From hard-working classics to avant-garde designs, these four chic collectors tell us why their watches are more than just for keeping time.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

From hard-working classics to avant-garde designs, these four chic collectors tell us why their watches are more than just for keeping time.

My Reading Room


“It’s actually a funny, romantic story that started a love affair,” says Chin when asked about her first watch. The “love affair”, of course, refers to the one she shares with her husband of 13 years, Oliviero Bottinelli. However, having discovered how passionate and well-versed she is in Audemars Piguet (AP) lore, the words could apply just as suitably to the watch brand as well. Not only does her 20-plus timepiece collection contain nothing but APs, she has also visited the Le Brassus Manufacture several times to see the inner workings of its watches. Did we mention that Oliviero sits on AP’s Board of  Directors? Thus, it was opportune timing that saw him walk through the doors of Asiatique Collections—a home and furniture boutique of which Chin is the Founding Director—just as she was looking to invest in a watch. He introduced her to the brand, invited her to the store and extended an irresistible discount to her. The watch she chose? The Promesse, which she immediately fell in love with. They could not have started their love on a more felicitous note. “That started my whole introduction to the world of watches, which has continued to fascinate me.” What is it about horology that she finds so compelling? “Having seen how these watches are made, the time, precision and craftsmanship that goes into them… It’s a really beautiful and complicated object that we can keep on our wrist anytime, anywhere. Even if I were to leave home to go to work and I forget my watch, I actually drive home to pick it up; I feel incomplete without it. And, these watches help me dress up or dress down. I wear my jeans and t-shirt, strap on my gold bracelet watch, and it just changes everything.”

My Reading Room


The timepieces in Michelle’s 30-piece strong collection read like a “who’s who” of the watch world. From Patek Philippe’s Twenty~4 and Aquanaut, to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso and the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona that she wears for the photo shoot, it’s a list that covers the beloved icons of each brand. And with good reason. “It’s like my husband says, if you’re going to buy a watch, buy a good watch; and not just for how nice it looks. You have to think about its mechanism, you have to think about its value. Look at classic pieces; ones that can stand the test of time. When he first explained this to me, I thought: ‘It’s just a watch,’ but it makes sense to me now,’” she recalls. It’s very sound, practical advice for anyone looking to start building their own horology collection. Especially since it’s coming from someone who has the distinct and relatively unusual privilege of naming Gerald Genta as the timepiece that kickstarted her horology adventure. “It was a Gerald Genta Mickey Mouse watch that my mum gave me when I first started working because I always thought it was really cute. It’s pretty meaningful as well because it’s something she had always worn and I have really liked it since I was a child. What makes it even more special is that it’s out of production; I don’t wear it anymore because I’m afraid I’ll damage it.” It’s a good thing, then, that she has another Gerald Genta—a Retrograde that was a birthday gift from her parents—to fall back on when the mood strikes her. “A watch is definitely a statement piece; and it tells a lot about your personality. Ladies who wear very dainty watches tend to be more feminine and ladylike. For me? I prefer bigger watches because, well, I’m tall so a small watch would be lost on me. Besides, I don’t like to come across as too girly. So I always wear one accessory that’s a bit edgy and funky to make it less feminine.”

My Reading Room


You know a woman is serious about her timepieces when she arrives on set with a Louis Vuitton trunk packed full of watches and an obliging husband in tow. What’s even more impressive is when the trunk is opened to reveal, among other timepieces, two “machines” by independent watch brand, MB&F, and Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Horizon that had just dropped a week prior to the shoot. Her husband Adrian informs us that it’s her “favourite toy” of the moment but the watch she wears most is the Chopard Happy Sport. “It’s pretty to look at and it’s fun as well because of the moving diamonds,” she says. “I also have a [Chopard] Happy Fish; I don’t have time to take care of pets so I have moving fish in my watch.” Fun-loving looks aside, other factors that May-Han looks out for when acquiring a new watch are the patrimony of the timepiece and its brand. “I think the reliability and reputation of the brand have to be a given. What is the heritage of the watch? Is it from a fashion house or an independent watchmaker? And is it something that is really popular now but will come and go, or is it here to stay?” That’s not to say the couple’s collection (comprising “20 to 30-ish” pieces) is built on safe choices. A quick glance at the trunk reveals an unconventional side that would get nods of approvals from horology connoisseurs. “Certain complications fascinate me. Like the Van Cleef & Arpels watch [Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux] that tells a story of two lovers who meet every 12 o’clock; or Minute Repeaters and chiming watches with a sound that is different. That increases the appeal because it makes the watch, or the brand of watch, more unique.” It seems her taste in watches is equally carried through her fashion choices too. “I have found that over the years, certain brands and designers tend to be more my style; like Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Miu Miu… they tend to be more feminine but not boring; I like a little streak of playfulness and eccentricity.”

My Reading Room


“A watch can make all the difference to your outfit because it actually becomes the piece to the look,” says Mae. She knows what she is talking about. The stylish social influencer with close to 70,000 Instagram followers manages Surrender, the cult streetwear boutique that her family owns. Then, there’s the fact that her father, Dave Tan, is also the man responsible for introducing luxury watch brands like Richard Mille to Singapore (he is currently the CEO of Richard Mille Asia). Thus, Mae brought her A-game to the photo shoot with a Richard Mille (RM) strapped to her wrist. “I’m definitely not a minimalist, you know? I’m not someone that does simple; I’m a bit louder. So I guess my style is a bit edgier and more boyish. I don’t think you’ll ever see me in a girly watch—like a small, little, thin one—that would be weird.” It could be argued that Mae’s fierce sense of style stems from her exposure to the family businesses (Richard Mille isn’t known for dainty, girlish designs; neither are the street brands that Surrender carries). Either way, it’s a look and style that she carries very well, as her social media followers can attest. “RM in general is honestly not [positioned at a] normal price; the brand is selling a lifestyle. People who wear it definitely make a statement and a lot of the customers that we have [at Surrender] are customers of RM as well; and vice versa. It’s surprising the amount of people who wear street style and actually buy RM watches.” So how does she like to wear hers? “I kinda like matching my bangles with my watch; I like to wear them together but my mum always scolds me: “What if you scratch your watch, I tell you!”, and I’m like “Mum, it’s titanium so it’s probably not going to be scratched by anything, right?” Right.

Photographed by Gan.

Styled by Windy Aulia and Gracia Phang.