to add personality rather than my face to it, if that makes sense. The reason why we use models is to depict different things. I have a certain look so there are lots of things that I can’t pull off but would still look good on others.
Esquire: You have a full team now. Do they take most of the pictures or do you still do it yourself?
Anish Bhatt: I direct about 90 percent of the stuff, unless I’m not onsite. For example, yesterday, we were here, in Singapore, but we also had a team shoot in Las Vegas. So obviously, I can’t be in two places at once. On such occasions, I’ll give them the direction beforehand, and the team executes it. But wherever possible, I’m on hand to direct properly.
Esquire: Why are the Instagram pictures heavily processed and super filtered?
Anish Bhatt: I kind of go by how people view it. Most people view these things not on their computers, especially social media, but on their smartphones. I edit the pictures to fit those screens better, because that’s where our audience is. The image is impactful as well, because the thing with social media is, there’s so much content you need to stand out to make people stop scrolling, look and engage with that photo. And you can develop a style. If you’re good, people will copy it, so you have to keep getting better at what you’re doing. You have to have something that people recognise.
Esquire: What do you think of people trying to copy you?
Anish Bhatt: It’s flattering, in a way. If you do something good, then yeah, people will. There’s an evolution of things, you know, and art imitates art. There’s always an inspiration of something, so I don’t discourage people from doing it. If they like what we do and want to do something similar, that’s fine. I can never stop that. A lot of people have used things that we have made popular, or certain scenarios or shooting styles, but it’s our job to keep progressing and evolving. Don’t keep doing the same thing that you were doing a year ago because it becomes stale after a while. You have to keep pushing yourself.
Esquire: Do you reject any of the brands that come to you?
Anish Bhatt: Yeah, probably like 70 to 75 percent, actually.
Esquire: So, what are the criteria?
Anish Bhatt: It has to be something that’s cool, it has to be something that I like, and it has to be something that I would buy. When I first started and wasn’t making money, I had brands that wanted to advertise with me. I turned them away because it wasn’t what I wanted for my brand. And that still stays true today. For me, the first thing that I look at is: what does this association mean for my brand? Does it work well? Do we work well together? Because to advertise something that you don’t like for a bit of money is a very short-term thing. I always look at long-term projects, and at good, positive brand association on both sides.
Esquire: How do you discern quality? Are watches immune from marketing spin?
Anish Bhatt: There is marketing spin to everything. But I think ultimately what you’re doing is selling an emotion attached to a product. A product will make you feel a certain way when you wear it, and that’s what the marketing tells you. Yes, I can appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into it, but a big reason why people buy watches, especially of a certain value, is status.
Esquire: Who gave you your first watch?
Anish Bhatt: My grandma, when I was about five years old. I was in India, and I really wanted a Timex Indiglo. It was the first watch with a green backlight. And, you know, I’m not from a wealthy family at all, especially in India, where they’re even less wealthy than we were in London. My grandma was like, “Look, it’s too expensive”, and then just before we left, she gave it to me. I was over the moon. I still have it actually.