Sujain Krishnan was a professional information-technology consultant and an amateur watch enthusiast, buying, selling, and actively bantering in the online watch forums, until he got the itch to do more. He started by selling watches he assembled from off-the-shelf parts and quickly earned reputation for quality work, but turning out homages was not enough. In 2013, he started the Melbourne Watch Company and released The Flinders, a durable dress watch of his own design.
Like the watches that would follow, the Flinders is named for a landmark in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, in this case, the Flinders Street Station. Intended as a versatile dress watch, it has a 40mm stainless steel case, leather strap, 50 meters water resistance, and a sapphire crystal in the front and in the rear as well to display the Miyota 9015 automatic movement within. Its face is all dial with only a slim polished bezel. The hands and markers are thin, polished, and simple, leaving the majority of adornment to the multi-layered and textured dial. A discreet chapter ring marks the outermost circle, joining a second ring for the applied hour markers, which then steps down to a guilloche pattern center. Text is minimal, with the Melbourne logo and brand at the top of the dial, and a diminutive “Automatic” in script at 6:00. Melbourne debuted on the crowd funding platform IndieGoGo and by the time the pre-sale campaign closed, it had collected 270 per cent of its funding goal and the Flinders remains a strong seller at just over $400 USD. The Melbourne Watch Company was a go.
From the outside, it may look like a Cinderella story, but the reality is a bit more complex. “It was a big change for me, going from corporate IT consulting to being self-employed,” say Sujain, “I think the biggest challenge was simply figuring out how the e-commerce world works and learning how to leverage effective online marketing. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that most of my day-to-day is not specifically watch related. There are a lot of moving pieces and not everything is apparent until you start getting things going.”
Sujain’s watches are firmly rooted in tradition. He avoids fads like grossly oversized cases or novelty dials, and instead focuses on creating a balanced design embellished with texture, depth, and the occasional whimsical detail like the “M” counterweight that graces his second hands. All feature 316L stainless steel, sapphire crystals, and reliable movements from Miyota and Seiko. Each successive model has garnered healthy pre-sale revenue, easily surpassing their funding goals and paving the way for the next step. After Flinders, Sujain launched Hawthorn, a refined, masculine watch in a 42mm case sporting a Miyota 8205, carbon fiber textured dial, 100m/10ATM water resistance, and C3 SuperLuminova for nighttime visibility. It is a solid design and at a very reasonable $326 retail.
Sujain remained engaged with his customers, and when they noted the dearth of small to mid sized watches in the micro brand market, he responded with the Parkville. At 36 mm wide it is a true unisex size, perfectly appropriate as a woman’s everyday watch or a man’s dress piece. The white dial features four slender Roman numerals printed in a radial arrangement, an index of simple dots around the perimeter, blue feuille hands, and a striking rosetta spiral guilloche pattern. For the movement he chose the quiet and reliable Seiko NH35, which helps keep the price under $330.
These first three models set the stage, but Melbourne’s fourth offering stole the show. Sujain described the Portsea as “the next step in the evolution of the Melbourne Watch Company range.” The 40mm Watch is powered by a Miyota 9120 modified from a three-register day/month/24 hour function with a 4-5 o’clock date window to a triple calendar display with a 6 o’clock date. The movement retains its hacking and hand-winding capabilities, 40-hour power reserve, and smooth 28,800 bph vibration rate. Day and date are set with the crown; the month is set by means of a recessed button at 2 o’clock.
The dial was inspired by marine chronometers, and retains the elements typical of that style but presents them in a dramatic fashion. A railroad index occupies the outermost ring. This steps down to a ceramic overlay on which the numbers and registers are printed. The sub dials are rings connected to the same overlay and cut away, revealing a final, lower surface decorated with deep horizontal grooves reminiscent of a sailboat’s deck. The effect of the elevated overlay is quite pronounced. It is much taller than the usual layered dial, so much so that at most angles, the rings appear to float. Striking as it may be in its execution, the dial does not shout. Rather, the watch presents a tasteful, elegant face that reveals its secrets upon closer inspection. It is a combination of style and detail not often found under $600 USD. It is no coincidence that Portsea is now Melbourne’s most popular model. It’s success inspired the Portsea Heritage, a simpler, three-hand version with a Seiko NH35 and a price closer to $300.
Having firmly established Melbourne’s dress watch credentials, Sujain took a different approach to his next watch. Created in collaboration with chef and watch enthusiast Pierrick Boyer, the Avalon is arguably Melbourne’s most aggressive piece. It is built around a Miyota 90S5 automatic and even with its larger 45mm case, open heart, and bold orange accents, it is more disciplined than indulgent. The black-on-black color scheme and relatively slim profile (12mm) minimize its bulk, while the multi-layered, “shuriken” patterned dial adds depth and visual interest. It is just now being made available for about $510.
Melbourne’s latest model, the Carlton, takes yet another direction. Inspired by 1960’s vintage chronographs from the likes of Heuer and Glashütte it is undoubtedly a sport watch, a fact supported by its sapphire crystal and 50 meter water resistance rating. At 42mm by a somewhat slim 11mm thick, it should fit comfortably under a shirt cuff. Two versions are offered: steel with a black dial and, a rose gold finish with a silver dial. Both have coordinating applied markers, diamond cut hands filled with C3 SuperLuminova, and the signature Melbourne “M” on the second hand. The dial is clean and subtle with a 60-minute timer and 24-hour totalizer at 9 and 3, respectively. In order to control cost and ensure quality, Sujain went with a quartz movement for this model, but one with a twist. The Seiko VK64 MechaQuartz is a hybrid movement that weds a battery driven quartz unit with a mechanical chronograph module for a smooth 1/5th-second sweep and a crisp snap back on reset. The Carlton smashed it funding goal on Kickstarter in a matter of hours and lists for just under $350.
In the coming year, Sujain plans to maintain a core range of Melbourne’s most popular models while adding a few new types - both mechanical and quartz. Next up is The Sorrento, a ceramic dial dressy diver. “We’re not aiming to compete with the more hardcore dive watch makers,” he explains, “so in line with our brand image, the Sorrento will be firmly geared towards dress style rather than functionality.” Even so, Sujain cannot resist adding some considerable function to that form. The Sorrento will be rated for 30ATM/300M and will feature tritium illumination. Other concepts are also in the works.
Unlike its predecessors, these new models will not debut on Kickstarter. “We’ve had a great run with crowd funding, but it’s definitely time for us to move on and stand on our own feet going forward,” Sujain explains, “I think that this should be the goal for any startup brand.” As he pulls away from crowd finding, Sujain is also exploring the traditional brick-and-mortar approach, and has plans to sell his watches through Australian retailers. The move from direct sales to retail network can be challenging for any company, but the Melbourne Watch Company seems well poised to take that leap. To find out more or to order one of your own, visit www.melbournewatch.com.au.