Feature: Kopi Talk with Daniel Chua

Hi guys, and welcome to a new segment called “Kopi Talk“! In this monthly series, I will be talking to fellow millennials (people under 25) about their love for watches. I realised that most of my peers either do not wear a watch at all (the “There’s the phone to tell time!” people), wear a smartwatch/fitbit, or wear a fashion watch as a fashion accessory to complement their outfit. Through this series, by talking to young watch enthusiasts who bucked the trend and continued to buy and love “proper” watches, I hope to show my generation why watches are still very much relevant to a number of us today.

If only someone would look at me the way Daniel looks at his watches…

18 this year, Daniel bought his first watch (a Rolex Oyster Perpetual) when he was just 15! He actually wrote about it here. In addition to being a watch collector at the tender age of 18 (I was still wearing Daniel Wellington to school at 18), he is also a writer at watch news site Deployant, as well as a watch Instagrammer (@horogenie) with over 1.5K followers. I sat down with Daniel over a cup of Kopi last weekend, and chatted with him about his watches. This is Daniel’s watch story.

Daniel’s Current Watch Collection: Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34mm, Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”, Rolex Submariner 114060, Seiko Prospex SPB053, Seiko Alpinist SARB017

Daniel’s Watch Story – How it started

Daniel’s interest in watches was first sparked by a Casio G-shock. Gifted to him as a birthday present at the age of 12, it was – in his words – “magical”. He was fascinated by its myriad of capabilities, and toyed at length with it. He wore it nearly everyday to school. To him, that Casio G-shock was the first watch that represented more than simply an instrument to tell time.

Daniel’s watch collection. Credits: @horogenie

Later in his teens, his interest in watches was further intensified by a chance encounter with a Rolex Datejust belonging to a family member. He was utterly charmed by the Rolex. Yet, it is important to note that unlike most others at that age (14/15), he wasn’t charmed by the fact that it was a Rolex. Rather, it was the design and the mechanical movement inside that captured him. According to Daniel, he was captivated by “its gorgeous, silver sunburst dial along with its fluted bezel. It shimmered and sparkled under light – it was beautiful. And, the soothing, smooth ‘ticks’ of its seconds hand piqued my curiosity: it felt alive.” I suppose that was when Daniel fell in love with mechanical timepieces. To read more about his watch story, do read Daniel’s aforementioned op-ed on Deployant here.

The response to the article was mixed. One comment wrote: “So a little kid buy a Rolex with his parents money and this is news? I expected better from you guys.” Just to clarify, all the watches in Daniel’s collection are bought with his own money, including that very first Rolex OP. Being entrepreneurial, Daniel has an IT business on the side where he offers website coding services. It was through this side income that allowed Daniel the financial capability to collect watches. I personally find this respectable – the watch was not a handout from his parents. Sure, one can argue about the necessity about owning a Rolex at 15, but as far as splurging goes, there are far worse things to spend on.

The First Watch – Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34mm

At the age of 15, Daniel picked up coding and became rather proficient at it quickly. After a few months of learning coding, he begun to offer website coding services, and soon found himself sitting on a substantial pool of cash as a result. When we met up, he admitted to me that he wasn’t quite sure what to do with those initial paychecks. He briefly considered getting a new gaming computer, and/or luxury fashion accessories like Supreme/Gucci/LV shirts or sneakers. Yet, he wanted the item he bought with his first paychecks to be timeless – to be able to stand the trials and tribulations of time. An Aftershock computer or a pair of Yeezys weren’t going to cut it. Daniel then remembered that encounter with his relative’s Rolex Datejust, and began seriously pondering the possibility of getting himself a watch. He trawled through numerous online forums and articles looking for recommendations on a good starter watch, but couldn’t shake off that encounter with the Rolex Datejust. After trying on several brands, including a near miss regarding a used Rolex Air King with a refurbished dial, he eventually bought a Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34mm from a local authorised dealer.

Daniel’s first watch. Credits: @horogenie

What were you looking for in your first watch?

D: I wanted something timeless, something that could last me a long time. I was actually looking for something I could wear forever, like a watch to end all watches, a grail watch of sorts. I was looking for a watch that would settle all my watch buying needs!

Why the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34mm?

D: When I was looking for a watch to buy, I browsed around some second-hand watch shops, and this 34mm Rolex Air King caught my eye. I tried it on my wrist, and it felt perfect – the dial size, the bracelet, the fit, everything. From then on I knew I wanted a Rolex, there was no going back. When I walked into the Hour Glass (a local AD) a few weeks afterwards, the Rolex Air King was no longer stocked, so I had to look for alternatives. The Rolex OP 34mm instantly captivated me with the striking blue dial. The solid end-links also felt good, and the finishing to me at that time looked very good. The side of the case was also polished to a high extent, and I was attracted by its beauty. When I tried the watch on my 5.5 inch wrist, it looked and felt perfect on it. When I went back to do more research, I found out that the Rolex OP 34mm (blue dial) and the discontinued Air King actually had the same reference number, 114200. That was extremely interesting to me, and was part of the reason why I bought it.

Why a Rolex as your first watch?

D: Well, when something catches my eye I just got to have it. Furthermore, Rolex is such a timeless brand with enduring designs – the design of the Submariner or the Datejust looks pretty much unchanged since the last century! The brand and its products in general really ticked the boxes in terms of what I was looking for at the time.

The Second Watch – Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”

Although the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34mm was meant to be the watch to end all watches, that obviously did not happen! In fact, Daniel made his next big purchase just 3 months after he bought the Rolex, this time a Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”.

Daniel’s Speedy, hesalite version. Credits: @horogenie

What happened here? How did you end up making another big purchase a mere 3 months after buying a Rolex?

D: *laughs* It wasn’t part of the plan! After I bought the Rolex, not only did I wear it everyday but I also went to find out more about it – Rolex as a brand, the design language of the Oyster Perpetual, begun to follow various watch news sites and forums. In so doing, I came across numerous mentions of the Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” – it was everywhere, even on social media with the hashtag #speedytuesday!

So what prompted you to buy the Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”?

D: The fact that it was the first watch on the moon sealed the deal for me. There was just so much history behind the watch! I bought the Hesalite version as not only was it more authentic to the original “Moonwatch” that went on the moon, to me it also made the watch “warmer”. Also, I liked the idea of owning a watch with a complication, in this case a chronograph.

Returning to Rolex – Rolex Submariner 114060

After purchasing the Omega, Daniel eventually returned to Rolex for his second Rolex watch, the iconic (and ever popular) Submariner.

An evergreen classic. Credits: @horogenie

Why did you purchase another Rolex, and the Submariner in particular?

D: I think I’m a Rolex fan-boy. I just love the timelessness of the brand and their designs, and well as how the Rolex bracelet fits and feels on the wrist. I chose the Submariner as I wanted something from Rolex’s sports collection. Prior to buying the Submariner, I actually bought a Rolex Explorer II, but eventually sold it off as the watch was too big for my wrist. With the funds from that sale, I picked out the Submariner. Not only is the design of the Submariner virtually unchanged throughout the decades, the build quality was top-notch too – rotating the bezel felt so satisfying! As an everyday beater, this seemed to be the top pick (for my budget). Furthermore, not only is the design of the Rolex Submariner iconic and timeless, the value is as well – I knew that this piece would hold its value well.

Venturing into Seiko – Seiko Prospex SPB053

When I heard that Daniel bought a Seiko Prospex hot off the back of an Rolex Submariner purchase, I was dumbfounded at first. I expected his purchases to continue to be in that luxury sphere – a JLC Reverso, or a Breitling Navitimer maybe? The choice of a Seiko Prospex certainly caught me by surprise, and I was intrigued.

Daniel admits that he has now been bitten by the Seiko bug. Credits: @horogenie

I did not expect this! Why a Seiko, and not another luxury Swiss brand?

D: I’m not a brand snob! It doesn’t always have to be an expensive Swiss brand. In fact, after I bought this Seiko I bought a microbrand watch – a Dan Henry 1970, but unfortunately I had to sell that away as it was too big on my wrist. As I stated earlier, I’m drawn by the history of a brand and the design. Seiko as a watch maison has watchmaking history in spades, with the Prospex line having a reputation for being well-made tool watches. I read up a lot about Seiko before making the purchase on online watch websites and forums – Seiko has such a strong cult following amongst watch enthusiasts.

Why the Seiko Prospex SPB053?

D: As with the Rolex OP, the blue dial first attracted me. The broad arrow hands intrigued me as well. When I examined the case-side, the Zaratsu polishing was a sight to behold. The bezel, like the Submariner, was extremely satisfying to rotate as well. Unlike my previous watches, it also has a date window to aid its practicality. To top it off, the watch was only 3 figures! It was extremely value for money given Seiko’s watchmaking heritage and the build quality, so I bought it.

Conclusion

That wraps up Wahsoshiok’s maiden Kopi Talk article! When I first conceptualised this series, Daniel immediately popped into my mind. Despite being only 18 years of age, I found his outlook on watches incredibly mature for his age. He didn’t buy a Rolex for the status symbol – he bought a Rolex because he appreciated the brand heritage, design and build quality of the watch, which were criteria he adopted for the rest of his watch purchases. He was definitely more mature than me anyway – at 15, I bought a Guess watch thinking it was cool, and even at 18 I was buying Daniel Wellingtons because they were trendy. I wish I had Daniel’s watch maturity then!

Daniel’s graduation (he’s currently a poly student) is coming up soon – when asked what watch he was looking at getting next, he sheepishly shared that he was eyeing a Rolex Daytona as a graduation gift for himself. Good luck in school Daniel, and hope you manage to get your hands on that Daytona!

To the millennials reading this article, I hope you guys would consider venturing into buying a mechanical watch for yourselves. Of course, I’m not saying “Stop buying Daniel Wellingtons, buy a Rolex instead”. Even for a few hundred dollars, you can get something fantastic from Seiko, Orient, Tissot, Hamilton, etc. Consider getting a watch that will last you for decades, not months!

P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!

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Photo credits:

Daniel Chua, @horogenie