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.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Contents -

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.

How so?

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.

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