Feature: Kopi Talk with Leon Tai

Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Kopi Talk! In this monthly series, I will be talking to fellow millennials (people 25 and under) about their love for watches. I realised that most of my peers either do not wear a watch (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.

After posting last month’s Kopi Talk article, a reader pointed out that the term “millennials” is defined as people born from the 1980s to the early 2000s. In essence, people aged 25-35 can also be considered millennials. While that is technically true, for the purposes of this series I’m still going to focus on people aged 25 and under – non-working adults, most commonly students/NSFs. The rationale is this: I don’t want to feature a 35 yo lawyer/doctor/computer engineer who spends his affluence on Rolexes/Pateks/Richard Milles. If you would like to see features of expensive watch collections, do go watch the Talking Watches series by Hodinkee. In Kopi Talk, I want to feature the watch collections of students/NSFs who don’t have a sizeable stable income yet – this means that the watches they own were scrimped and saved towards. I believe this makes their watch purchases more meaningful, and results in a more compelling watch story.

Some of my pieces at the top, with Leon’s pieces pictured at the bottom.

25 this year, Leon is currently a 3rd year student studying digital filmmaking at in NTU (Nanyang Technological University). Interestingly, his watch collection features several vintage Seiko chronographs! In fact, it was the vintage Seiko 6139-6002 “Pogue” chronograph on his wrist that caught my attention when we first met. After hearing that he has a penchant for vintage Seiko chronographs, I knew I had to feature him on Kopi Talk. This is Leon’s watch story.

Leon’s featured collection: Seiko 6139-6002 “Pogue” chronograph, Seiko 6139-7070 Chronograph, Seiko SKX009, Dan Henry 1963, NTH Nacken, NTH DevilFox*

Leon’s Watch Story – How it started

Leon (like me) started off wearing fashion watches initially, with his first watch being a Diesel watch. Aside from watches (and gymming it seems), Leon is also incredibly passionate about cardistry (performance art of card flourishing)! About ten years ago (when he was about 15) he saw one of his cardistry friends wearing a Diesel watch. Intrigued by the “cool” look of the watch, Leon eventually convinced his mother (after much persuasion) to buy it for him.

Leon’s first watch – a Diesel watch with 6 crowns.

Eventually, Leon moved away from “fashion” timepieces from brands like Diesel to mechanical watches. However, this was actually more by chance rather than a conscious decision. One night, while he was bored in camp (turns out Leon was a MP like I was!), he chanced upon a blue Seiko 5 listed for sale on Carousell for cheap. He liked the blue dial of the watch, and was intrigued by the mechanical aspect of the watch – he jumped on the purchase. Since then, Leon has not looked back, and seems (to me at least) to have thus developed a love for both Seiko and dive watches.

Leon’s first “proper” watch – a Seiko 5 SNZH53 diver.

Since that Seiko 5, Leon has bought (and sold) at least 10 watches, a disproportionate number of which were Seikos. I think it’s safe to say that Leon has been bitten by the watch bug! I caught up with him over a cup of Kopi to discuss his current collection, including his recent fascination with vintage Seikos.

The Space watch – Seiko 6139-6002 “Pogue”

The first vintage Seiko that Leon bought was the iconic Seiko 6139-6002 Pogue chronograph.

Leon’s first vintage Seiko watch.

How did a young dude like you get into collecting vintage Seiko chronographs?

L: I came across this watch on Instagram actually. What intrigued me was the provenance behind the watch, which I found really cool. The Seiko 6139-6002 was actually the first automatic chronograph (the Omega Speedmaster was manual-winding) in space! It was worn by Colonel William Pogue (therefore the nickname) during the 1973 Skylab 4 mission. I was always intrigued by the space backstory of the Speedmaster, but unfortunately that watch is still out of my budget, at least for the moment. The Seiko “Pogue” seemed like an affordable way to get a watch with space cred. I also liked the functional nature of the watch. When I saw it for sale on Carousell, I actually realised that I follow the seller on Instagram, so I messaged him and asked him to sell the watch to me. The chronograph function doesn’t work (therefore the low price), but I love it to bits. This is actually the first watch that I’ve bought that I think I’ll never sell. In any case, I’m sure it will appreciate in value in the future!

Carrying on the Vintage vibe – Seiko 6139-7070

Having fallen in love with the vintage aesthetics of the Seiko 6139-6002, Leon actually went ahead to get another 6139 chronograph!

Leon’s second 6139 “Pogue” chronograph.

What prompted you to get another 6139 vintage Seiko chronograph?

L: I like it because of the blue dial, and the fact that it’s layered (there’s like 3 layers to the dial). I also like the white hands, as it adds striking legibility to the watch. I also liked that it was a mechanical chronograph, and this time the chronograph function actually works! In addition, the case of this watch looks completely different to the “Pogue”. I simply liked the looks of this, saw it for cheap, and therefore bought it. However, I am thinking of selling this (Update: he has since sold this watch) due to the over-polishing of the case. When I met the Carousell seller, it was at a dim bus stop, so I didn’t really notice that the case had been overly polished. To me, it sort of ruins the vintage aesthetic of the watch.

The Seiko Icon – Seiko SKX009

Leon also owns the venerable Seiko SKX009, which he modded.

Leon’s SKX009, which he modded for a more vintage look.

I see you modded your SKX009! It looks really nice in this current form.

L: Yeah haha. I always liked the SKX because to me it’s like half vintage half modern look, but with a somewhat modern movement inside with the 7S26. I bleached the bezel to fade it and achieve a more vintage and used look, and then got someone to paint the dial to achieve a “fully vintage” look. It’s also relatively affordable. I wanted something that I could wear everyday without worry. Sometimes when I wear the other two vintage watches I’m scared to bump it around, so I wanted something that looks vintage but is still tough enough to withstand some abuse. I liked that it was a derivative of the Seiko Turtle design – in a sense it’s the final design evolution of vintage Seiko divers. I also like that it’s an actual, functional tool watch that I can throw some abuse at – unlike your Rolex Submariner which is labelled as a “tool watch” but people treat it like its made of paper.

Breaking away from Seiko – Dan Henry 1963

Leon also owns microbrand watches!

Leon’s Dan Henry 1963 chronograph.

What made you buy this microbrand watch?

L: To be honest, I bought it to support Watch Wonderland haha.

Oh yeah! I was the one who sold you the watch HAHA (it was how we met).

L: Haha yeah! But I knew of the brand and the model beforehand before I bought it as well, it wasn’t exactly an impulse buy. Realistically speaking, if I wanted a vintage Breitling chronograph (which this watch was based upon), it would have set me back thousands. I knew beforehand that the Dan Henry 1963 was based on the Breitling co-pilot chronograph, saw that it was relatively inexpensive at Watch Wonderland, and so decided to buy the watch to support a local establishment lorh. But I knew of the watch beforehand from sources such as Wound & Worn and this podcast called TwoBrokeWatchSnobs. I love the domed acrylic crystal as well – I’m a sucker for domed crystals haha. I also wanted a quartz watch, you know sometimes you wake up late and just want something you can grab and wear? Yeah haha.

Another microbrand watch – NTH Nacken

A month after getting the Dan Henry 1963, Leon returned to Watch Wonderland to purchase the NTH Nacken.

Leon’s NTH Nacken on his wrist – it has since replaced the SKX009 as his daily beater.

Wow, another microbrand! What made you purchase the NTH Nacken? Most people probably haven’t even heard of this brand.

L: I see a lot of NTH watches on Instagram actually! I bought it because of the Tudor Marine Nationale look – I didn’t know that NTH had submariners! I first saw the watch on Watch Wonderland’s Instagram, and noticed that it had snowflake hands, I was quite interested. I went to read up some reviews of the watch on Watchuseek, and what impressed me was that the owner of NTH (Chris Vail) was actually on the forum, answering people’s questions. I liked the smaller and slimmer case of the watch, as well as the blue dial (as you can see, I’ve a soft spot for blue dials haha).

New Watch Acquisition – NTH X Watch Wonderland DevilFox

A week after I’ve drafted this article, Leon decided to sell off 4 watches to buy the new seasonal exclusive from Watch Wonderland, the DevilFox. 3 of which were the SKX009, the vintage Seiko 6139-7070 chronograph, and the Dan Henry 1963! (The last was an old Swatch he had lying around)

Leon’s newest watch acquisition, the DevilFox.

What was it about this timepiece that made you decide to sell off 4 watches to fund this purchase?

L: What attracted me about the DevilFox was similar to what attracted me to both the “Pogue” and the Nacken – cool, vintage inspired designs. Specifically for the DevilFox, 60s/70s divers come to mind – like old Doxa divers! In addition, the lume is simply out of the world with this watch. I also use the watch’s chapter ring to time my gym rest time haha (It’s originally meant as an Apnea trainer for free diving). Like the nacken, I’m also unafraid to knock this one aroud!

Conclusion

That sums up this month’s Kopi Talk! Leon is a young dude with an old soul – he’s simply in love with vintage styling and design. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t like vintage stuff! Many of his pieces are relatively affordable as well, with all of the watches featured in this article are below $1000. Interacting with Leon really inspired me to get into the vintage game in the near future – in fact, I’m looking to pick up a vintage Omega Seamaster myself next week, with an eye on eventually snagging a vintage Rolex 1601 Datejust. Never really considered going into vintage pieces before meeting Leon – big thanks to Leon for an introduction to the world of vintage watches!

Lume shot of the DevilFox – Leon’s enthralled with the lume.

When asked about his grail, Leon replies that he would love to get hold of the Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch” one day. However, he admits that the watch is currently out of his budget currently, so he will only probably get it when he starts working! Nevertheless, he’s attracted to the space provenance behind the “Moonwatch” (First watch on the moon), the functionality of the watch (in 1970, during the Apollo 13 mission astronaut Jack Swigert used his Omega Speedmaster to accurately time the critical 14 second burn, allowing for the crew’s safe return), and the historically accurate design of current production models. I hope he gets his Speedy one day – now I’m thinking about getting a Speedy myself!

If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned for next month’s Kopi Talk!

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

P.S.S If you haven’t already, do follow my social media channels on Facebook here, and on Instagram here!

Photo credits:

Leon Tai (@showtaime)

Posted By Qi Le

Just a watch/formalwear enthusiast who loves finding value offerings on the market, and sharing them with others. Some of my favorite watches include the Cartier Tank Solo, Rolex Cellini Moonphase, Vacheron Constantine Traditionelle, A Lange & Sohne Saxionia Annual Calendar, and the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Tourbillon. Currently focusing on Singaporean watch brands, as well as microbrands.

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