On a balmy and hot Wednesday evening in Delhi, team Vishawatch sat down with celebrated Indian designer Rohit Bal to talk watches and whiskies. Seated in the comfort of his eclectic and tastefully designed drawing room, Rohit took us on a journey where he reminisced about the past and talked about his love for all things beautiful.
The Watch I Love
The first thing we noticed was the watch Rohit was wearing. A vintage Breitling with an elegant blue dial and just the right amount of gold work, it was but an obvious conversation starter.
“I have a deep emotional attachment with this watch. I was very young and it was the first watch I bought myself. I had just completed a show in Europe and with all the money I made, I bought this watch.”
“For me, this piece is also a reminder of some amazing memories,” he added. “It takes me back to when I finished University and the time I spent living in Europe. Over time, I’ve become so attached to this watch that it’s become a part of my arm! I have many other watches, but this remains the one I love the most.”
Watches And Style
Rohit’s watch collection was an interesting mix of pieces, some of which he had been gifted and some that he had bought for himself. While we marveled over his collection and talked about his Breitling, Omega and Hublot watches amongst others, he mentioned that he stayed away from pieces with big dials as they weren’t reflective of who he was as a person. His taste in watches was clear as day – it was all about keeping things simple, elegant and clean.
Moving the conversation to watches as a style statement Rohit had this to say. “Watches are the most representative of the kind of personality a person has. The watch a person wears is really about who they are; it’s an extension of one’s personality.”
In the midst of this conversation, we spotted a fob watch that was a part of his collection. A vintage piece with the kind of old-world-charm that few, including Rohit, had the flair to carry off. “This was a gift from my dear friend Nina Pillai and I’ve worn it quite often. It’s a lovely watch and I love beautiful watches, especially on other people. I think beautifully made watches are quite the ultimate pieces of art!” We couldn’t agree more.
Talking about his inspiration behind the Nebula collection he’d done for Titan, we asked Rohit what kind of watches he’d design were he given a free hand. “I’d love to design watches that are classic, old world and no fuss. I lean more towards designing watches that could be considered grandfather watches that are simple. While not many people would wear those kind of watches today because watches have become an important statement piece, I think wearing a simple time piece is a strong statement in itself.”
Rohit went on to talk about how simplicity in design is difficult to achieve. “Your design can either hide behind a lot of fuss or be the kind of simple that’s in your face with nothing to hide. My mantra was and always will be to keep design as simple as possible.”
Whisky’s in the Genes
As the evening grew darker, a beautiful bottle of a 21-year-old Royal Salute was opened and the course of the conversation was nudged ever-so-gently towards Rohit’s love for this golden liquid manna. While regaling stories about his grandfather he said, “I think what you drink has a lot to do with what your parents or your grandparents drank.”
He looked back fondly at his memories with whisky and reminisced about his journey through the “obsequious” Black Label, and his short flirtation with Chivas and Johnnie Walker. “I remember the birth of single malts in my life many years ago when it wasn’t served at homes or parties. I used to drink Glenfiddich then, which used to come in a regular simple green bottle. To see where Glenfiddich has gone from then to now is quite amazing.”
When Savouring Whisky Meets Design
While sipping on the rich and full bodied Royal Salute, which incidentally also happens to be his favourite blended scotch, Rohit also talked about how ever so often, he’d picked up bottles of whisky and cognac just because of their beautiful design. “I am obsessed with the concept of everything beautiful. I have a collection of empty Royal Salute bottles that can fill up a whole wardrobe but I can’t get myself to throw these bottles away. They aren’t really functional but they’re all pieces of art. Sometimes you buy things because they’re packaged so beautifully. In everything from food to perfumes, packaging makes a massive difference.”
Over the course of the evening, a breadth of topics around whisky were discussed – from the over intellectualization of the drink to his successful association with Chivas. At the end of the conversation, we just had to know about the one whisky he would go back to without a second thought. Macallan was the answer. Fine taste for a fine gentleman.
The time spent with Rohit Bal discussing fine whiskies and luxury watches made us realise how amazing it is meeting people who shared the same love as us. “If you’re a whisky drinker, you pretty much can’t drink anything else. If I had to choose what I had to drink it would be beautiful whisky in a stunning whisky glass preferably without diluting it.” To us at Vishawatch, that sounded pretty darned perfect!
Photography by Harsh Khaneja for Vishawatch.com