In the second edition of “Wrist Watch” — our monthly column dedicated to appreciating interesting real-life watches — resident horology enthusiast Randy Laihighlights key finds each embodying some aspect of excellence (e.g., craft, collectability, cultural significance). This month, our plucky watch writer hit the pavement in order to learn more about the most compelling watches he’s yet seen in action — and the intriguing personalities who wear them.
Lex Mak’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (Ref. 15400ST)
The Royal Oak Ref 15400ST is an iconic sports watch from one of Switzerland’s finest watchmakers, Audemars Piguet. This particular edition, a boutique release featuring a navy tapisseriedial, has a significant waiting list globally, making it highly sought-after and collectable. For me, as an architect, the timepiece serves as a reminder of the importance of being patient; good things take time and the process is just as significant as the end result.
All of my key timepieces represent an important life achievement, be it venturing into a new start-up, landing a dream client or fulfilling a personal milestone. This Ref. 15400ST was a gift to myself for my 30th birthday and coincided with my return to Hong Kong from Australia. The nobility of the Royal Oak lineage — its history, its design — served as a fitting anecdote for the occasion. It’s masculine, elegant, relaxed and will remain iconic and a very sound investment well into the future — not that I have any intention of parting with it.
Lex Makis an architect, entrepreneur and Creative Director at The Coffee Academics. He has been variously featured in a variety of men’s style publications including GQ Australia, GQ Taiwanand Esquire Hong Kong. You can follow him on Instagram at @MrGumbaton.
Jerry Tong’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso “Memory” (Ref. 225.1.82)
On my wrist is my beloved Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso “Memory”. This wristwatch is close to my heart: it’s the first Swiss timepiece with an in-house movement that I ever paid for out-of-pocket. More significant than its horological merit is its status as my first “grail watch”. As the old adage goes: “Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have”. It only features one complication — a somewhat superfluous 60-minute register with flyback mechanism — but I love the simple and tactile joys of sliding the case out of its housing and flipping it over, or hitting the pusher and seeing the minute hand zip back to 12 o’clock. For compulsive fidgeters like myself, this is an especially satisfying watch. As a bonus, the register features a black dial, affording the watch a “Day and Night” appeal which (unfortunately) makes it quite a bit more expensive!
Admittedly, there are many more “precious” watches to be had in a world of unlimited desires, but my Reverso provides an incomparable sense of contentment. It’s simultaneously iconic and interesting. Also, just imagine all the fun things you can time.
Quinton Ng’s Cartier Santos “Galbee” (Ref. 2961)
These days, the watch I’m wearing a lot is by Cartier. This particular model is a Santos from the ’80s known as the “Galbee” (reference number 2961). It’s considered small by contemporary standards, however for those with thin wrists (like myself) it’s a really good size (29mm). The Santos isn’t an especially rare style — every year, Cartier releases new models — but as a vintage clothing lover it’s the kind of watch that’s so easy to match with so many different styles: the workwear look, the suited look, the casual look. It’s lightweight, slim and you don’t need to be scared of damaging it!
The funny little design element on this Santos is its dial — the Burgundy red highly reminiscent of the Rolex Stella — the main difference being that you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars for the former. If you’re in the market for a reliable everyday watch at a friendly price point, this is what I’d go for.
Quinton Ng is the co-founder of Antiqlockwise, a Hong Kong based retailer of vintage clothing and watches. He is also a specialist at Berne Horology with a strong affinity for Swiss watchmakers. You can follow him on social media at @rnr.q.
TC Ng’s Rolex Bubbleback (Ref. 3133)
Originally produced in the late 1930s, this vintage Rolex Bubbleback (reference number 3133) was made with a bigger case in order to accommodate the movement’s thick rotor. Its semi-California dial exhibits a beautiful patina and nicely compliments the “Mercedes” style hour hand — a feature I’ve rarely seen on non-sports Rolexes. Within the small collection I own, this is my surefire favourite. Although it originally came with a brown snakeskin strap and gold pin buckle — an OG look which I came close to revamping in favour of something more modern — in the end I’m glad I decided to keep the piece in its original condition. It’s my go-to watch throughout most of the week.
These days, the majority of people continue to go for bigger Rolex models like the Submariner and Sea-Dweller. Personally, I enjoy living in the world of relatively smaller watches: normally favouring cases which measure 32mm, 30mm or sometimes even smaller. Italian collectors describe watches in these proportions as ovetto, thanks to their egg-like appearance and enlarged caseback. OvettoRolexes (from the early 20th century) represent an important period in the brand’s history; and are extremely underrated. You need a little luck to find a servicer capable of maintaining such a watch, but it’s such a beautiful piece that I simply can’t not wear it — even when it malfunctions.
James Want’s Omega Seamaster Diver 300M (Ref. 22.214.171.124.01.001)
The latest iteration of OMEGA’s iconic Seamaster Diver 300M injects new elements into a dive watch that already had plenty of on-wrist presence to begin with. For a long time, I personally regarded the Seamaster as an underwhelming and vaguely feminine watch — the antithesis of a true diver. However, the updated model makes a much bolder statement than its predecessors and is a fantastic example of how OMEGA are ensuring value in their watches at every price segment. It’s an absolute delight to wear: the new 42mm case frames the wrist like never before; while the ceramic bezel (decorated with enamel indicators) consistently drew my gaze downward. For the first time, I feel like OMEGA are presenting a watch that’s a true contender against Rolex’s steel sport-centred offering — and at a much fairer price to boot. It’s genuinely exciting stuff! In light of the proliferation of Rolexes everywhere (and the ridiculously inflated prices people are paying for them) I’m finding the OMEGA brand is becoming increasingly desirable.