Watch club founder on the best of 2017

PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO, AUDEMARS PIGUET, LANGE & SOHNE, OMEGA, PATEK PHILIPPE, ROMAIN GAUTHIER, SINGER, ULYSSE NARDIN

Watch releases of recent years have been offering value for money, says the founder of Singapore Watch Club

Mr Tom Chng, founder of the Singapore Watch Club, believes the luxury watch industry is in an interesting phase right now.

It is struggling to come to grips with a downturn that has plagued it for the last couple of years. Before that, he says, the industry was booming, with fortunes spent on research, development and design.

"But now, we're looking at a lot less innovation. Watchmakers are becoming more conservative: producing in steel, scaling back production and going for facelifts and brighter colours as opposed to completely new horological designs," says the 29-year-old finance professional.

Other coping strategies include reissuing vintage pieces, lowering price points and introducing entry-level models.

It is not necessarily a bad state of affairs, says Mr Chng, whose two-year-old club boasts about 70 members. They meet once a month to talk passionately about watches over beer and coffee at The Fullerton Hotel.

New watch releases in the last couple of years may not have been as horologically significant, but he says they offer, for example, value for money. "And a few of them are still quite groundbreaking, boasting R&D elements which have trickled down from earlier and better years," says the watch aficionado, who has been collecting watches for the past five years.

Here are his picks for the best watch releases last year:

Ulysse Nardin Classico Enamel for Singapore Watch Club

"This is a special limited-edition piece commissioned by the Singapore Watch Club for its second anniversary last year.

It features flinque - engraving done by hand or machine using a rose engine - enamel, a feature usually reserved for higher-end pieces. It also boasts a unique black dial as Ulysse Nardin enamel dials are typically white or blue.

The watch has interesting lugs and also an in-house movement: the self-winding UN320."


Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ceramic

"I believe Audemars Piguet has the best bracelet in the business because it is so beautifully finished. Unfortunately, it also tends to be a scratch magnet.

But with this model, AP has licked the problem by fashioning the bracelet from ceramic which, while scratch-resistant, is a very difficult material to work with.

I also love this model because I think it has one of the most beautiful moon phases I've seen."


Singer Track1 Chronograph

"This watch, by a small independent watchmaker, reinvented the chronograph layout and did a grand job.

It boasts a vintage vibe, inspired by elements of vintage dashboards. The time display is now peripheral; the chrono now commands centre stage. The radical change, however, has not compromised time telling. The styling works well, with the back case featuring the intricate movement that powers this watch."


Omega speedmaster 60th anniversary 1957 reissue

"A reissue of the 1957 classic, this is faithfully true to the original, down to its 38.6mm case. I think that's a good and smart way to commemorate one of the most important timepieces ever. The Speedmaster - the only watch approved by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for manned space flights - was used by the crew of Apollo 13 to time a 14-second manoeuvre to put the craft on a safe trajectory back to Earth after it experienced a host of technical failures.


Romain Gauthier Insight Micro Rotor

"This is by one of the most talented watchmakers in the realm of artisanal watchmaking.

Beautifully finished with a wonderfully designed movement, it boasts a micro rotor which is visible from both front and back.

I'm a bit of a purist and like manual winding, but Romain Gauthier has done the micro rotor so beautifully that I find this superior to many manual winding pieces."


Lange 1 Moonphase in white gold (black dial)

"This is one of the strongest staples in the Lange collection. It boasts a black dial and a white gold case and comes updated with a new Lange 1 movement with a new day/night indication incorporated into the moonphase indication.

The design is brilliant, with different hues of blue to signify different times of the day and a moon which almost looks three-dimensional."

It's like a runway winner. It will pull in new fans and allow them to subscribe to Omega's rich history."


Patek Philippe 5320 Perpetual Calendar

"This is inspired by the Ref 1591, a unique steel perpetual calendar which now resides in the Patek Philippe Museum in Switzerland. I love the 5320's Art Deco design, vintage vibes and solid construction. The layout is beautiful and extremely clean. The case is striking and the lugs, intricate.

It also boasts unusual 'syringe' hands filled with luminous material."


Correction note: An earlier version of the story showed the wrong photo of the Ulysse Nardin Classico Enamel. We have updated it with the correct photo.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2018, with the headline 'Watch club founder on the best of 2017'. Print Edition | Subscribe