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These 4 Singapore collectors hold on to analogue gems in a digital age

For these collectors of all things analogue, heritage still holds weight.

 

SECOND TIME’S THE CHARM

WHO Little Ong, creative director of design agency Ffurious

THE COLLECTION Vinyl records

  • Vinyl Records, Little Ong's collection 1
    TUNED IN Rare LPs by Singaporean musician Dick Lee feature in Little Ong’s 700-strong vinyl collection.

ACT OF IMPULSE

In the mid ’90s, Little Ong sold a part of his record collection – which included rare LPs by Singaporean musician Dick Lee, and New Wave bands such as New Order and Depeche Mode – in a car boot sale. “Looking back now, I regret doing that,” he confesses. Like many others, Ong says he got “caught up” in the digital revolution. “At the time, CDs were compact, purer in sound, and required less effort to play.”

‘LOST’ AND FOUND

But Ong later realised vinyls afford a four-dimensional sound quality and distinct audio separation of various instruments – auditory aspects CDs fail to replicate. So, four years ago, he started rebuilding his vinyl collection, by seeking out the records he used to own in his youth.

WHAT’S PLAYING

Ong’s extensive collection of 700 records reflects his diverse musical tastes, ranging from electronica to indie rock and jazz.

LO-FI CHARMS

“All these years, I’ve been so used to downloading music, that I’ve forgotten how multi-dimensional the listening experience can be.” With records, Ong spends time sourcing for an album cover he likes, pondering the song lyrics, and enjoying the album as a collection of tracks to be played from beginning to end.

SLEEK SLEEVES

Beautiful visuals factor in Ong’s selection process. One of his most cherished records is I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty, which features colourful artwork and an extravagant pop-up design.

LOCAL TUNES

He is particularly proud of his collection of Dick Lee records, including Life in the Lion City, Orchids from Outer Space and The Mad Chinaman. “Records of old Singapore music are expensive because they are so collectible,” he says, citing prices of around $70 for a single of just two to three tracks.

ROUND UP THE TROOPS

In late 2014, Ong organised Singled Out, an exhibition where he invited 50 local creatives to reinterpret vinyl records as artworks for charity.

CREATIVE MASH-UPS

Ong also expresses his passion for vinyls through design work. He’s currently working on the design of a vinyl record to be released by local band Typewriter.

(RELATED: This is the ultimate toy for music aficionados – a vinyl press.)

JOINT LEGACY

WHO Tay Kim Ann and Lim Yok Ley

THE COLLECTION Fountain pens

  • Fountain pens, Tay Kim Ann and Lim Yok Ley's collection
    INK TRIBUTE The couple’s fountain pen collection includes limited edition creations inspired by historical personalities such as Chinese philosopher Confucius.

FIRST START

The couple began collecting fountain pens in the 1990s as they enjoyed writing with them. Today, their collection comprises 16 high-end fountain pens, including limited editions valued at around $40,000 each. Professed aficionados of Montblanc fountain pens, they relish the brand’s diversity of designs and its storied tradition of pen-making.

THE SLOW LIFE

“I like to write with fountain pens if I’m not in a rush,” says Tay, recalling his first pen, the Montblanc Writers Edition Voltaire, a classic fountain pen crafted in black resin. Unlike conventional pens, fountain pens allow customisation of the writing nibs to one’s liking.

(RELATED: 3 New & Beautiful Japanese Fountain Pens by Namiki.)

HE SAID, SHE SAID

Tay admits he’s partial to fountain pens marked by fine craftsmanship and elaborate details. The Montblanc Genghis Khan 88 Skeleton Fountain, a recent acquisition, features a body resembling the armour of a Mongol warrior and a pen clip curved like an ancient bow. He’s also fond of a fountain pen inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci, which sports a skeletonised design that allows him to fully admire the pen’s interior. Lim leans towards pens inspired by historical figures, citing personalities such as Chinese philosopher Confucius and inventor James Watt as some of her favourites.

ON THE WISH LIST

A fountain pen inspired by Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s late founding prime minister.

SCHOLARLY PURSUITS

WHO Raymond Loh, founder and principal of education firm Raymond’s Math & Science Studio

THE COLLECTION Vintage typewriters

  • Raymond Loh, founder and principal of education firm Raymond's Math & Science Studio
    RARE FINDS Vintage American typewriters in mint condition are hard to come by. Raymond Loh relies on a dedicated antique supplier to acquire them.

MIND GAMES

For some, it’s the tactile pleasure of hitting the keyboard. For others, it’s a typewriter’s sheer visual charm. But for Raymond Loh, his passion for typewriters springs from how these bygone writing instruments represent a romantic pursuit of knowledge. “I respect objects that have academic value. Typewriters, as old writing instruments, are for me a symbol of knowledge,” says Loh, who collects anything related to math, science, learning and writing.

CREAM OF THE CROP

While he’s been collecting typewriters  for almost a decade, he is selective with what he acquires and has only five so far. “I look for typewriters with a lot of history and tradition,” he says. He’s particularly fond of old, American typewriters as they are the most skilfully constructed. “The good ones are hard to come by,” says Loh, who relies on a dedicated antique supplier to source for interesting pieces in good condition.

MECHANICAL MARVELS

Loh’s treasures include the elegant Blickensderfer Model No. 7, a popular edition released in 1897, which spots a wraparound space bar. He also owns a Smith Premier 1, a double-keyboard model where the inner mechanics of the typewriter are visible. Another notable design is the Salter Standard No. 10, a downstrike typewriter made by UK’s George Salter & Co. His favourite model in the collection is the classic Hammond Multiplex Closed Universal, which he admires for its “simplicity and beauty”. Designed by American journalist James Bartlett Hammond in 1913, the machine features a Qwerty keyboard elegantly laid out across three rows of white circular keys. Its keyboard mechanism was also capable of producing very even-looking print — a rarity for typewriters of that decade.

HISTORICAL GRAVITAS

It is not just the aesthetics of the objects that command his attention. Its provenance intrigues him as well. He explains: “I always wonder about the previous owners of these typewriters. It excites me to think that it could be a learned man, or somebody great but unknown.”

PHOTOGRAPHY Frenchescar Lim and Winston Chuang
ART DIRECTION Chelza Pok and Jean Yap