WatchTalk with Jeya Sivendra
Dr. Jeya Sivendra is a dental surgeon originally born in Malaysia and currently living in Adelaide, South Australia. He spent many of the years in between living in Singapore and Canada. His love for anything mechanical at an early age started an obsession with cars and watches. Those who know him as @watch_loving_wis on Instagram have seen his collection evolve. He believes our collections are a true reflection of us, and as we find who we are in life so do our collections change.
It brings us great pleasure to present to our readers a glimpse into Jeya’s journey as a watch collector.
It started out when I was a boy in Singapore. My uncle took me to a watch shop to get his watch repaired. I remember when the door opened and I saw all those watches in the cabinets. I couldn’t stop staring at them. It was the first time I saw so many variations of timepieces. The shop manager spent time showing me different watches. From there I was hooked. I got my first watch that summer and have never looked back. That shop is still around today and every time I go back to Singapore I visit it.
What was the plunge into watch collecting like for you?
I had been collecting mid-range watches for a while and building a collection of a variety of brands. When I look back I realise that I truly didn’t know what kind of watch made me happy at that point. My love for the true mechanical watch was getting far more technical. I was getting very curious about the various complications. Then I walked into a watch store in Sydney where I fell in love with the Lange 1 Time Zone. I had to have it. After that I realised what kind of watch I wanted to focus on in my collection. It started an evolution for me and gave me a deeper appreciation for watchmaking.
Could you briefly take us through what’s currently in your watch collection?
Currently I have an IWC Pilots Chrono, a Louis Vuitton Time Zone, a Rolex Submariner and Datejust, and Patek Philippe Ref. 5196P and Ref. 5726A. I also have a 1960’s Omega Seamaster which was my grandfather’s. I have recently consolidated my collection. I used to have a large Patek collection but downsized to get my Ref. 5204P, which is my grail watch. The remaining watches have meaning to me so I could never part with them.
You have got quite the mixed bag of watches in your collection, not just in terms of brands but also types. What is your approach in general when it comes to curating a watch for your collection?
One of the biggest things I have learned when choosing a watch is wearability. There are so many watches that I appreciate but would never own because I wouldn’t wear them everyday. I like a watch to be understated, a talking piece for those who know, not a flashy or large piece that screams out for attention. I don’t concentrate on one particular brand. For me Rolex builds the best sports watches. And I am a Patek man at heart. I have the Calatrava crossed tattooed on me! Having smaller wrists makes me lean towards watches between 39-42 mm. Lately, my attention has been drawn to sports watches and it is a challenge to find one that is not too large and understated. I’ve been eyeing some vintage pieces lately which is a welcome change because most of them fit my criteria well.
Secondly, I’ve learned that it is better to be patient and wait for the piece that you really want rather than to buy many pieces that don’t fully satisfy you. So many watches look great in the ads and in the boutiques but they don’t always suit everyone’s wrists or requirements. It’s easy to fall in love with a watch in the boutique. It takes thought to buy the perfect piece…
My grandparents arrived in Singapore after the war with nothing. Granddad worked many jobs and owned several businesses throughout his years. He didn’t have much but he made enough to educate his three children. Growing up in Singapore in his house and watching how hard he worked inspires me to this day. He bought the watch in the late 1960’s in the UK. I don’t know much else about the watch because when it was finally given to me 5 years ago he had passed ten years prior to Alzheimer’s. I do know he wore it everyday. Its face is scratched and the stainless steel bracelet has rust from decades of Singapore humidity. It still keeps time perfectly despite never being serviced! I have thought of restoring it but its noticeable wear is a testament to its owner. That kind of resilience is rare to find. That’s what this watch represents to me.
I have always appreciated Patek Philippe. I love the history of the brand. The Stern family have managed the direction of the company very wisely in my opinion. They continue to surprise us with new models every year. Whether people love them or not is another question. But they keep pushing the envelope with what they are best at. Some brands only revamp their existing watches. Patek’s service is fantastic too. My AD has always been top notch and he has managed to secure me some amazing pieces over the years. Patek’s appreciation for their loyal clients is second to none.
What can I say about my 5204P. It is my grail watch. There is definitely a sense of achievement owning one. I’ll never forget the day it was presented to me. It suits my requirements to a tee. Most people don’t really know the gravity of the watch so I don’t feel like they are staring at my wrist! And then there’s the movement. Stunning. You could stare at it forever. Only a couple of case backs in this world can rival it. For me, it is sublime on one side and complicated on the other. The workmanship is impeccable, which one would expect. I had to consolidate the majority of my Patek collection to get it and it was so worth it.
Given that you own sports watches from both Rolex (Submariner and debatably the Datejust) and Patek Philippe (Nautlius Ref. 5726), can you compare and contrast your experience with them so far?
I have always loved sport watches. As I said, the tricky thing for me is finding one that isn’t too big for my wrist. Rolex sport watches are bulletproof. They are the trusty watch you bring on vacation because you know they can take almost anything and still have luxury presence. I have recently gained a keen interest in vintage Rolex and am receiving my first one very soon (for another interview). My love for the Submariner has grown significantly and I plan to expand this area of my collection.
The Nautilus Ref. 5726 is more than a sports watch. Being an annual calendar it serves many purposes. You can truly wear this piece with a suit and it would fit perfectly. It is the next level from a Rolex sports watch. The Nautilus had to grow on me I have to admit. Personally I think the Ref. 5726 has the most balanced of all the Nautilus dials. Its design of the face and the bracelet has hardly changed since Genta created it. It’s timeless.
At first the Escale caught my eye simply because of the dial. The flags are really colourful and the dial is very balanced for a face with so much detail. It feels really nice on the wrist and slides nicely under a business shirt cuff.
I was conflicted at first about buying a Louis Vuitton watch. I knew it was Swiss made and of course they are part of the LVMH group so their resources are unlimited. Its world time complication added to its appeal because I travel a lot. However being a collector of fine watches I wasn’t sure if I would appreciate it in the long term. It’s automatic wind with not a very interesting case back.
To be honest, in the end it was simply the dial that sold me. It’s not only me. Of all the watches I wear daily this one always sparks a conversation. I didn’t think it would but the dial draws attention.
Today, IWC is perhaps most known for its pilot’s watches, like the one you have in your collection. What are your thoughts on the watch and IWC as a watchmaking brand?
I find the Pilot’s Chronograph so versatile. It’s on a Big Pilot Kevlar strap with a pin buckle. It’s so well made and packed with function. It also sits great on the bedside table as a clock when travelling. This one has importance to me as it was bought on the first trip I ever went on with my wife. It’s the biggest watch in my collection but for some reason it doesn’t feel so big on the wrist.
IWC is a great brand. They have made some iconic watches over the years. They have a great price point too. I do feel that they need to go back to their roots a little. Personally, I wish they made some of their best watches a little smaller as most are too big for me.
Both the Patek Philippe Ref. 5204 and Ref. 5196 are considered dress watches and yet they fulfil very different roles in a collection. Can you comment on the role that your Ref. 5196 (a classic time-only dress piece) plays in your collection?
The Ref. 5196P is simplistic beauty to me. The Breguet numerals are the best part of the watch to me. I think everyone needs a Calatrava in their collection. They’re elegant and understated. The Ref. 5196P is of course Patek bringing back one of their first Calatravas, this time in platinum. The metal gives it a nice weight even though it is so thin. I love the vintage look. It will definitely be a classic. I mainly wear it to black tie functions. It fits nicely under a cuff be it can be worn casually too.
I have a few pieces coming to me very soon. I’ve decided to expand my sports watch collection and start testing the vintage watch waters. The first is the white gold Rolex Submariner with the blue face or “Smurf”; I’ve always admired the piece. The second is an IWC Pilot’s watch Mark XVII Top Gun. Again it’s a piece that I’ve liked for awhile. I love the vintage-looking dial. I’ve put it on a black calf skin strap which should be interesting. And finally, I am getting my first Rolex “red” Submariner! I am so excited. I have been wanting one for so long. It has definitely open my eyes to the vintage watch market, especially vintage Rolex. I’m waiting for Baselworld next year to see what Patek has in store. Otherwise, I have a few Patek Philippe watches that I have had on my list for some time.
My advice to new collectors would be to take your time. Think before you buy. Every watch collector has bought watches they fell out of love with very quickly. These days there are more choices than ever before. Also, understand that a watch collection changes over the years as with your life. Time is the only constant. The love of horology is an amazing journey.