Interviews • 22 Mar 2016
#THGMalmaisonSalonSessions – It’s Complicated: Su Jia Xian
When did you first become interested in watches?
My first personal experience with watches was in 1997, when my mother wanted to buy me my first timepiece as a gift. It was a Tag Heuer – back then, they were not that expensive, probably S$400 a piece. I was really intrigued by it and wanted learn more, and so I decided to look it up online, and stumbled upon a watch forum called Time Zone. This was 20 years ago, when the internet, let alone watch forums were new and very niche, so everyone on there was an amateur enthusiast. It was the ideal place to start contributing my thoughts. Actually one of the first people I met in the industry was Michael Tay, Group Managing Director of The Hour Glass– he sold me a watch.
What led you into writing about watches and when did you start your blog Watches by SJX?
I began formally writing about watches at the age of 17 on a freelance basis for pocket money. I started picking up more writing jobs from newspapers and magazines, and then started my blog Watches by SJX four years ago. To date, I’ve probably reviewed more than a thousand watches and written in-depth articles for 100’s of them. It began as a hobby, now my readership has grown to a level where I feel it would makes sense to invest in an upgrade and revamp. I’m aiming to grow it into a sustainable publication with contributors and editors.
What attracts you to a watch?
An attractive watch for me needs the complete package. It has to be both appealing to the eye and possess a movement that is intellectually appealing. In short, a watch that is superior in construction, design and creativity and rounded up with an attractive finish. And of course, good value for money is important. Whether it is $3,000 or $100,000, you should be getting a bang for your buck.
After two decades as Singapore’s premier horology aficionado, Su Jia Xian of Watches By SJX, reminisces on where it all began.
Do you see a watch as a statement of status or not?
Not for me personally. I know enough about them that I can see through most of the marketing. But for the average watch buyer, it does convey a silent statement. Today, nobody buys watches for practical reasons when you can tell time from your smartphone, so they are seen more as status symbols; especially as alternative like cars are so expensive. I think that’s part of the reason why Singapore has a relatively high penetration for luxury watches.
As a watch connoisseur, can you give some advice to someone who is looking to buy a luxury watch for the first time?
First, consider what kind of watch you want, and whether it has a specific purpose. Do you want a dress or sports watch, do you prefer flashy and large, or small and subtle? Does it need to be water resistant or able to withstand scuba diving? Consider the climate too – for example in Singapore, a leather strap is less practical as you may sweat through the band. Of course, if you have a large budget, then you can buy one for each occasion.
Which is your favourite The Hour Glass outlet?
Probably L’Atelier in ION, as I have a good relationship with the manager there. For many collectors, buying a watch often boils down to the personal contact with the salesperson. A good retail assistant knows the product inside out, and is able to offer relatively objective feedback on what you want to buy. And Malmaison in Knightsbridge is also notable for its remarkable decor. It’s probably one of the most well known watch stores in the world; many industry executives I know visit it when they come to Singapore.
Tell me about the watch you are wearing today.
The F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance is special. It’s the kind of timepiece that not a lot of people could easily recognise. If you know your watches, you’d know that it comes from an independent watchmaker that’s very well respected.
How many watches do you own?
Definitely not enough! I like watches that are less common such as discontinued, limited edition pieces. My really rare watches have come to me through chance encounters, although I guess it’s also a numbers thing, as I see so many catalogues each day.