Cool, confident and sophisticated, Anish Bhatt certainly cuts a dapper figure in front of the camera. The irony of course is that it’s usually him that’s on the other side of the lens, overseeing video and photography shoots for his successful men’s watch and lifestyle blog, WATCH ANISH.
Founded in early 2012, the blog gets over 1.3 million hits a month and has garnered Anish and his ever-growing business team a legion of fans worldwide. Watch Anish, which started as many blogs do, as a pet project, takes Anish all over the world, living the millionaire lifestyle that many of us can only dream of. One minute he’s in Dubai overseeing a video shoot, the next he’s being invited to LA to a product launch. Not bad for a lad from North London who left university not knowing what he wanted to do.
One thing Anish was sure of however was of his passion for watches – a passion he’d had since he was a little boy. “I remember pestering my grandma when I was about five-years-old for a Timex, which had glow in the dark numbers. I spoke about it so much that she finally gave in and bought it for me. I treasured it.”
Fast forward a few years and Anish had begun to appreciate the craftsmanship and precision that went into making luxury time-pieces, saving up furiously for his first high-end watch, a Vacheron Constantin. But it was while he was working in America that the idea to turn his passion into a business really took hold. “I’ve always been interested in style, particularly menswear,” says Anish. “I worked in the fashion industry in the US for a while, selling niche brands into department stores. It was there that I came across the blog The Satorialist (satorialist.com) and was really struck by the way it captured real people on the street and their individual style. It was revolutionary at the time.”
Returning to his home city of London, he decided to pack in his job and invest his £5,000 savings into recreating his own luxury lifestyle blog, with the help of fashion photographers, Adam Priscak and James Cole. “I didn’t really have a business plan as such,” he says. “Just a real passion for what I was doing.”
Anish spotted a gap in the market for presenting watches and other luxury items in an accessible way. “There are lots of great magazines and pieces of content out there about watches but what I found was that traditionally they’re really copy heavy and use a lot of jargon. I wanted to create content that was fresh and exciting, that was visually-led, rather than reliant on too much text.”
Choosing his target audience was easy – the men he aspired to be. “London is full of really image-conscious young entrepreneurs. The photographer and I would go and hang out in Mayfair and Knightsbridge and stop people on the street, asking them what watches they were wearing and taking pictures of it,” he explains.
Soon, Watch Anish had an avid following, with collectors and admirers of luxury watches checking in to see the latest trends and Anish’s latest wrist candy. “Our growth was purely organic,” says Anish. “We were just lucky that people were hungry for what we were doing. We soon developed a core readership that we still have to this day. The fantastic thing is that it’s a two-way dialogue – not just us broadcasting what we think looks good. Our audience engage with us, ask us questions – we’ve built a real community.”
One of the keys to Watch Anish’s success, Anish believes, is that it’s not just about showing off products – it’s about selling a particular lifestyle. He says: “Lots of people aspire to own beautiful things and visit exotic places. We visually represent that dream through our blog. We won’t just photograph a watch – we’ll photograph it on someone’s wrist sitting in a Jaguar or by a pool full of beautiful people. It’s about showcasing the pieces in the luxurious environments they deserve to be in.”
Anish also quickly caught on to the value of social media to help build his brand, with Instagram the obvious platform to showcase his photography. “At that time, no one was really using Instagram in the way that we were – showcasing really high-end, unobtainable pieces,” says Anish.
Without relying on any traditional advertising streams to boost the blog, you might wonder how Watch Anish manages to make any money. Well, thanks to the popularity of the blog and the influential eyes that follow it, Anish has been approached by a number of luxury brands to help propel them into the digital age.
“Once Watch Anish was established and people became aware of the photography and shoots we were doing, they began contacting us to see if we could collaborate with them and their brands. Not just on watches but on other luxury products, too – jewellery, luggage, accessories – high-end products. They wanted to tap into our audience and establish a presence with us,” says Anish.
Hublot, Goyard, Richard Mille, Montblanc, Chopard, Burj Al Arab, MB&F and Urwerk are just some of the luxury brands that have approached Anish and his team to assist them with their brand marketing. “We strategise with them, working as brand consultants and help them to create relevant content that showcases their products to the right demographic.”
Such is the influence that Anish has, he now gets invited all over to world to help brands realise their creative visions and to meet other watch collectors. Stacking up the air miles, he reckons he now spends almost 70% of his time outside the UK. Italy, Dubai, New York, Hong Kong, Qatar, Zurich, Beirut… The list goes on. “I’m very fortunate that my work takes me far and wide. It’s part of the job I love. I especially like meeting other watch collectors – we trade stories, talk about the pieces we love and of course they’re thrilled when they get to feature on the blog,” says Anish.
As the business has grown, so has Anish’s workforce. He employs a mix of content marketers, editors, photographers and videographers – a creative team who work hard to realise his vision. “I’m very lucky that I have a great team of people around me who I really trust and ‘get’ what I’m trying to do,” says Anish. “Having them based globally means that we can do simultaneous shoots. Today I’m doing this cover shoot in Wimbledon, while my team are filming in Zurich.”
One thing Anish isn’t prepared to compromise on is the quality of what he does. Often he turns down brands that approach him because they’re not quite the right fit for Watch Anish.
“From the beginning I’ve always said that I have to 100% believe in what I’m doing and what our company showcases,” explains Anish. “If it’s credible, something we believe in, that we’d buy ourselves – then that’s who we’ll work with. I’m fortunate to be in a position where we can cherry-pick our clients.”
Being selective has paid dividends for Anish as it means that he’s now highly respected and sought after throughout the world for his creative input. His inspiration comes from all over – the places he travels to, the people he meets and the things he reads.
“I’m constantly influenced wherever I go by art, architecture and design. Also by different nationalities and different people. Anything can spark a creative idea,” explains Anish.
In terms of the future, Anish has got his sights on expanding Watch Anish in the key markets of the Middle East and Asia. “We’ve got people out there that really like what we’re doing and want to collaborate with us,” says Anish.
The brand is also dabbling in a women’s website, Watch Fashionista (watchfashionista.tumblr.com), bringing the winning formula of Watch Anish to a female audience.
For Anish the beauty of digital is that you don’t need a five-year business plan, it’s an organic, constantly evolving space, with lots of opportunities. “We’ve been successful because we’ve adapted to the demands of what our consumers/readers want. We appreciate that trends change quickly and in order to keep up with that we need to be a fluid business. Who knows what direction the next five years will take us?”
One constant however will be Anish’s love of timepieces – a passion he’s clung onto since his first Timex all those years ago. As he concludes: “A watch for a man is an expression of his personality. Most men don’t wear much jewellery so it’s a way of saying ‘This is who I am’. He can change it to suit his mood or to suit the occasion. For a collector it’s also an investment – much like a vintage car or a good bottle of wine. An iconic piece will retain its value and can be passed down through the generations. It’s truly timeless.”
Interview originally published in Autumn 2014
Photographs by Sanjay Jogia
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