Meet our second "Collector of the Month", Kuo Chern Ng!
Name: Kuo Chern Ng
Place of residence: Penang, Malaysia
1. What’s the story behind how you came to own your first watch and what kind of watch was it?
As with many others before me, my first few watches were ordinary quartz pieces. I had already been wearing a digital Casio from the time I was around 8 years old or so, before moving on to a G-Shock and other analog quartz watches commonly found in department stores. But I would consider my first “real” watch to be an Orient M-Force EL07 that I received in 2014, having picked it out myself as a graduation gift. As an ISO-rated diver, with an in-house movement and a power reserve complication, it was a compelling first piece that really started my interest in collecting watches, and horology in general.
2. How did your passion for watches evolve over time and when did you realize that you wanted to be a collector?
My interest in watches was piqued just before I received my Orient, when I was looking for a replacement for yet another broken quartz watch. Hunting around the house, I found an old Omega Seamaster that belonged to my father. Giving it a few gentle shakes, the watch immediately started ticking and I was intrigued. After a little digging on the internet, I soon found out that the watch is a bumper automatic from 1952.
I was absolutely stunned that this delicate and battered looking watch that was more than 60 years old was still ticking away, while my quartz watch that was barely 3 years old was already dead. From there, I started doing some research on the internet regarding mechanical watches. I soon found myself on a few forums to ask a few questions, and the rest, as they say, is history.
3. How would you describe your collection and what does collecting watches mean to you?
My collection is certainly more than a little scattershot, ranging from vintage military issue pieces to modern production ones, and pure classic dress watches as well robust digital pieces. I would say that my collection serves as a reminder of my journey, and reflects upon my changing tastes as a hobbyist.
As we all know, there are two kinds of watch collectors: flippers and hoarders. I am most definitely a hoarder! Although I have intended to sell many of my watches at one time or another, in the end, I have never actually successfully sold any of them. I just find myself too attached to most of them, and almost all of them have some kind of sentimental value to me. When I started with the Orient, I was intending to make that my one and only watch. I now have more than a dozen, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon!
4. Out of all your watches, which one are you are the proudest of?
I am, without a doubt, most proud of my Omega Speedmaster Professional. I have always been fascinated by the Apollo space program and everything associated with space exploration in general. Even before I was interested in watches, I had already known about the Speedmaster as the “Moonwatch”, and once I started to collect watches, that was my first watch that I really worked towards acquiring.
In 2016, I added it to my collection after successfully completing 2 years as a medical intern and becoming a fully qualified doctor. For that reason, I consider the Speedy to be a watch that will always be important to me. I wear it almost every day on a variety of straps, it has accompanied me through many trials and tribulations, and I believe it will continue to be a companion on my wrist for a long time to come.
5. What kind of relationship do you foster with other collectors?
While I was previously very active on watch forums, I have slowly found myself drifting more and more towards social media, primarily Instagram. There is a huge and robust community of enthusiastic watch collectors on Instagram, and I have been fortunate enough to find myself in good company with many like-minded collectors there, many of whom have now become fast friends. I am in several chat groups there, and the banter is almost impossible to keep up with on most days. Feel free to hit me up @the.watchdoc there!
Other than that, I also attend some local watch events hosted by the boutiques or authorized dealers. It is certainly a great experience to meet up with other watch collectors in person, and to check out some of the rare pieces in their possession, many of which are far beyond me!
6. What are the most important criteria for you to consider prior to buying a watch?
As my collection is very varied across styles, manufactures, locales and time periods, I have found that there is only one commonality between all of them: purpose. When I say purpose, I mean that any watch that I buy needs to know what its intended function is, and then have a design that is clear and concise in achieving it.
As an example, I would not buy a tool watch that is only water resistant to 30m and possesses a delicate mechanism, in the same way, that I will not buy an overengineered and bulky dress watch. On the other hand, a slim and delicate dress watch is perfectly acceptable, and I consider the simple square, digital G-Shock to be the perfect modern beater.
7. What is your relationship with retailers like and what is their role in helping you purchase a watch?
Over these few years, I have managed to develop a very close and personal relationship with several boutiques and retailers. But as a watch nerd, I have often done all the required research prior to going to them, so their role is often to tell me when a new model I’m interested in has arrived, or to let me know as to whether or not stock is available for a particular model.
I do often enjoy having a quick chat with them as many of them are very knowledgeable and have a great passion for watches. I always make it a point to drop by and say hello if the folks that I know are working on the day when I am in the neighbourhood. It is also nice to get to play with some of the new models they have in the store!
8. How does the most recent watch you bought reflect who you are and what has changed since your first watch in this regard?
My most recent acquisition is the Seiko Prospex SRP775, better known as the Turtle. On paper, it seems to be very close to my first watch: both are large, ISO-rated dive watches with in-house movements from Japan. But upon closer inspection, the two are very different indeed.
In many ways, the SRP775 is the watch I should have bought when I first started collecting. The gilt dial and vintage case design of the Turtle are in stark contrast to the modern and aggressive M-Force. Where the Orient can be rather uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, the Seiko, despite being a similar size, has a wonderfully comfortable cushion-shaped case. And the drilled 22mm lugs are a refreshing change from the integrated bracelet of the Orient, allowing me to feed my strap addiction. It is currently on an authentic Nageur De Combat strap, made from surplus French Army parachute materials.
9. Which watch is your favourite “daily watch”?
As I have already spoken at length about the Speedy, my other favourite daily watch would be the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date, which is this year’s special edition with a sector dial. It was announced at the beginning of the year at SIHH, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1000 Hours Control test. I was not convinced by the photographs, but once I saw it in person I knew I had to have it.
To put it simply, this watch is a dream to wear. At 39.5mm in diameter and 8.5mm thick, it has comfortable yet modern proportions, perfect for daily wear. The vintage-inspired dial goes from dressy to sporty with a simple strap change. Not to mention the 50 meters of water resistance, the reliable caliber 899/1 within, and the confidence that comes with knowing it has passed JLC’s gruelling 1000 hours of testing.
It is certainly not easy to choose between the Master Control and the Speedy, which is why I often switch between the two throughout the day!
10. How do you use WatchAdvisor for yourself and where do you see its greatest benefit?
I personally use WatchAdvisor as a means of curating a list of watches that I’m interested in and use it to go through suggestions of other similar watches that I might not have seen or considered previously. I believe the system of feedback and comparison that is afforded by the site provides a unique service that is unparalleled. For both new and experienced collectors, it is the perfect place to collate, compare and discuss watches on a single unified platform.