Designed to measure the passage of time, following faithfully on the wrist as one goes through life, a watch is valued for more than just its material worth. Quite often it is treasured for its symbolic significance and sentimental value, and for bearing the marks that altogether tell a story about one’s life. In conjunction with the 10th edition of Starhill Gallery’s A Journey Through Time, we speak to the following aesthetes and discover what their favourite timepieces mean to them.
Photographed by Chuan Looi/Yipieyaya; creative direction by Ibnu Aswan; words by KC Yap; make-up by Joey Yap and Shallee; hair by Angeline Low; special thanks to The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur for the location
MARK OF SUCCESS
Telecommunication technology entrepreneur David Ng regards watches as deep reminders of hard work and appreciation, and, more importantly, motivation to strive further.
The proud owner of several Rolex watches now, David recalls buying his first after a productive meeting with a bank that eventually culminated in a successful collaboration. It was a watch that he had been eyeing for a while and one which has since accompanied him through many more meetings and undertakings—a 44mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea in steel.
“I think watches are key to a man’s style because we don’t accessorise much, so often they make a statement of your character and taste, and give your dressing the finishing touch it needs,” says David.
He reckons the extreme performance and ambition of the watch match his practical use and go-getting personality. “I’m quite a sporty person and because of our unforgiving climate, the metal bracelet on this watch suits me. Overall, the clean design takes me easily from day to night. Most of all, Rolex has one of the finest quality of steel.” Indeed he’s right as Rolex fashions its own 904L stainless steel, touted to be the same material used in aerospace and chemical.
On collecting watches, David explains, “Life can be hard. We go through many ups and downs, so sometimes you want some therapy. Personally, I would go for a watch. As for my kids in the future, I would like them to work for their own rewards, instead of just handing my watches down to them. Only when they have accomplished something on their own will they learn to appreciate success and its rewards, and not to take it for granted and squander it. It’s also to motivate them to take success to the next level—keep setting yourself a higher goal and bigger reward to look forward to. And because you’ve succeeded before, you know you can do it again, and better, too.”
Through pushing himself full force, David has also come to have a different take on the concept of time. “I used to believe that time is money, but time is in fact everything. Everybody wants your time and everything requires time, time for your business, family, learning and applying, etc. I try to have a more balanced lifestyle now by hiring more people and leveraging on others’ expertise and time.”
He particularly understands the fleetingness of time from his technology-driven business, his latest venture being a crowd-sourced food mobile application, Chefsaround (more info at chefsaround.com), and quickly reconciles that with sensible approaches he learned from his grandfather. “I live by the traditional value of appreciating the fruits of your labour, as taught by my grandparents—whatever you earn, keep it and reinvest it in something of value and solid, such as property, or this Rolex.” He adds, “In my industry, things change tremendously fast. You lose money as quickly as you make it. One minute you can be great with a new app, and obsolete the next. So whatever I make, I always put it in less volatile investments.”
A TASTE FOR THE CURIOUS
Descended from a family in the civil engineering and construction business, Aaron has since young, after receiving his first computer, taken an interest in technology. The self-starter combined his technical passion and early exposure to applied science and established his software development company, Gamlite IT, which has since evolved into an infrastructure asset management and geospatial solutions provider, specialising in collecting and processing data on roads, bridges and traffic, and developing data management solutions.
Over the years, Aaron’s professional love of technology has grown to include the mechanical discipline of horology as a personal pursuit, setting him out to collect timepieces, a journey which he also believes is inherited from his father. “I think it has been passed on to me by my father. He’s a big watch collector as well, so I started from looking at his collection and back in the day, he would tell me about the movements, complications, etc.”
His collection began with a Bell & Ross and has since gone on to encompass the likes of Hublot. Here, Aaron shares with us a favourite of his—an Officine Panerai Radiomir featuring the California dial. Interestingly, Aaron reveals that he was never particularly taken to Panerai until chancing upon the watch.
Explaining that he looks for designs with a slightly curious twist, Aaron admits to being captivated by the California’s unique bi-numeral indices. “I look for something special. I wasn’t a big fan of Panerai initially, but when I came across this watch with half-Roman and half-Arabic numerals, which they call the California dial, I was charmed. They say that it’s because in the 1970s, many watches were being refinished by some company in California and this unusual dial design is one way or another a result of that,” says Aaron.
Intrigued, we did some research of our own and found various online sources with archive findings suggesting that the watch was amongst the first models designed by Panerai back in the 1930s when the company started supplying to the Royal Italian Navy. As for the dial’s origins, records of early Rolex watches featuring the same dial have prompted experts to believe that Panerai might have been purchasing from the former for its royal commission, and in the 1980s when a dial refinishing company in California began refinishing many vintage Rolex watches with this design, the dial was then named after the state.
“But that remains a mystery,” says Aaron, “That said, I enjoy the mystery around the watch.”
While his taste began with large watches, mostly 45mm and above, Aaron reveals that today, having passed the 30-year mark, he enjoys smaller, slimmer, more dressy watches. Nevertheless, he continues to take delight in his motor-inspired Hublot Big Bang Ferrari.”
PRESERVING A LEGACY
Despite coming from a distinguished family background, Aliff is perhaps amongst one of the most unassuming, respectful and well-spoken bona fide dandies of our time, who engages his audience in conversation with the brightest, keenest gaze and interest. These characteristics are only matched with an impeccable sense of style, always dapper but with a dash of flair and never a strand of hair out of place, as he leads the marketing and public relations of fashion retail powerhouse The Melium Group.
While Aliff may own an extensive collection of top-of-the-range timepieces, the one he holds most dear is a simple, three-hand Omega watch in steel from the 1960s, gifted by his late grandfather. This passion for watches, he believes, was planted in him at age five when he started receiving watches from family and relatives, and later blossomed at age 16 when he got himself a TAG Heuer upon graduating high school.
He loves his vintage Omega, though, for it reminds him of his grandfather, Tun Abdullah bin Mohd Salleh, who he misses very much today and continues to be his inspiration. “It’s the first watch he gave me, so I’ve always kept it in my heart. It was given to him by then Japan’s prime minister, with whom he had a close relationship, as a personal gift. I was really close to my grandparents, so much so that we would travel and see the world together.”
Of all the great qualities and accomplishments of the late Tun, former president and CEO of Petronas, and prior to that the chief secretary to the Malaysian government, who was also responsible for establishing UKM, Aliff is most inspired by his advice on respect and following your heart.
“He said, ‘You always have to believe in yourself and do what you want to do and what you feel is right for you. You don’t have to listen to what others say; if you think that it’s right, then go ahead,’” Aliff recalls. “And from those days of taking heed of his advice, I’ve also developed a natural respect for my seniors and the elderly. He said, ‘Always respect the elderly,’ and that has stayed with me since. Of all the moral values he exemplified, respect has always been the number one for me.”
And it is precisely this emphasis on respect that makes up Aliff’s attraction to Swiss watchmaking, a highly technical and innovative industry with a lot of respect for heritage. “I normally buy watches from established Swiss watchmakers like Rolex and Audemars Piguet, because they value their roots, both their origins and their centuries-old craft, and remain innovative and modern at the same time.”
In terms of style, Aliff shares that the simple design of the Omega watch is also a great complement to his dressing, “It’s a very simple, easy-going watch that I used to wear on weekends. And it complements my penchant for white metals such as silver and white gold. It’s more understated. I can be a bit more out there with my clothes, but I like to keep my accessories a bit more classy and understated.”
THE LEGACY OF TIME EXHIBITION @ STARHILL GALLERY, 4 – 13 NOV 2016
In addition to the three personalities above, August Man Malaysia has joined forces with Prestige and PIN Prestige Malaysia, presenting a total of 10 personalities, with the addition of guest appearances by family members and partners, in a tripartite narrative inspired by the “Legacy and Icons” theme of the 10th anniversary of Starhill Gallery’s watch and jewellery showcase, A Journey Through Time. To capture the sentimental essence of time and legacy as well as the special, intimate relationship between horology and man, we enlisted the aide of noted celebrity and fashion photographer Chuan Looi of Yippieyaya Studio, whose body of work includes campaigns for Cerutti, Wrangler Jeans and Bonia, and special collaborations with Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, etc.
The result – a sterling visual editorial of 10 stylish portraits in black and white titled The Legacy of Time, perfectly nuanced to the individual personas of the three titles. A crisp, relaxed dandy vibe reflects the self-assured elegance of the August Man; plush interiors nicely framed in shot resonates with stately homes in the Prestige class; distinct visual lines and edgy, creative poses allude to PIN’s fashionable and artistic undertones.
For a complete experience of The Legacy of Time photo spread, we welcome you to view the visuals up close and personal at Starhill Gallery. The photos are currently exhibited to the public on the Indulge Floor, 10am – 10pm daily, throughout the duration of A Journey Through Time 2016 showcase, 4 – 13 Nov 2016.