Interview with former RSAF Pilot, Alvin Tang - Whatʼs Your Watch Story?
1) Hi Alvin, could you give a brief introduction of yourself? Do you remember your very first watch? What was the story behind it and how did it come to possession?
Firstly, thank you Jeremy and Global Watch Service for this interview opportunity. My name is Alvin Tang, and I am Sorcerer.Supreme76 on Instagram, the chosen moniker being a reference of my favorite Marvel character. I started collecting watches when I was about 26 years of age. I perceive myself to be a later starter in the hobby. During my youth and teenage years, watches and horology bore nothing more than casual passing interests for me. There was usual garden variety of economically priced watches, which came and went in my youth and young adult days, and the brands were eclectic.
My first real luxury watch was a brand new Rolex black face 116520, given to me by my father in 2004, upon completion of my stint in the Air Force in 2002. This kickstarted my interest in horology. I remember marveling then at the self-contained intricacies in mechanical watches, and perhaps with the coming of age, I learned for the first time how to appreciate watches as objects of aesthetic appeal, luxurious details, functionality, and an extension of my persona.
I also started to admire the fine craftsmanship put into each timepiece, and how each detail on a luxury timepiece would be painstakingly designed, shaped or chosen for the watch. To me, each timepiece has its own story to tell, and I remember the time I spent voraciously devouring knowledge and information about watches produced by Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet etc, obsessing over the details of the craftsmanship, the colors, the caliber, the complications.
It was never about how much each watch was priced, but rather the aesthetic appeal of each watch, and the story of how it came about, and how it was put together. Slowly but surely, I became comfortably ensconced in the world of horology, first as an enthusiast, and then as an amateur watchmaker learning to take these precious timepieces apart, and always with some trepidation, attempting to put them together correctly.
2) How did the passion for luxury watches come about and what is it about watches that draws you to them?
My passion for luxury watches came about when I realized that they are in essence extensions of the persona or expressions of a man. Each timepiece I wear encapsulates a facet of my persona, and forms part of the way I express myself to others. I also regard each timepiece I own as a statement worn for personal leisure, an unobtrusive piece of jewelry for the male gender, with functionalities of timekeeping and other complications built into it, a mechanical wonder with its own story to tell. The fine craftsmanship of a luxury timepiece draws me, but not as much as the story of each watch like I mentioned above. Each watch is a story, and even individual parts of watches, like the dial, case or hands, have their own stories waiting to be discovered, like sunken treasures hidden in plain sight. I feel happy admiring a luxury timepiece on my wrist, and to me, this is a rather personal hobby in that each watch I choose has to resonate with me in the right ways, and it has to feel like a natural extension of who I am, or how I want to project myself.
Besides the story behind each watch, I am intrigued by the movement caliber as well. Specifications like timekeeping precision, power reserve duration, and complications, and I find each detail fascinating. I think that research and knowledge on a watch is an essential part of this hobby, and this separates the true collectors from the guys who wear watches for social appeal. There is of course nothing wrong with buying and wearing a watch purely because you like how it looks, but to be a bona fide collector, you need to know the watch and the history behind it. You need to know its story, and what it is, and what it is not. Watches are often discussed with great discourse at enthusiast gatherings, and details debated over, corrected, and new knowledge is gained, and erroneous ones discarded.
The watch hobby can be indulged in this way without any physical watches involved, and this is part of the hobby which I want to participate in as well. To me, there are different facets of the hobby, and different ways of enjoying each one. We cannot be adding new luxury watches to our collections each day, but we can certainly browse, learn and admire the collections of fellow collectors a lot less restrictively.
3) Tell us more about your very first luxury watch story. How did you come to own that piece?
My first luxury watch was a Rolex Daytona black dial 116520. It was a gift from my dad for completing my stint in the RSAF as a pilot. I was 26 years old then. I do not have the watch with me anymore, as I had traded it in, with permission and blessings given by my dad, for an AP royal oak offshore. The Daytona was what opened the door for me to the world of exquisite horology, but it is really Audemars Piguet which keeps me in this hobby.
4) Let’s talk about your watch collection. What is your favorite watch in your collection and could you tell us the significance of it? Was it a milestone acquisition or does it have sentimental value?
Currently, I have Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Hublot, Franck Muller, and Panerai watches in my collection. I do not know if my Gshocks count, but I have a definite thing for Casios as well. My collection is built on whimsical preference rather than absolute value or market trends. Basically, I buy a watch if I like how it looks, and I study the details of each piece in my collection fastidiously thereafter. Being a student of horology is a salient part of the hobby for me.
My collection comprises of 2 categories, one which I buy to keep unworn for investment or personal appreciation and a small rotation of watches for daily wearing. today, In my watch safe today, I have a modest collection comprising of two iconic Patek Phillipe 5711s (white and blue dials), the Patek 5270 1R/001 Grand Complication, the 5170G, , a5167R Aquanaut, 2x Rolex Daytonas 116500LN (white and black dials) and a Rolex 116610LV, colloquially called The Hulk.
For wearing rotation, I favor Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshores, for their masculine and angular cases, the boldness of the design, and the wrist presence they offer. I own a variety of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshores and Royal Oaks. These used to number about 15 at the peak of my collection but I have since trimmed the number down to about 8, for practical reasons that some of these watches never get worn, or that my preferences have moved in terms of material or color themes.
I do also have a smattering of Panerai, Franck Muller and Hublot in my collection, which I will likely sell, as they do not fit into either category for me. My current favorite piece is the AP Royal Oak Offshore reference 26237ST, aka “The Beast”. It is the quintessential Royal Oak Offshore, and a reproduction/re-issue of the first Offshore. I like the everchanging tone of the blue dial, and the perennially timeless baton hour markers. If there is only one watch I can wear for an year, this will be my watch of choice for its historic significance. It captures the character and essence of the Royal Oak Offshore completely for me, and is distinctive, and manages to be both contemporary and yet classic at the same time. I consider it a milestone acquisition for me, because it was available for me to purchase only after a long waiting period, and a few bouts of me asking the boutique staff. It is currently the watch I wear the most often, as it seems to be a “do it all” timepiece for me.
5) What will your next watch acquisition be?
I do have 2 watches on waitlist with Patek, and 1 with AP. But what I will really like to share is that I am, at the point of this interview, in the midst of negotiating a deal for a nice Casio GShock with a private seller in Hong Kong. I know that this departs from the main genre of luxury watches, but I think we can agree that every watch is a story, or has a story, or both. I am looking to purchase this limited GShock model because I think that it will be a befitting extension of my persona when I wear it, and it will be something unique and fun, a conversation focal point when meeting fellow enthusiasts, and most importantly, because I believe that every watch we put on becomes an unconscious but natural part of us, and how we feel. I think that this latest acquisition-prospect will agree with the part of me which seeks to be inspired by vibrant energy and artful inspirations. I am looking forward to share this latest acquisition when it comes to fruition!
I will like to thank Jeremy for conducting this interview, and I will also like to thank each reader for taking the time to read my watch story. Thank you and I wish you all happiness and success in your individual watch stories. We can never own time, but we surely can enjoy the way that it is being told in our own ways.