Five men dis­cuss their holy grail time­pieces

MVMT - - Contents - Words han­nah choo photos si­mon sim + getty images styling chia wei choong + Asri Jas­man

We look at five men and their pur­suit for the grail watch in their col­lec­tion

What is it about the Aude­mars Piguet Royal Oak Ex­tra-thin Tour­bil­lon that you like?

This was beau­ti­fully de­signed by the late Gérald Genta in 1972. He was a leg­endary watch de­signer who also de­signed the Nau­tilus. To this day, 44 years later, the Royal Oak re­mains time­less and el­e­gant. I like the fact that the watch­maker hasn’t made many changes to it, so it’s very true to the orig­i­nal.

It is breath­tak­ing.

It def­i­nitely is a piece of art you can take ev­ery­where. An­other thing I like about it is that it’s some­thing for every­one. To the per­son who doesn’t know much about watches, it is easy to ap­pre­ci­ate its sim­plic­ity. To some­one who’s into col­lect­ing, he will un­der­stand how dif­fi­cult it is to make one.

You re­ally love your watches.

I’ve al­ways been in­quis­i­tive about the way things work. It all started when I was a teen. My un­cle, who was a huge col­lec­tor and who doted on me, asked me to go along with him to get his Rolex ser­viced. When they opened the back to take a look at the watch, that was it for me. All the bits and pieces of mech­a­nism got me hooked. I found my­self try­ing to learn and un­der­stand how those mech­a­nisms work.

So you like the sci­ence be­hind it.

You start by look­ing at the mech­a­nism, and then go on to de­sign de­tails. Things like Gérald Genta’s Royal Oak, Nau­tilus and Sub­mariner have en­dured for many years. They don’t redo the whole thing but make lit­tle up­dates to keep things cur­rent, such as mak­ing the mark­ers big­ger be­cause peo­ple like them. So when you look at the new and old, the watch re­mains iconic. It’s sort of like look­ing at the new Porsche 911 and the early ’90s air-cooled. There’s an evo­lu­tion in the de­sign, and not nec­es­sar­ily a revo­lu­tion.

Is there a watch that you re­gret part­ing with?

Def­i­nitely my first watch, the Rolex GMT Mas­ter II. I wasn’t used to wear­ing watches all the time, and when you put it down, you had to re­set it. It was a pain. But look­ing back, I should have kept it. It was my first se­ri­ous watch. But you know, from there, that watch be­came the Mil­gauss, then the Ex­plorer II, and I have both the new and the orig­i­nal Steve Mcqueen. It took nine months to find one in good con­di­tion, which felt like for­ever.

You made a ca­reer switch?

Yes, I was work­ing a nine-to-five job as an en­gi­neer. It wasn’t par­tic­u­larly fun, given the amount of red tape that went with it. But it was also be­cause I couldn’t spend enough time with my wife. She works as a tu­tor and her days off didn’t co­in­cide with mine. I de­cided to quit my job to be­come a tu­tor as well. Peo­ple think of tu­tor­ing as a dump­ing ground, but I couldn’t care less. It worked for me and I get to spend qual­ity time with my fam­ily.

You are not do­ing too shab­bily from the looks of that time­piece you have.

This Rolex? It was a love at first sight for me, re­ally. When I saw it on the In­ter­net, I knew it was go­ing to be my first real watch. I never re­ally liked the pre­vi­ous mod­els, but when Rolex came out with the first Oys­ter­flex YachtMaster, my at­ten­tion was caught. I thought, fi­nally, here’s some­thing cool. Also, I’m quite a fan of rose gold and I thought the strap was bril­liant. It’s not flashy at all and I think it blends re­ally well with my clothes, so if I were to get any at­ten­tion at all, it would be the right kind. Af­ter all, I wear it for my own sat­is­fac­tion and not to show off.

When did you get it?

I got it to com­mem­o­rate my 30th birthday and to celebrate some­thing I achieved. It was also with the ap­proval of my wife (laughs), so I guess it’s not just about me. It rep­re­sents us.

Do you hardly spend on your­self?

You got that right. Hon­estly, I don’t care that much for lux­u­ries and branded goods. I can make do with just the ba­sics most of the time, but I reck­oned a good watch would be a nice re­ward af­ter all this time. The Oys­ter­flex feels re­ally sig­nif­i­cant.

Next up, a Patek Philippe?

Funny you should say that. There hasn’t been many watches that have caught my eye, but the 5270 Per­pet­ual Cal­en­dar struck me, even way be­fore I saw my Rolex. I couldn’t af­ford it then and I still can’t right now. But when I get it, that would mean a lot to me. I mean, it’s a Patek Philippe. It’s stun­ning too, and I think the 5270 is the best in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a Patek. It’s sleek and the dial looks so­phis­ti­cated, but every­thing is well-or­gan­ised. Buy­ing it would mean get­ting a work of art.

How long have you been eye­ing the De Bethune DB28?

I fell in love when I saw it two years ago. The de­sign is so avant garde. I mean, look at the lines, sil­hou­ette and fin­ish­ing. You can see the amount of thought put into it. The lugs fit snugly on your wrist, min­imis­ing any move­ment. The moon­phase isn’t just a disc, it glows, and if you looked at the en­tire thing through a loupe, you’d be amazed. There’s so much room for things to go wrong and yet noth­ing has, there’s not even one hair­line scratch. Not a single im­per­fec­tion.

This is the ul­ti­mate grail, you say?

Yep. I have seven lev­els of grails be­fore I hit this. My next grail is the clas­sic Aude­mars Piguet Royal Oak and then it may be an A. Lange & Söhne. Once I hit my ul­ti­mate, I’m pretty afraid to think of what will come next.

Wait. How long have you been col­lect­ing watches?

Eight years. I love watches, maybe too much for my own good as it can re­ally hit the pocket. I now have 10 in my col­lec­tion, which in­cludes a cou­ple of Seikos. A lot of peo­ple come to me for watch ad­vice and the good thing is, I’m not a watch snob. I like my Seikos. At the end of the day, a $10 Ca­sio could be more ac­cu­rate than a $10,000 watch. But time­pieces are a lot more than that. It’s about the charm.

What’s in your col­lec­tion right now?

A Rolex Sub­mariner, Tu­dor Chrono­graph and Ge­org Jensen dress watch. I was think­ing about chang­ing up the Tu­dor for some­thing else, it is my very first me­chan­i­cal watch, and so is very hard to let go.

Yeah, break­ing up is hard to do.

My goal for my col­lec­tion right now is to di­ver­sify and build on it with dif­fer­ent watches. Now that I have a steel sports watch, a dress watch and some­thing me­chan­i­cal, I wouldn’t mind a vin­tage piece. I’m look­ing for one pro­duced in 1987, my birth year. I have the Rolex GMT Mas­ter II, Pepsi, on my mind.

They do have it from 1987 but they are re­ally hard to find. It’s not too ex­trav­a­gant, but as soon as one is avail­able on the mar­ket, it’s usu­ally gone in a heart­beat.

So I sup­pose the MB&F LM101 is your ul­ti­mate goal?

One of it. I ad­mire MB&F for do­ing what it does. The brand it­self does things no one else is do­ing and it does them so well. I love a lot of the pieces, but the LM101 spoke to me the mo­ment it came out. It’s an amaz­ing de­sign and the frosted dial did it for me. I love the sus­pended bal­ance wheel and I could stare at it for hours. When I do get it, it has to be t ied to a spe­cial oc­ca­sion in my life.

When did you start get­ting in­ter­ested in watches?

I’ve al­ways been at­tracted to the idea of wear­ing one, be­ing one of the very few trin­kets guys can wear. When I was liv­ing in Australia, I was al­ways look­ing at them, but it wasn’t when I moved to Sin­ga­pore that I got hooked. All with the help of my friend William ( Tee). I’ve learnt a lot from him. We catch up regularly to go win­dow shop­ping.

What do you look for in a watch?

I like to keep it sim­ple – time-only or with a small date win­dow. I’m not too fond of all the dif­fer­ent com­pli­ca­tions. A watch doesn’t need com­pli­ca­tions to be cool. To me, less is more.

So your first Rolex was a gift from your dad?

Yeah, for that I’m very grate­ful. He doesn’t know anything about watches but he thought it would be nice for me to have one that sees me through the fu­ture. This is the “no date” Sub­mariner and I could wear it every day with anything. I have a Ball En­gi­neer Mas­ter II Diver as well, my first me­chan­i­cal watch. Both are well-sea­soned, banged up and scratched. But they are built to take that kind of treat­ment.

What­ever floats your boat.

To be hon­est, I like watches that can be used and abused. A lot of peo­ple ask me what watches are good in­vest­ments. I tell them: don’t buy it for the money. Buy what you like! Most watches are made to out­last you any­way.

Get­ting to know watches can be a slip­pery slope...

Once you start, you can’t stop. I’m one of those who like to ac­quire use­less knowl­edge, so when I chanced upon an ar­ti­cle on the IWC Per­pet­ual Cal­en­dar while in­tern­ing at a magazine, I got hooked. It’s amaz­ing how a tiny me­chan­i­cal de­vice, without com­puter aid, can tell you so much. For the life of me, I’ll never be able to fig­ure it out com­pletely. I mean, look at the Jaeger-lecoul­tre Mas­ter Ul­tra Thin Per­pet­ual. It’s cer­tainly pretty to look at, but there’s the ma­te­rial, the guy that sits over a bench, pol­ish­ing tiny com­po­nents with his hands, and the guy who as­sem­bles them all. Watch mak­ing re­quires a fa­nat­i­cal at­ten­tion to de­tail that sur­passes even haute cou­ture.

Don’t bash this one around.

(laughs) I know this con­tra­dicts what I said be­fore, but this will be ex­tremely well taken care of when­ever it comes into my hands. I love the sym­met­ri­cal pro­por­tions of the sil­ver dial and how time­less it is. Jaeger-lecoul­tre has a lot of his­tory, and the 868 move­ment in this watch is beau­ti­ful. It’s pretty in­sane to make a per­pet­ual cal­en­dar that’s 4mm thick. It tells you the full year, day, date and month. Plus there’s the moon phase. It doesn’t even need ad­just­ment for ages. Plus, there’s only one spring that moves all the gears. Without com­puter aid. Amaz­ing.

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