It’s Decision Time for This Watch Savant

It is somewhat ironic that as an editor of a watch magazine, I rarely buy watches. Perhaps it is the fact that we see so many insanely interesting timepieces that it can sometimes be paralysing to choose just one. Every time I think I am settled on a timepiece, something even shinier comes along and it is hard not to go “Now, hang on a minute.” So, when the Editor of WOW Singapore extended the invitation to contribute to this story, he was essentially saying: There is a gun to your head, you must choose.

For this story, I decided to split my choices between two categories. One is something I can realistically buy now (exchange rate issues basically) and one that I would consider buying if, like Huell in Breaking Bad, I was laying down on a huge stack of cash, preferably Swiss Francs.

Paulin X The Armoury Modul a “Hong Kong Dial”

This watch checks quite a number of boxes for me. Let me start with the dial. As someone of Malaysian Chinese ethnicity, I have long been obsessed with getting a watch with Chinese characters on the dial. For a long time, the Seagull 1963 was at the top of my list to accomplish this goal but these days, there is just too much uncertainty about where those watches are produced. Enter the Paulin x The Armoury Modul A “Hong Kong Dial”.

Paulin actually hails from Scotland and just recently became the sister brand of yet another darling of the watch microbrand scene, Anordain. Anordain is another brand definitely on my radar, making beautiful enamel dials that cost a fraction of what big brands are asking (you see what I mean about choices?). So anyway, the Chinese characters come from Paulin’s collaboration with The Armoury which was founded in Hong Kong by Mark Cho and Alan See. The term Hong Kong dial is a playful reference to the classic California dial which combines Roman and Arabic numerals in a very recognisable configuration. And for this watch, instead of the Arabic numerals, they use Chinese characters.

The second box that this watch ticks has a diameter of only 35mm. I do not know whether it is a sign of old age but as the years fly by, I have found myself drawn to smaller and smaller watches. I used to think 42mm was the perfect size, but ever since my father loaned me his Rolex Oysterdate Precision Ref. 6694, which is a tiny 34mm watch, I now think even 38mm feels too obvious on the wrist. Even though there seems to be a contemporary trend of watches getting smaller, 36mm-esque watches can still be quite hard to come by. So, for this piece, the case size is a major influence in my decision.

Lastly, the Paulin x The Armoury watch comes with a quartz movement. Okay before the pitchforks come out, hear me out. When I first started covering watches, only mechanical watches were considered “watches”. But then, I found out about Seiko’s Spring Drive, and after seeing Accutron revived, Urwerk using an atomic clock to mimic Breguet’s “Sympathique” clock, and how Ressence uses an electronic mechanism to enhance its mechanical function, I have come round on the whole idea of the quartz movement. It is, after all, a huge part of watchmaking history. So, the fact that the Paulin x The Armoury Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” comes with a quartz movement is actually quite appealing to me, especially since they even offer a transparent caseback.

The asking price is a mere USD 600. And considering the fact that the other two collaborations that The Armoury has done (H. Moser & Cie and Naoya Hida) were closer to USD 20,000 this seems like a pretty good deal.

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Pf Minute Rattrapante

While the first watch ticks a lot of personal watch collecting boxes, I chose this second watch because it ticks quite a number of philosophical ones. I have always found answering the question “What is your favourite watch brand?” quite tough; not because I love all my clients, I mean watch brands, equally but because I am of the opinion that any big watch brand is only as good as its leadership.

Think about it: Rolex is no longer helmed by Hans Wilsdorf; the founder of the contemporary A. Lange & Söhne has passed on; and Abraham-Louis Breguet is only with Breguet in spirit. Each of these companies is led by a board of directors, shareholders and/ or CEOs. And if the leadership is good, the brand makes incredible products… Georges Kern transformed Breitling, and hopefully, Universal Geneve in the near future, and Jean Arnault’s entry into Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking division has given us the new Tambour and a brilliant collaboration timepiece with Akrivia. This brings us to the watch in question. Guido Terreni assumed the role of Parmigiani’s CEO in 2021, resulting in the sublime Tonda PF collection. I find myself thinking would it not be nice to be part of this pivotal moment in the brand’s history?

Needless to say, I think the watch is simply gorgeous. My favourite part has to be the dial and the Grain d’Orge guilloche pattern on it. It gives the dial a subtle texture, from afar it looks like a matte finished watch and when you look closer, you discover these intricate patterns. And having seen and tried these watches on, I can say they are extremely comfortable to wear.

As for the specific reference, however, I chose the Minute Rattrapante for an entirely different reason. The Minute Rattrapante is a complication that hides a second-minute hand beneath the conventional one. Then, when either the pusher at the 8 or 10 o’clock position is activated, the hidden minute hand steps out in 5- or 1-minute increments (respectively) and remains static. Then as the conventional hands continue to track the minutes, it catches up to the second rose gold hand.

“The Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante is an expression of why people love traditional watchmaking”

This complication is in essence just a minute tracker and at its core, will give you the same functionality as a rotating bezel would. And this is precisely why I absolutely love the Minute Rattrapante. Forget that it is a world-premiere mechanism, I am more enamoured with the fact that it takes such an over-engineered approach to solve a problem that probably did not exist. I just wish I could have been in the meeting room when this idea was first pitched.

Even as absurd as the statement above sounds, it is precisely why you and I are in love with traditional watchmaking. Watches are not a necessity but possibly a necessary justification for all that time spent wasted at our ‘jobs’ (a reference to those of us working in the trade – Ed). Be that as it may, this Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante is close to MYR150,000, so I suppose it will likely remain on this wish list for quite some time to come.

This article was first published on WOW’s 2024 Legacy Issue

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