Abandoned projects, correspondence written in a foreign language (and read with the help of Google Translate), and iffy after-sales service: These are some of the challenges that this retired commodities trader – who prefers to remain anonymous – has encountered as a collector of exceptional, high-end and often-rare timepieces by top independent watchmakers.

But for this true believer in the value of objects scrupulously crafted by hand, these difficulties are inconsequential bumps on a journey that began more than a decade ago – well before independent watchmaking became a buzzword in horology. Here, he tells us more about being a long-time supporter of creators going it on their own.


What first got you into independent brands?

In the past, I had a couple of watches from mainstream brands, but I wasn’t a collector. I had read about independent watchmaking in European watch magazines, but my interest really only took off during the Tempus watch fair in 2004, when several of those watchmakers came to Singapore. That’s where I got my first independent watch, the Roger Smith Series 2. Now, I have about 40 timepieces by independent watchmakers.

What is it about their creations that stands out?

They have the freedom to create, so their works are really different. In particular, I look at the construction of the movements. For example, I have an early Urwerk (the 103.01): It has a big, shiny surface that covers everything, so there’s nothing to see. But the movement is interesting. As for mainstream brands, I like Tag Heuer, Audemars Piguet and Jaeger- LeCoultre. But, generally, I don’t like mainstream brands’ prices. Many are not creative, but expensive. To me, independent brands are better value for money.


What challenges have you encountered in dealing with independent watchmakers?

After-sales service. They have no representatives here, so you have to communicate with them directly, which can be difficult because of language differences. Sometimes, you don’t know when you’ll get the watch back (after sending it for servicing). The creative aspect of independent watchmaking is there, but customer support is often lacking. Many of these watchmakers work hand to mouth, until they become very established. So, sometimes they abandon projects, like Volker Vyskocil (a German watchmaker who has yet to deliver his first watch, a decade after its launch).

(RELATED: The Peak’s Perspective about independent watchmakers)

Have you had any unsuccessful attempts to commission a watch?

I wanted to commission a Zwei pocket watch from Andreas Strehler, but as a wristwatch, and with a case made from metal salvaged from a decommissioned nuclear submarine. He agreed, but, after three years of communication, he changed his mind and declined, because he had too many other projects. These are the things you go through with independents. But with independents, it’s also about the journey, not just getting a watch. You want to be part of that journey.

Any memorable stories about successfully commissioned watches?

A watch by Jean-Baptiste Viot, a watchmaker in Paris. After reading about him, I e-mailed him about making a watch. He replied in French, I used Google Translate (to read his e-mail), and we continued like this until (the order) was decided.

Do you support independent artisans in other industries?

Yes. For example, I like the niche English shoemaker Gaziano & Girling, which makes its shoes the traditional way.