Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Kopi Talk! That’s right – after a long hiatus, Kopi Talk is back on a bi-monthly basis. It was (by far) the most requested segment by you guys, and I’m absolutely stoked to announce its return!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, Kopi Talk is where I talk to fellow millennials/Gen Z (people 25 and under) about their love for watches over coffee. 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.
23 this year, Sylvester has been into mechanical watches since his polytechnic days. He started off with affordable watches such as the Orient Mako and a Seiko 5, before branching up the horological sphere. Currently, he’s not only an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, but also crafts leather straps over at his website, Rustic Leather. When I found out that Sylvester was not only a young watch enthusiast, but also a strapmaker, I knew he would be the perfect person to reboot this series. This is his watch story.
Sylvester’s featured collection: Vintage Longines, Swatch Irony Heracles, Seiko Presage SPB047J1, Rolex Explorer 2 Ref. 16570, IWC Mark XVI, Rolex Datejust 1601
First foray into vintage – Longines
One of the first watch purchases Sylvester made was this vintage Longines dress watch, which he bought when he was just 18.
Not many people get into vintage timepieces at such a young age! Why did you decide to get this watch?
S: I bought this watch to celebrate getting a scholarship for my polytechnic studies. I decided to go into vintage because of several reasons. Firstly, vintage to me represents great value. I bought this vintage Longines for about $400 USD – a Longines production model from an AD would have cost thrice, if not quadruple of that! As I was just a poly student then, I didn’t have much disposable income, and felt that vintage was an affordable way to experience Swiss luxury timepieces. Secondly, I have a small wrist, so I love the smaller dimensions of vintage timepieces. This particular Longines is only 34mm wide! Lastly, I also like the clean, minimalist aesthetics of vintage dress watches. Till today, I still wear this piece at least once a week, and it remains my go-to dress watch for formal occasions. Here, it is paired with an Epsom leather strap that I crafted. To me, Epsom leather is one of the best leather to pair vintage watches with.
A birthday gift – Swatch Irony Heracles
A birthday gift from his friends, this humble Swatch Irony remains one of the most sentimental pieces in Sylvester’s collection.
This is a very interesting watch! It looks nothing like any modern Swatch watch.
S: Haha, this watch has a very interesting story. I was with a couple of my polytechnic friends one day, and we walked into a random watch shop in Jurong East MRT together. I saw this watch – new, with box and papers – in the shop, and was enthralled by it. I expected it to cost quite a lot, but the shop owner quoted me just $200! I thought it was an extremely intriguing watch – breguet hands, guilloche dial, and it even has an ETA 2842 movement inside! To my knowledge, it is one of the few watches that uses this movement. I didn’t pull the trigger then and there, but went back home to research more about it. A few days later, a few of my polytechnic friends came by my house to celebrate my birthday with me. To my surprise, they brought this watch along, and presented it to me as a birthday gift! They noticed my interest in it previously, and pooled some money together to get it for me. It was an extremely nice gesture, and till today this watch holds great sentimental value to me – it reminds me of my polytechnic days, which was one of the best times of my life.
An overseas purchase – Seiko Presage SPB047J1
Whilst on a holiday trip to Japan, Sylvester chanced upon this and pulled the trigger.
What’s the story behind this watch?
S: A few years ago, I was holidaying in Japan with my girlfriend. Being a watch enthusiast, I always wanted to buy a domestic Seiko model in Japan. Nothing beats buying a Seiko in Japan, you know? Initially, I wanted to buy a Grand Seiko, but unfortunately it was out of my budget. I saw this enamel dial Seiko Presage, and decided to get it. At that point of time, it was a domestic model, though now it can be easily found in Singapore as well. I love the enamel dial, the depth it has and the way it plays with the light. I didn’t have an enamel dial watch in my collection yet, so I thought it would be a great addition! The watch, with its crescent moon second hand, reminded me of Credor timepieces too.
A gift from his father – Rolex Explorer 2 Ref. 16570
The Rolex Explorer 2 is by far the most expensive watch in Sylvester’s collection.
This seems like the crown jewel of your collection! Tell me more about it.
S: This Rolex Explorer 2 was a gift from my father when I was 21. He’s an engineer, and that year he did pretty well for himself, financially. He decided to get the entire family, including me and my siblings, a Rolex, and told us to pick out the model we wanted. For me, I always wanted a GMT watch – it was one of the complications that I did not yet have. My first choice would have been the GMT-Master 2, but that was significantly more expensive than this Explorer 2 despite them sharing the same movement, and I didn’t want my father to spend so much. As such, I settled upon the Explorer 2. To me, this is the watch that I will never sell. Whenever I wear it, it reminds me of family. Today, I reserve this watch for special occasions, and when I travel.
First significant purchase – IWC Mark XVI
Till today, the IWC Mark XVI remains Sylvester’s most expensive watch purchase.
This ain’t cheap! What made you decide to shell out a significant sum of money for this watch?
S: From a collector standpoint, I knew I was missing a flieger, and I had to have one. To me, IWC is the quintessential pilot watch brand, so I wanted an IWC pilot watch. The Mark XVI is the goldilocks of the pilot line for me. It has a smaller case size (39mm), so it fits my small wrist well. I like the sword hands on the Mark XVI as well, as compared to the syringe hands found on the Mark XII and XIII. In addition, I didn’t really like the aesthetics of the scrolling date wheel found on the Mark XVII. As such, the Mark XVI felt like the perfect pilot watch. I like the clean legibility of it, as well as its nuances. If you look closely, the indices are 3D, not printed as they might seem at first glance.
The new watch acquisition – Rolex Datejust 1601
Sylvester’s most recent watch acquisition is a vintage Rolex Datejust 1601.
You recently got one of my grail watches! I’m terribly jealous – I have been yearning for a Rolex 1601 for quite some time.
S: Haha, I’m sure you will own one someday, especially if your blog becomes increasingly successful! I was window shopping with my friend at Bencoolen Plaza one day, and we saw this for sale. It came on an original bracelet as well, and seemed to be in good condition. Even the lume pips are still on! I have always wanted a vintage Datejust – the 36mm diameter just fits my wrist size perfectly. I already have a Rolex sports model in the Explorer 2, and thus wanted a dressier Rolex piece and felt that the 1601 was the perfect fit. It’s meaningful too, being the first Rolex that I bought for myself with my own money. I swapped out the bracelet for a museum calf leather strap that I crafted for this watch – I felt that the smoky nature of the strap would pair perfectly with my 1601’s dark grey dial.
P.S: Interacting with Sylvester’s Rolex 1601 makes me really want one. If anyone has a 1601 for sale – with the 3035 calibre – please contact me!
That sums up this edition of Kopi Talk! Similar to Leon, Sylvester is a young dude with an appreciation for vintage watches. He appreciates the craftsmanship that goes into the making of mechanical watches – unsurprising, given his passion for leather crafting! Speaking with Sylvester has really inspired me to work harder, and save up more money to fund more watch purchases. Always a pleasure to talk to other young watch enthusiasts – it invariably rekindles my passion for horology!
For those interested, Sylvester does some wonderful handcrafted straps over at Rustic Leather, at very reasonable prices. Do check him out!
The next edition of Kopi Talk will be published in March – stay tuned!
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!