When Lung Lung Thun was growing up, her socialite aunts often instructed her to peruse the pages of society magazines, especially the jewellery pages. “You’re a girl,” they’d say. “You need to understand diamonds.”
Ms Thun, however, was less interested in the colour and cut of gemstones than the mechanical complexity of watches. She would quickly flip through the pages of haute joaillerie – “just so I could say I’d read them” – and then spend hours gazing at the high-precision instruments on the watch pages.
She was fascinated by how such extraordinarily complex functions could fit into such tiny bodies. She memorised the spelling of names such as Richard Mille, Franck Muller, Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne. “I even liked the way their advertisements looked. I thought to myself: When I grow up and have the money, I’m going to buy watches,” she says.
After graduating from Warwick University in 2010 with a business degree, she found a job in a Singapore bank and wanted to fulfil her horological fantasies. She purchased her first “serious” watch, a Chanel J12 in titanium ceramic. This was quickly followed by pieces from Rolex, Hublot, Richard Mille, Audemars Piguet and other watchmakers.
Thus began Ms Thun’s journey as one of Singapore’s best known collectors, who has an Instagram account (@lunglungthun) with over 7,000 followers, as well as a podcast called The Waiting List which she co-hosts with two “watch nerd” friends, Jacyln Li and Daniel Sum.
What your watch reveals
But Ms Thun confesses that her early buying sprees betrayed her ignorance. “I didn’t really know what I was buying – I just bought whatever I liked.” Her passion eventually took her down the rabbit hole of history, tradition and classic designs. She became well-versed in various horological topics, from the legacy of watchmakers to the complications of vintage models.
She says: “The journey of most collectors is the same: First, you buy whatever you can aff ord. Then you buy all the sought-after models you can get your hands on.Then you reach this point where you only want the vintage pieces that represent milestones for the brand. And once you go vintage, you can never go back.”
Ms Thun, who is 31, now manages her own securities brokerage in Hong Kong. She says you can tell a lot about a person from their watch collection on Instagram: “Some collectors buy the models that show how much money they have. But serious collectors have more curated collections that show how their tastes have evolved over the years. You can easily tell those who have evolved from those who haven’t.”
Two of her most prized possessions are Audemars Piguet watches: a Royal Oak Frosted Gold “Carolina Bucci” and a Royal Oak Openworked Double Balance Wheel. When the pandemic compelled her to leave Hong Kong and return to Singapore, she took only these two pieces with her because “one is gold and the other is white gold; one is warm and the other is cool… Between these two, I always have a great watch to go with my outfits.”
Her current favourite is a vintage Patek Philippe 3970 from the late 1980s. She says: “I’m fascinated by its complications, which include the perpetual calendar, chronograph and moon phase. You only need to set the time once a century and it would accurately tell the position of the moon for many years.
“Also, the thing about the 3970 is that there are four editions: The first two editions were handmade, the next two editions were machine-made. With the naked eye, you can’t tell the difference. But under a microscope, you can – if you’re an expert.”
Although Ms Thun enjoys sports, high fashion and cars (she drives a Bentley Brooklands in Singapore and Bentley Flying Spur in Hong Kong), she says that nothing beats watches when it comes to signalling to the world who you are.
“I love cars and the complexity of their machines. I love bags and shoes. But I feel that with those things, you can only say so much about yourself… Whereas with watches, the range is so much greater. What you select to wear on each occasion instantly tells someone in the room what you’re about.”
“For instance, when I need to run many errands, I would wear a Richard Mille because their watches are lightweight, sporty and tough. I can wear a simple white T-shirt and sweatpants, and the Richard Mille on my wrist would make me feel energised and productive.
“But if I need to go to a meeting to close a deal, I would choose a watch such as an A. Lange & Söhne Datograph that would make me feel strong and confident… I choose the watch first, then build my power outfit around it.
“You know how superheroes all have their special powers? I think of watches as my special power. When I put the right one on, it makes me feel a certain way.”
This article was originally published in The Business Times.