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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 August 2018

Amir Meghani: the man who makes his own diamond watches 

We meet the man and learn the story behind JBW Watches, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year

Founder Amir Meghani. Courtesy JBW Watches
Founder Amir Meghani. Courtesy JBW Watches

It’s not every day that you get to meet a man who makes his own diamond watches, but then it’s not every day you meet Amir Meghani.

Keen to own his own watch company, 10 years ago Meghani launched JBW Watches. And then the global economy crashed. “Yes, that was a challenge,” he admits, “but it’s part of the whole story. At that time, it was just about getting it started. In the beginning, I was taking the watches and trying to dress rappers and basketball players. Our marketing [strategy] was a photographer, me and the watches, going to random charity events and backstage at concerts to gift them a product, to get a photograph. It was a complete hustle.”

Although not a standard business approach, it was in line with his family’s maverick streak. In the 1950s, Meghani’s grandfather started in the watch business selling straps on the streets of India, before moving on to bringing entry-level Swiss watches into the country. “Swiss watches were a big deal, but trying to import stuff into India was very costly, so my grandfather and his brother actually began smuggling stuff in. They did that until 1968, when they got caught. They then moved the whole family to Dubai.”

The JBW G4:

G4 watch, JBW Watches
G4 watch, JBW Watches

In the UAE, the family opened 4 watch stores, selling Swiss and Japanese watches, until 1990, when the grandfather retired and the family once again decamped, this time to Dallas in the ­United States. Meghani’s father began trading in watches in the US, and invited his son, Amir, to join him. But Amir, it seemed, had bigger plans. “In 2008, I launched JBW because I said I was not going to sell any other brands. And now we are celebrating our 10-year anniversary this autumn.”

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Entry-level luxury

Surviving in today’s retail environment is no easy feat, and the need to offer something different from your competitors is greater than ever. For JBW, that translates into offering high-quality timepieces minus the shocking price tags. “We position ourselves as something that you can get into without having to spend five years’ salary. From us, you can pick up a watch for Dh1,000 very easily, or for something that has almost one carat of diamonds around the bezel, it will be a couple of thousand. That’s the idea of entry-level luxury – and no one else is doing it right now,” Meghani claims.

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Predicting that online would be the retail space of the future, JBW was created as a purely e-commerce brand, and today sells its creations all around the world. But despite its global reach, the company has retained its human scale, and employs just 18 people. Far from making it vulnerable to pressure from larger brands, Meghani is adamant that being a smaller organisation is part of what draws customers to JBW.

The JBW Jet Setter:

Jet Setter watch, JBW watches.
Jet Setter watch, JBW watches.

“With us you are buying the design, you are buying into an independent watch brand, and you are buying into a one-on-one connection. Everything is transparent, you can go and see what’s behind my ­company. It’s me and my team, and that’s the vision that you are getting, and it’s something different.

“Cheap watches are designed to be worn and then thrown away, but we are not designed like that. We are providing stainless steel cases, movements from Switzerland, all our plating is 18K gold, and we offer a two-year warranty, globally. If you have ever bought a watch from us, we will service it, because we want people to value what we are giving them. That’s why we have diamonds.”

The JBW Olympia:

A post shared by JBW Watches (@jbw_brand) on

The special ­anniversary collection

Ah, diamonds. Even a cursory glance at its website reveals that JBW loves these coveted little stones, scattering them so liberally across its product range that since launching 10 years ago, it has set a staggering 6.8 million diamonds into its timepieces. “Some [watches] only have 22 diamonds, while some have 186, depending what you are getting yourself into.”

Nimble enough to react quickly to new ideas, JBW will soon be rolling out a concierge service that will log a customer’s purchases, how long is left on the warranty, and when the next tune-up is due. It also recently unveiled its first diver’s watch (to 100 metres), partly, Meghani admits “to show people that we can innovate and produce a diver’s watch in a diamond watch brand”.

To celebrate its first decade in business, the brand will be releasing a special ­anniversary collection of six watches, including four that are ­considered house staples: the Mondrian, Saxon, Olympia and Phantom. They have all been reimagined for the occasion, and will be presented in a special ­anniversary box.

The JBW Phantom:

Phantom watch, JBW Watches
Phantom watch, JBW Watches

“This is a very exciting time for us,” he tells me. Having worked so hard over the past 10 years to carve out a niche for JBW, Meghani and his team are ­starting to reap the rewards. Given the number of watches JBW has sold, Meghani says: “There are enough people out there who want that point of differentiation.”

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