Interview with a Watch Collector: Alex

Watch collector Alex shares his journey in acquiring timepieces and bringing rare pieces to light, from the now-defunct Tiffany Submariner to the elegant Chopard with a solid gold micro rotor.

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Watch collecting isn’t just about the watches. To many, it is a lifestyle – the unravelling of a world beyond its cold gears and hard mechanics.

We took a dive in the world of watches, where collectors shared their coveted collections, rare timepieces and the stories they learnt to tell from indescribable journeys.

For Alex, watch collecting was indeed a journey. For one who started with an interest in contemporary pieces, he quickly saw the beauty of old tradition and the enduring spirit of pieces aged gracefully through time, whose strength had not waned through the years:

Tell us about some of the pieces in your collection.

My first dress watch was a stainless steel from Chopard, an elegant watch. The movement is a solid gold micro which is seldom seen on watches. Most movements are usually a big rotor that goes around it, and for a micro rotor, you need a very dense metal for it to spin efficiently. I found this piece to be of great value, especially for a movement and finishing like this.

I also have a 150-year anniversary Patek Philippe, a Japan-edition in stainless steel. Most Patek Philippe watches are in precious metal, so a stainless steel piece is very limited in quantity. I find the Japanese to be known for their perfectionism; a watch meant for Japan collectors really should be the best, and more so for a Patek Philippe one in stainless steel.

This one’s a Lange pocket watch (below), about 110 years old. If you try to wind it, you’ll find that it is still very strong. 

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How has your watch collecting journey been? Any challenges or high points?

I started seriously collecting watches around 2010, when I attended the Sincere Watch Academy series. The first session, organized by Lange, showcased the Lange 31 with a power reserve of 31 days, and we were given a chance to wind it. For such watches, the spring has to be extremely long and tough. Merely using our hands to wind it would be impossible. They had this special equipment you can put behind the watch, and then you could use your hand to wind the strong string. Through this incident I gained interest in watches, so I got in touch with other collectors and enthusiasts. Along the way, we got the chance to have manufacture visits, like the Parmigiani and Vacheron Constantin ones I attended in 2012. Back then I thought a dial was just a dial, simple and easy to do, but when they showed me the actual mechanics of it, I was so astonished!

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During the initial stages, is there one watch you liked particularly that you wanted but didn’t get a chance to have?

I wanted the Tiffany Submariner and I waited five years for it. To get one in good condition and in a complete set is hard to come by. Other than collectors willing to let it go, I needed sufficient funds. When the offer comes, I also needed the will to say, ‘Yes.’ There are always different needs at different points in time.

What’s so special about the watch?

Tiffany co-printed their name on the dial, which they used to do until the 1990s. Rolex decided not to supply co-branded watches after the 1990s, and don't honor the warranties. A dial like this by Rolex no longer exists beyond the 1990s; it has become ‘extinct’ and people start coveting after it. This Tiffany-dial Rolex one also comes in a Tiffany blue box with a ribbon instead of the usual Rolex one. It was also sold at Tiffany’s.

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