We caught up with Robin Wong (IG: @watchthebin), a Deployant friend and Singaporean watch collector and lover of all things related to horology. He also happens to be a dad of three, which he claims is the reason he can buy more watches to pass down to the next generation. A data and analytics practitioner, Robin works for a technology start-up specializing in algorithmic media investment optimization (yes he is a geek who loves watches).
Horo-chat with Robin Wong, on the Collector’s View
How did you get into watches? When was that?
My late dad inspired me to get into watches since I was a kid. I remember I was all about the latest and coolest Casios during my childhood days but my dad got me an automatic Seiko and he told me a mechanical watch has a ‘soul’, which he claimed was absent from digital watches (and I believe him since).
As I entered the workforce, I had other priorities but I always admired the fascinating world of horology even though I wasn’t actively buying timepieces. It was in Sep 2012 when I made my first serious purchase, a Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle. Ever since then, I couldn’t quit this hobby!
Can you briefly take us through your favourite pieces in your collection?
This is always a tough question and I must confess my answer will never be consistent over time. Generally, my favourite watches tend to be those that are less recognizable and hyped. Here are a few pieces that are more special to me:
The combination of an art deco style design, the hand lacqured dial, the hand-finished movement with the special ultra large balance wheel and the fact that Asaoka-san is a self-taught, one-man-show independent watchmaker (and one hell of an artist!) makes this watch very unique and appealing to me.
I also had to wait 3 years from order to delivery of this watch and this makes it more special to me somehow!
Once the thinnest mechanical watch in the world at 3.65mm thin (now bested by the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept at 2mm thin!), the Altiplano 900P is the perfect example of Piaget at its best in both mechanical prowess and pure elegance.
Ultra-thin to me is a high complication in its own right and I sincerely hope it will regain its former glory and appreciation amongst horological enthusiasts.
This is the first JLC watch I bought back in 2014, before it became known as ‘Dr Strange’s watch’. A perpetual calendar is the most romantic horological complication to me and epitomises timepieces as heirlooms that can last forever (or at least centuries if serviced regularly and properly).
The watch also presents great value being a high complication cased in steel.
Montblanc Villeret Chronograph Grand Feu Enamel
I miss the days when Montblanc had their haute horology Collection Villeret 1858. This watch was part of this collection, when finely finished Minerva chronograph movements were very rare and produced in far less numbers than today.
This watch is pure opulence, limited to 8 pieces, with a solid gold grand feu enamel dial and a secret hunter caseback to admire the Minerva calibre 13.21, a monopusher chronograph movement. It also has the smoothest chronograph actuation amongst all my chronograph watches, consistent with the overall luxurious feel of this watch.
What is your approach when it comes to buying a watch for your collection? Do you buy with your heart or do you curate?
Even though data and analytics is my job and in my DNA, when it comes to watches, I admit I buy with my heart most of the time. Personally, watch collecting and appreciation is a very emotional hobby and my heart has a significantly stronger influence than my logical mind. After my heart is seduced by a timepiece or collection, the curation process is usually one where I consult a few esteemed fellow collectors and scouting for credible and objective reviews online and here I normally like to compare my choice with comparable watches (either by price range for an opportunity cost analysis or similar looks/complications).
Overall, my heart tends to dictate my choices. Of course, my wallet (which is as ulta-thin as my Piaget Altiplano these days) has the final say!
What is currently at the top of your watches wish-list?
Interestingly, I normally don’t have a wish-list for watches at any one point. Typically, I have a target only after exposure to a timepiece physically or online. As of now, the Piaget Polo Skeleton in blue is a recent watch I saw and I really like and am considering.
What sage advice can you give to aspiring watch collectors who may be reading this now?
Buy what you like and are comfortable paying for.