IN HIGH GEAR
Fearlessness in the face of risk is what drives Alvin Soon, Breitling’s president of Greater China and South-east Asia, both behind the wheel and the desk.
D OW N T I M E
Breitling’s regional chief on taking the wheel in his personal and professional life.
What made you want to pick up an advanced driving course?
Several years ago, I was given the opportunity to drive F1 and F3 cars in the south of France and I was paired with (British former Formula One racer) David Coulthard. I was awed by his ability to drive under such conditions; when I was in the car with him, I could barely open my eyes and my head was always whipped back. I myself have spun uncontrollably out of the circuit before, with gravel flying everywhere and me realising there was nothing I could do about it. The adrenaline was what hooked me, and I signed up for advanced driving courses with BMW and Audi.
What were those like?
Both courses reinforce basic driving techniques, like hand positions and the frequency with which you check your mirrors, while also teaching defensive driving. I began to realise that driving is about accuracy and precision, not speed. But the irony is that the safer I learn to be, the more risks I want to take.
The tighter a parallel parking space is, for example, the happier I am. I’m not always successful, though, which explains all the dents on my car. I also like driving in the middle of the night with the windows down and the sun roof open while listening to instrumental music, because the roads are clear. Most people hate the PIE since it’s the most accident-prone expressway but I love its winding roads – it really lets you feel your car.
Does this attitude translate to your work life?
Absolutely. Everything is a calculated risk and the key is in understanding what the risks are. If I know this car can handle a speed of 200kmh, I won’t push it past that, but I will put that speed to the test on different routes. Similarly, you have to know the capabilities of your staff, and make sure not to put the wrong people in the wrong place. The staff on my team sometimes get annoyed with how I always seem to have a thousand ideas and constantly want to try a different tack but I ask them: Doesn’t it all turn out better in the end? Don’t you feel proud to create something totally different?
What were some of those ideas?
I thought regular pop-up stores and exhibitions were boring, so, when we had to do one at Paragon, I suggested we build a small hangar instead, complete with a miniature runway. And, instead of models, I invited entrepreneurs who are friends of the brand to do a catwalk with our watches. We also had a tie-in with Singapore Air Show in 2016, where I had a guy dressed in a Breitling flight suit drag a parachute around town, visiting different retailers and finally ending up in one of our boutiques which I closed for a private party.
So what’s your dream car?
A Tesla, because it’s something different. The only reason I don’t have one is because I live in a condominium and don’t have a socket with which to charge one. The salesperson was so desperate to make the sale he even suggested I use an extension cord if I live in a secondfloor unit. But that wouldn’t be very glamorous, would it? Either that, or learn to fly a plane.
FULL OF DRIVE Motoring fan Alvin Soon at the wheel of his BMW 6 Series coupe.