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Pairing Up: Watch Collectors share their passion

From couples to siblings, four pairs of watch lovers share their stories of bonding over a passion for timepieces.

Elaine Lim-Chan & Chan Kok Weng

All Revved Up

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“Watches are just one of our interests,” says Elaine Lim-Chan, managing director of Deutsche Bank Wealth Management. Seated across from her husband, Lim-Chan – who is serving as the president of the Ferrari Owners’ Club Singapore (FOCS) – explains: “We’re actually more into cars.”

The watches that she and her husband, aesthetic physician Chan Kok Weng, choose to sport for the shoot is clear evidence of their automotive passion. On her wrist is the Hublot Big Bang Ferrari “Red Magic Carbon”, a collaborative piece between the watch brand and Ferrari.

An owner of a Ferrari 458 Spider, Lim-Chan says: “I’ve owned a Ferrari for the last eight years; my first was the F430. Ferrari is close to my heart, so it’s natural for me to own this watch.” She will soon add another Hublot to her collection: The brand has created an SG50 commemorative piece in partnership with the FOCS, slated for delivery any time now. Says Lim-Chan: “It’s special because they have never done just 50 pieces for a club. We had a lot of input in the design of the watch. It’s going to be in yellow, because most Hublot Ferrari watches are red.”

(RELATED: Dr Chan Kok Weng shares with The Peak his sentiments on dressing well)

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Chan’s choice, on the other hand, is the MB&F Horological Machine No.2 (HM2) in white gold. Speaking of this avantgarde creation of independent brand MB&F – which famously takes design inspiration from cars, spacecraft and the like – Chan notes: “The (subdials) look like speedometers, and I like the design because it’s unique.” The couple, who also own timepieces by brands like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, generally see eye to eye when it comes to watches, considering factors like “complications and movements, heritage and design”. Except for one thing: “My husband has more diamond watches than I do,” says Lim- Chan, with a laugh. “I’ve tried to get him to mellow down on the bling, but it hasn’t quite worked.”

 

Stephanie & Cheryl Lee

Sister Act

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Stephanie Lee’s interest in watches was piqued early on in life by her older sister, Cheryl. A director at property firm T.S. Lee & Sons, Stephanie recalls: “I was in primary school when she was doing her university studies in the UK. She used to buy me Swatch watches and other limited-edition watches on special occasions.”

Cheryl, on the other hand, first became interested in timepieces, thanks to other members of the family. The regional head of a Swiss private bank and co-owner of the 1-Rochester Group, Cheryl shares: “The women in my family had classic, small jewellery watches, while my grandfather loved elegant, timeless watch brands. As a kid, I was fascinated by them.”

The more serious watch fan of the two, Cheryl has fond memories of attending watchmakers’ fairs in her 20s. “They’d open the cases and show how the watches worked, and that was more interesting to me than how the watches looked,” she says.

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While their tastes have evolved over the years, the sisters – who are both expecting – share a penchant for timepieces that tend towards the masculine. For our shoot, Cheryl picked her Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer Manufacture in steel and gold, while Stephanie wore a diamond-studded, white Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Off shore. Both were gifts from their husbands on their 40th and 30th birthdays last year, respectively.

For Stephanie, the Royal Oak Off shore is special not just because it has a sporty yet elegant look that “reflects my personality”, but because it was accompanied by a surprise birthday party planned by her husband. On Cheryl’s part, she shares: “My husband is all about function; for him the purpose of a watch is just to tell time. So, this is special because he was racking his brains over what to get me, and he even consulted Steph. Ever since he gave it to me, I’ve been wearing it all the time.”

 

Ayu Citra Rahayu & Erick Krisman

A Study In Contrasts

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At 28, Erick Krisman is relatively young when compared to the average watch collector in Singapore – but he has been immersed in the world of serious timepieces for a good 10 years. For this, the sales engineer, who works in the oil and gas industry, credits his younger brother. “He used to be a watch fanatic,” says Krisman. With a smile, he adds: “But, now, he’s into audio equipment.”

Having dated Ayu Citra Rahayu for a year and a half, Krisman has been exerting some horological influence of his own, although it might be a while before she shares his passion for unusual watch movements. With a laugh, Ayu, who does marketing for a conference company, confesses: “For me, it’s about aesthetics. I’ve always liked bling. I got it from my dad. He has a traditional and pragmatic approach – when he buys a watch, he wants to know what its resale value is. But now, with Erick, I know more about complications and I can better appreciate things like how a tourbillon works.”

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While Krisman is a fan of independent brands such as MB&F, Urwerk and De Bethune, one of his favourite timepieces is the Glashutte Original Pano Inverse XL. He says: “It was love at first sight. Before buying it, I did some research, and learnt about things like its precision, swan-neck regulator, and engraved balance cock. I thought it was really unique.”

Aside from sharing their opinions on watches they like, the couple also attend watch events together, during which she wears his timepieces (a number of which are jointly owned by his brothers and father). Her favourite, and the one that she wore for this shoot: A yellow gold Richard Mille RM10 – with plenty of diamonds, of course. With a rueful smile, Krisman says: “She doesn’t like some of the other watches. She thinks they’re too quirky.”

 

Terence & Timothy Yong

Passage Of Time

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As a teenager, Timothy Yong wanted a Tag Heuer for a simple reason: Both his older brothers, Terence and Richard, had one. Smiling, the 31-year-old investment banker, who collects mostly vintage timepieces, says: “They were my guiding figures, and I trusted their taste. They had the classic plastic Tag Heuer watches that were really cool, and our mum was nice enough to get me a steel one.”

Today, the brothers’ horological preferences have diverged somewhat, although their watch-buying experiences sometimes coincide in unexpected ways. Terence, who is in the logistics business, recalls buying an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Off shore Safari – only to discover subsequently that Richard (who, at the eleventh hour, was unable to make it for this shoot) had also purchased the exact same model.

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And then, there are the watches that Terence and Timothy choose to wear here. While Terence’s timepiece of choice is a Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712 in steel, and Timothy’s is a vintage Rolex Daytona 6263, what unites both watches is that they were purchased on overseas trips where each brother got engaged.

While timepiece-centred discussions used to take place more frequently (“before kids”, says Terence with a laugh), the siblings still talk watches from time to time. Says Timothy: “For example, during (Swiss watch fair) Baselworld every year, we’ll catch up. We’ve followed brands like Patek and Rolex for a long time, so when there are controversial releases, we’ll talk about them. We also discuss watches like the Daytona, and what’s collectible.”

Even though his early interest in watches was shaped by his older siblings – Terence gave him his first serious timepiece, a Zenith El Primero, when he was 16 – Timothy is now the expert they turn to for advice. His best tip: “It’s important that the piece speaks to the person who has it. Watches are a very personal thing.”

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