Most people know Jeremy Monteiro, 56, as Singapore's most eminent jazz musician, but few know he is also a watch collector.
The Cultural Medallion recipient is taking his love of timepieces a step further, launching his own watch brand. The self-confessed "watch freak" worked with a team of designers and watchmakers to come up with two models of the J. Monteiro watch.
Monteiro, who is celebrating his 40th year in music with a concert at the Esplanade on Friday, was an avid collector before he gave up the hobby about 10 years ago because it became too expensive. He sold and gave away most of the 35 watches he had and kept 10 that he really liked.
"I've always loved the aesthetics, I don't care about the price. The beauty of a well-designed watch is something I really love," he says.
BOOK IT / JAZZY BUSINESS
WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: Friday, 8pm
ADMISSION: $40 to $120 (the $120 ticket includes Monteiro's Montage CD and a $10 voucher for the Concert Hall Foyer Bar)
His J. Monteiro automatic watches come in black and white/tan and are priced at $608 for pre-orders at www.jmonteiro.watch until Nov 16, and $750 after that. They will be sold at selected watch retailers, including Red Army Watches.
It is not the first time he has lent his name to a timepiece, though. A few years ago, home-grown luxury watch brand Azimuth launched a limited-edition Jeremy Monteiro timepiece to coincide with his 35th year in music.
While the J. Monteiro watches will be launched officially only at his Esplanade show, his friends and associates have ordered 50 pieces and he plans to launch a women's version of the watch early next year.
Singapore's "king of swing" has come a long way since he made his professional debut as a 16-year-old, playing the piano at the nowdefunct Country Club Hotel in East Coast Road.
The composer has made music with some of the world's top jazz names such as late American saxophonist James Moody, and has performed at prestigious jazz events such as the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
From club gigs, he went on to play piano and keyboard on albums by some of the region's biggest pop stars, including Singapore's Anita Sarawak and Taiwanese Tracy Huang in the 1970s and 1980s.
He was also a top jingles man here in the 1980s, composing catchy tunes for major brands such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola, and has worked on national songs, including One People, One Nation, One Singapore, which he composed.
At his concert, he will also launch his latest album, Montage, a compilation of original compositions and jazz standards. He also sings on two songs - something he rarely does.
The concert is a co-presentation between his company, Showtime Productions, and The Business Times, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the show.
His all-star line-up of about 25 guest performers are artists with whom he has worked closely or had significant collaborations, in the last four decades. They include prolific and Grammy-winning American jazz veterans, saxophone player Ernie Watts and guitarist Lee Ritenour.
Ritenour, 64, is looking forward to playing with Monteiro again.
He tells The Straits Times: "We've been friends for a long time, more than 25 years, and I've a lot of respect for him as a musician. He was really ahead of his time. He's always been a modern musician, he understands the culture of Singapore yet he has a very Western influence as well."
There are also guests such as home-grown veteran singers Rahimah Rahim and Jacintha Abisheganaden, newer names such as singer Melissa Tham, and acclaimed regional talents such as Hong Kong Cantopop star Frances Yip and Hong Kong guitarist Eugene Pao.
The musicians who make up Monteiro's bands and groups, such as jazz-rock outfit Jeramzee and Asian All-Stars Power Quartet, will also perform.
He jokes: "And these are just the ones I could fit into the show. If I had my way and included everyone I wanted for this concert, it would last for three days."
He is not one to rest on his past achievements and is always looking to the future, especially the development of young jazz talents.
He was recently appointed visiting professor by The University of West London's London College of Music and is a visiting chair of jazz and professor at Lasalle College of the Arts.
He is also setting up the Singapore Jazz Foundation, a platform which, among other things, aims to develop excellence in jazz playing among the youth, provide bursaries and scholarships for musicians and form a Singapore-Asia jazz orchestra.
He says: "I feel that what we mainly want to do is to have a bandstand learning programme where we put together youth musicians with some international, legendary musicians for a mentorship.
"I want to teach young musicians to be able to reach out and plant the seeds of becoming more global."