Glenn Chiang is a 31-year-old watch collector based in Melbourne, having moved from Taiwan when he was just 5 years of age. He is currently a lawyer at a leading Australian law firm specialising in construction and major projects, and also owns and operates multiple cafes and restaurants throughout Melbourne. This is his watch journey.
I first met Glenn at a watch enthusiast get-together (better known as a GTG) in Melbourne. He was seated opposite me at the dinner table, and from my spot, I could see what was adorning his wrist that night: an amazing Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Tourbillon Dualtime in stainless steel. At that very moment, I knew Glenn was a watch connoisseur. Have you ever met anyone wearing a Jaeger-LeCoultre timepiece who isn’t a serious watch connoisseur? As a watch lover, it was an absolute pleasure discussing with Glenn his interest in watches, and to take a closer look at his splendid collection.
So, Glenn, how did you first get into watches?
It’s funny how the most inconspicuous moments can change your life. I hated watches growing up. I thought they were boring, uncomfortable and for old men. No one from my family was into watches either so it was only through chance that I developed an interest in them. I was travelling home from a Christmas holiday and had a stop-over in Kuala Lumpur. My flight was delayed for 6 hours and I was stranded in the old AirAsia terminal. It was probably the worst place to be on a 35˚C day, particularly when the air-conditioning wasn’t working and the terminal was over-crowded with frustrated travellers. There were probably only 3 or 4 small stores inside the whole terminal, including a newsagency which I eventually wandered into. I remember that the first magazine I picked up was a watch magazine that had caught my eye for all the wrong reasons. It had on the cover what I thought at the time was the ugliest watch I had ever seen. I vividly remember it had a strange rainbow coloured sub-dial which was way too “psychedelic” for my liking. Of course, I now know that timepiece to be the F.P. Journe Octa UTC which I now absolutely adore. The choice I had was either the watch magazine or a celebrity gossip magazine. It was desperate times and I was in dire need of entertainment so I decided to go for the watch magazine. I am so glad that I did because the following 4 hours changed my life. I read every word on every page and fell in love with the likes of Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Söhne, Breguet and Audemars Piguet. I still have that magazine at home and sometimes wonder what my life would be like if that flight had not been delayed and I had not picked up that magazine.
You have one of the most interesting origin stories I’ve ever heard. Let’s jump straight to the present – what is your approach when it comes to collecting watches?
I know some collectors are very specialised; some focus on vintage Rolexes and others prefer to purchase from one particular brand. Personally, I collect brands, and my rule therefore is to avoid owning more than one timepiece from any particular watch company. My approach generally is to pick a watch that is iconic to, and personifies, that particular brand, whether that be the La Tradition from Breguet or the Lange 1 from A. Lange & Söhne. I am also a big believer in diversifying your watch portfolio. I have different watches to cover different occasions. For example, I love to travel with my Panerai PAM00441 GMT and swim with my Rolex Deepsea. On the other hand, I usually wear my Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Tourbillon Dualtime to formal occasions like weddings whilst the Lange 1 is my weapon of choice for important business meetings. Because of this, I think my collection is unique to some extent. I mean how many collectors out there have a Breguet La Tradition and also a Hublot King Power Unico sitting side by side in the same collection?
Can you tell us more about the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Tourbillon Dualtime?
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Tourbillon Dualtime, to me, represents ultimate value and is a watch that I had wanted for a long time. For what many connoisseurs consider to be an “entry level” price point for this type of watch, you get a tourbillon, a dual time display and a day/night indicator, powered by one of the most impressive in-house movements developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Calibre 978 was the winner of the prestigious Chronometrie International Timing Competition in 2009 during which the watch was subjected to 45 days of rigorous testing in various conditions, positions and temperatures. The Calibre 978 came out on top having only gained on average, 0.13 seconds a day or, in other words, 47.5 seconds a year. That precision is mind boggling. Another quirky feature I love about this watch is that the date, which is displayed on a graduated scale around the applied hour markers of the watch, leaves a large gap between the 15th and 16th of each month. The date hand therefore, makes a bigger jump from about the 4 o’clock position to the 7 o’clock position on the 15th of each month so as to not obscure the tourbillon aperture at the 6 o’clock position. It is this type of attention to detail that makes Jaeger-LeCoultre an elite brand. The stainless steel version that I have, which has now been discontinued, was a boutique-only special edition.
Equally stunning is your Breguet Tradition 7067 – tell us how you came to own this timepiece.
I purchased it for my 30th birthday and to celebrate being promoted to senior associate at my firm. It was a proud moment for me because I had wanted this watch for such a long time. Breguet is one of my favourite watchmakers as I have always been drawn to the romanticism behind the history of the brand. This particular watch drew inspiration from – and is a tribute to – the old pocket watches created by Abraham Louis Breguet in the 1790’s when he was in exile in Switzerland during the French Revolution. I love the fact that the watch is skeletonised and very modern yet classically Breguet at the same time. It still showcases all of the traditional Breguet features like the guilloche dial, the fluted case, the Breguet parachute and over-coil, the blued hollowed hands and the straight welded lugs. The watch is very fitting of its name, the La Tradition. This is probably my favourite watch from my collection.
You have one watch in your collection that is distinctively not Swiss-made, the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1, from Glashutte, Germany. What drew you to the Lange 1?
Like many, I fell instantly in love with the Lange 1 and it was when I first saw the platinum version in that same magazine I mentioned earlier. I can’t explain it but I think I must have had quite an emotive reaction to seeing the watch. I just couldn’t stop looking at it, which was strange because the dial is a lot simpler than what I would usually go for. As I researched more into the Lange 1, the more intrigued I became. I always refer to it as the “perfect oxymoron” because the dial is so unconventional yet so classical at the same time. It’s in my opinion one of the most iconic and brand-defining watches of my generation and would be my dress watch of choice if I could only own one. Put simply, it is perfect.
Sitting alongside your line-up of dress watches is the bold and sporty Hublot King Power Unico Titanium. Hublot has always been a very polarising brand amongst the watch cognoscenti – what are your thoughts on this, as an owner of an Hublot timepiece?
I am just going to come out and say it – I love Hublot! I know that might sound strange and perhaps even a little blasphemous, particularly coming from a collector whose favourite brands are A. Lange & Söhne and Breguet. But even though I am not a rapper or a professional basketball player, I can still appreciate the unique design of their watches and the brand’s vision. I think Hublot deserves more respect because they have a very clear identity; they are passionate in the art of fusion, manufacture their own movements and have created some of the most technically impressive timepieces currently in the market. I think the watch industry needs Hublot. Love them or hate them, they are not afraid to innovate and depart from the conventional rules of watchmaking. They bring a certain attitude and buzz to the industry which will naturally provoke debate and polarise enthusiasts. This, I think, can only be a great thing for a community that can sometimes be seen as a little too serious. Sure, they have occasionally done a few silly collaborations and have had a few too many “limited edition” watches, but then again, so have Audemars Piguet which is, of course, still one of the most respected watch brands in the world. I don’t mind the collaborations too much because it at least keeps things interesting. I always look forward to the next Hublot release because you know it will always be entertaining and will often be surprising in terms of what materials and design they will unveil. Even though I own watches which are far more expensive and technically superior, my Hublot King Power Unico in Titanium has always attracted the most attention. It just has so much presence and attitude, which I really love.
In your collection as well are two excellent examples of tool watches from two very established manufacturers. Given that you own both the Rolex Deepsea and the Panerai PAM00441, what do you think defines a good tool watch?
I think a tool watch is defined by 3 characteristics. It must be robust, legible and capable of carrying out some sort of function or use. For example, I love travelling with my PAM00441 because the ceramic material that the case is made out of is extremely tough and virtually scratchproof. This means that I can get through customs, carry my luggage around and check in and out of hotels with ease of mind that I won’t scratch my expensive watch along the way. It also has a very legible dual time zone display which allows me to reference my local and home time very easily. Not to mention, the watch is very sleek and a very good looking timepiece that is appropriate for most occasions. I think today, people buy tool watches because they are more in love with the romanticism behind the idea of a tool watch rather than the practical capability of the watch itself. For example, regardless of how robust a watch might be, I think people will struggle with the idea of wearing a $10,000 plus watch when washing their car, working with heavy duty tools or even gardening in the back yard. I think tool watches were more practical in the past when watches were cheaper and technology was more limited. However, regardless of how practical a tool watch might be today, the notion of owning a watch that you know was historically manufactured and used for a particular purpose is still very cool.
What do you have your eye on next?
I think that is the question on every watch collector’s mind, every minute of every day from the second you made your last purchase. I collect brands, and there are two glaring omissions in my collection which is non-negotiable for any serious collector: Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. The watches that I am considering from these two brands are the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore with rubber clad in rose gold and the Patek Philippe Nautilus Annual Calendar Moonphase. Both watches are super iconic and brand-defining. I love the robustness and mass of the ROO, and the diversity of the Nautilus. However, despite all of that, the watch that I really want to buy, is from the only brand that can persuade me into breaking my ‘one watch per brand’ rule – and that is the Zeitwerk from A. Lange & Söhne. As much as I love the Zeitwerk Striking Time, I think from a budget perspective, the Zeitwerk in pink gold with champagne dial is probably the most plausible at this stage. The modern digital display concept is ingenious and renders the Zeitwerk perhaps the most legible mechanical watch ever made. From an aesthetic perspective, like all other A. Lange & Söhne watches, the back of the Zeitwerk is also as good, if not better, than the front.
If money is no object, which one watch would you get for yourself?
Wow – where do we begin? There are so many masterpieces out there, it would be like choosing between your children. If I had the opportunity to pick just one watch without budgetary constraints, it would most likely be the Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon 5002. This is one of the most complicated wristwatches ever made and the grail of grails for even the most accomplished collectors. The watch is double-faced, and comes with a tourbillon, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, retrograde date, moon phase and sky chart. It is an absolute monster, epitomising the pinnacle of engineering and craftsmanship.