Touted as one of the hottest destinations for luxury shopping, Singapore stands fifth in terms of helming a thriving luxury market. Not everything that glitters is gold but big labels with even bigger price tags undeniably attract strong local demand. There are many factors that could explain this phenomenon - from the fact that Singaporeans have a high purchasing power to the notion that many are willing to pay a lump sum to own a status symbol. Yet, what seems to make the case for our luxury craze is a more pragmatic and understated reason - investment. The best example to understand why luxury pieces are not only a mark of taste and stature but are growing to become the next big blue-chip stock comes in the form of luxury watches.
Luxury watches have long been considered a staple piece in the wardrobe of sophistication. A case in point: James Bond.
Beyond dapper black suits and an unwavering charm, what makes Bond a renowned man of class is his impeccable detail to horology. From Sean Connery’s Rolex Submariner to Daniel Craig’s Omega Planet Ocean, the detail to world-class pieces truly makes the Bond franchise an emblem of elegance.
It then comes as no surprise that what sets luxury watch brands apart is the fact that they are timepieces - objects which you take great care in finding, selecting and have great pride in wearing. One cannot deny that there is nothing like the way a Cartier watch contours on your wrist with its curves and intricate design, truly living up to the brand slogan of ‘the art of being unique'.
[Image of Cartier’s PANTHÈRE DE CARTIER watch by L'OFFICIEL]
Yet, one might wonder what actually makes a luxury watch so valuable? At least in the case of Swiss Luxury watches, which are touted to be the crown jewel of watches, they are made in compliance with standards tailor-made to be aesthetically and functionally superior. Furthermore, they are at the cutting edge of innovation when it comes to movement, components, and style which translates into steep prices.
Beyond tangible worth, however, lies a key component that makes luxury watches highly sought after - its potential as an investment. As Patek Philippe puts it, ‘you never actually own a Patek Phillipe, you merely look after it for the next generation.’ The characteristics of having a long life span and being easily repairable make watches immortal. Spending fifteen thousand on a Hublot watch or a Frederique Constant then sounds less like a splurge and more like a carefully planned investment, which, unlike the volatile stock market, could prove to be a more stable source of returns. According to a New York Times article, a 1982 Rolex Submariner retailed at $13,000 grew to appreciate perhaps $10,000 in two years.
Even Silicon Valley heavyweight Kevin Rose sees watches as a valuable investment asset. He not only owns an enviable collection but also spearheads a watch news aggregator, WatchVille which is a testament to the growing popularity of collecting timepieces.
[Image of WatchVille’s homepage detailing the latest news in horology]
Given the investment potential of luxury watches, the craze for local watches of Switzerland and France is not unfounded. It also explains why we see a multitude of luxury watch stores such as Watches of Switzerland and Van Cleef & Arpels across the island.
In fact, Singapore is home to many who are enamoured by watches and boast impressive, jaw-dropping collections comparable to the cave of wonders. One of them is Dr Bernard Cheong who has been featured by local and international news giants like ChannelNewsAsia and TheNewYorkTimes.
[Image of Dr Bernard Cheong with his collection by Freestate Production via CNA Luxury]
Despite being the founder of Lifeline Medical Group, what sets Dr Cheong apart is his eye for the finer things in life. Touted to be Singapore’s most prolific watch purveyor, Dr Cheong owns well over 3,000 watches ranging from luxury staples to uniquely crafted timepieces including the likes of a Seiko Flyback Chronograph and an Omega Seamaster Titanium which were the pieces that started him off on his lifelong journey of collecting watches.
Amongst his collection estimated to be worth US$15 to US$20 million, his most prized possession is the Greubel Forsey Invention Piece Number 1 in platinum, worth S$1.2 million. He believes the watch can eventually command up to S$5 million. An astute investor, pieces in Dr Cheong’s collection have grown in value over the years. For instance, his Rolex is worth US$12,500 today, more than double the original price, while his MCT is worth about US$45,000, down from US$145,000 in 2012. In a two-part interview, Dr Cheong sheds more light on pieces from his collection.
Another collector to look out for would be Wayne, who goes by the username Orangedial17. His Instagram account is a gallery of his diverse collection of watches and has a bountiful following of over thirty-one thousand followers.
[Image of Wayne’s Instagram page]
A self-proclaimed Audemars Piguet fan, Wayne has been collecting watches for over fourteen years. In fact, his username is inspired by the first watch he bought - a Seiko Diver SKX011J - which has an orange dial.
According to Wayne, he looks for watches which not only have premier workmanship but also considers the heritage of the piece and his inclination to the design. He also contributes to and writes for watch publications such as The Watch Collectors and The Rolex Forums. In an article by The Watch Collectors, Wayne delves deeper into his passion for horology and sheds light on pieces from Audemars Piguet, Seiko and JLC.
Luxury watches are more than what meets the eye. Beyond suave aesthetics lies an intricate composition of top-class workmanship, an eye for detail and a promise of never letting go. Luxury is a commitment to being the best - a motto that is at the heart of all luxury watch brands and those who keep the flame of horology alive.
Written by: Srinidhi Ragavendran