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Ong Ban, Honest Tremendous Watches

Time tells many tales, because the saga of Honest Tremendous Watches demonstrates. This journal has been monitoring a few of these tales, intermittently, over the past 20 years however we’ve famous one fixed: present CEO Ong Ban. He has been on this commerce for longer than this journal has existed – longer than Coronary heart Media as an organization, in reality. The truth that Ong has been concerned within the watch retail enterprise for therefore lengthy isn’t outstanding, in itself. What units him aside from most of his friends is that he has been with Honest Tremendous Watches all the time, from its heyday as a family-operated enterprise, via all its subsequent ups and downs, and now as a part of Cortina Holdings. He rose up via the gross sales and operational fronts to ultimately turn into CEO in 2008. One fixed in Ong Ban’s journey is his ardour and enthusiasm for watchmaking, and cultivating an curiosity in tremendous watches. One want solely start to wax lyrical on timepieces to get his eyes to gentle up, if just for the possibility to speak about some element in regards to the watches on the new SHH boutique at Marina Bay Sands. Ong calls this boutique the “ceaselessly house,” for SHH and it represents for him the core competencies which have all the time distinguished Honest Tremendous Watches.

From the Greubel Forsey Structure to the Lang & Hyne Georg, these are timepieces that require greater than shiny journal ads and show instances; lately, such uncommon timepieces are more likely to be spoken for earlier than they arrive in Singapore. The retail operation wants an individual with a sure measure of sang-froid to cope with competing collectors, in addition to a measure of gravitas to maybe get these collectors to comply with show watches that they’ve purchased of their shops. Consider it in the identical means as some high-end automobile dealerships, the place some consumers are blissful to park their automobiles on the showrooms.

It does assist that the SHH retailer has the proper of area to indicate timepieces like this, with Ong noting he was blissful to host collectors who wished to arrange watch-appreciation meets on the retailer’s non-public area. Evidently, the introduction of the boutique permits Honest to speak up its unbiased manufacturers, and Ong’s personal function in growing this essential watch amassing area of interest. There was a gentle stream of brand name CEOs coming to city on the again of Honest’s dedication to growing the marketplace for these manufacturers. Now with the help of Cortina Holdings, that is more likely to be a powerful progress alternative, provided that Cortina Watch is a companion relatively than a competitor.

We sat down with Ong for a short chat about unbiased watchmaking, the SHH boutique, the intriguing story of Honest Tremendous Watches, and his personal function within the persevering with saga.

Congratulations on the brand new boutique! Honest Tremendous Watches has been via a variety of adjustments, simply within the time we’ve identified you. Even SHH is now in a really totally different kind to what it was once. Take us via all of it.

OK, so I feel first I’ll simply take you again a little bit bit about Honest Tremendous Watches, after which SHH. So Honest and Honest Haute Horlogerie, previous to current….

From 2005 or all the best way from the start in 1957?

I’ll take you (as far again) as 1992 (laughs). (However first the current) — When Honest Tremendous Watches was acquired by Cortina Holdings in 2021 (the deal was accomplished in March, 2021), I feel one of many issues that Raymond Lim, the chief govt of Cortina Holdings, wished to look into was the strengths and core competencies of Honest Tremendous Watches.

We (the Honest Tremendous Watches group) have all the time been sturdy with high-end mechanical watches. Now we have been sturdy with model administration. And we’ve a tradition and a ardour inside the firm on the entire matter of (horological) training. To place it in very colloquial phrases, Honest Tremendous Watches was excellent at bringing manufacturers with nice potential into the market — we are able to spot winners from far off. So, for instance, we took an opportunity on (then unknown) watchmaker Franck Muller and introduced the model to Singapore — this was from a time when the watches had been nonetheless being made in (Muller’s) kitchen. Honest helped make the model what it’s right now. In 1995, we introduced in A. Lange & Söhne, when it was nonetheless beneath the late Gunther Blumlein at LMH (previous to the model’s acquisition by what would turn into the Richemont Group). Then, in 1998, we (ushered in) the large watches pattern after we introduced Panerai to Singapore. In 2000, we introduced the (then-emerging phenomenon of) unbiased watchmaking to Singapore with F.P. Journe.

So, what we wish to ship on (with the SHH boutique) is a steady presentation of what we predict are the subsequent stars of tremendous watchmaking. I feel this area is essential for patrons to come back and (uncover) Moritz Grossmann, Lang & Heyne, Czapek, Louis Moinet, Gronefeld… Most of those manufacturers are comparatively new in our market, and we hope to make use of the brand new area to get individuals enthusiastic about them. That is actually our greatest motivation in conceiving and opening (the SHH boutique in MBS).

You’ve got been a continuing presence via all of the adjustments at Honest, together with these early days when individuals might not have been satisfied in regards to the potential of Panerai and A. Lange & Söhne. So how have you ever managed to be a continuing pressure, and been capable of spot so many winners?

Grand Lange 1 Pink Gold
Picture: A. Lange & Söhne

So, watches have been round for many years (in Singapore) and for hundreds of years (extra broadly talking). I’m positive watches will probably be round for many years and centuries to come back. My philosophy is that point is definitely timeless.

I advised my first employer (within the watch commerce, which was Ebel), even should you don’t pay me, I’ll nonetheless benefit from the work! So for me to have the ability to proceed on this business and to have sufficient power (to maintain myself), the fervour should be very sturdy.

And I feel this is likely one of the key the reason why Honest might experience via so many storms; it’s as a result of there’s a lot ardour inside the firm and a real affection for mechanical watches (amongst the group).

This affection, this ardour it’s very contagious… and with collectors and connoisseurs that we’ve served through the years (that I’ve been right here), they’ve by no means seen the change of possession as a hindrance to the acquisition of timepieces. It didn’t matter to them whether or not Honest was owned by a consortium, whether or not Honest was within the arms of liquidators, or within the arms of traders… none of it mattered to the collectors.

I feel what mattered was that we continued to have interaction them within the (furtherance) of their pastime. They had been getting excited on a regular basis by superior watches. And I don’t see this altering, with me on this function and past me… there will probably be one other group that may proceed the work. As long as you will have a excessive content material of emotion that’s vested within the enterprise, the operating of the enterprise will all the time be clean.

On figuring out the long run stars — the Philippe Dufours, Kari Voutilainens and Roger Smiths of the long run — it’s all about timing; after we go in for (any given model). Is it throughout conception (when the watches are being deliberate)? Through the introduction (when the watches are proven to potential retail companions)? Or when the model has finished sufficient work out there to stabilise itself. These are smooth abilities that one picks up through the years.

What’s your tackle watches as funding items then? Does this unprecedented scenario threaten the fervour for amassing watches?

Now we have by no means stated, to any shopper ever, that the watches we promote are for funding. This may very well be due to the selection of manufacturers we feature, or in our alternative of merchandising. On the matter of a scarcity of watches (obtainable on the market instantly, or comparatively quickly), and better demand for watches, I feel that is actual, and there are a couple of causes. I feel within the final two years, amidst the pandemic, you will have had new wealth creation, which has been fairly aggressive.

The pandemic additionally induced a variety of disruption to watchmaking (all over the place), and this disruption does influence the availability chain. So now, possibly it takes greater than a 12 months to get sure components, like a crown, the place it may need solely taken weeks earlier than. I feel with the business’s workforce again in place (now), hopefully issues will enhance.

Has the pandemic demonstrated that persons are completely prepared to purchase on-line and with none relationship with a particular retailer?

I feel that while you purchase a watch on this area, there are two foremost elements. One is your relationship with the watch (in actuality relatively than as an image on a web site), and the opposite is your relationship along with your gross sales advisor. I feel these two parts are usually not simply replaceable.

When (contemplating these) two parts, you attempt to create an area just like the SHH boutique, which is snug…. the place we are able to decelerate the tempo a little bit bit, relative to while you go to a typical retailer. At these watch shops, individuals usually are available and sit at a counter, and don’t go searching. They purchase what they need, make fee and go away. Right here on the SHH boutique, we’ve intentionally slowed down the tempo of service. It’s why we even have a personal space (that takes up roughly half of the 100 sqm area). Shopping for watches lately (with the appearance of on-line procuring) has turn into individualistic (with individuals shopping for in solitude, impersonally). I wish to deliver again the neighborhood side to the watch amassing pastime.

Was this the concept from the beginning with the SHH retailer?

SHH Watch display

So the transient to the designer was to construct a store that doesn’t seem like a watch store. I feel that was key (to our intentions with the SHH retailer). The inside design should make sure that, at first, there’s a excessive degree of consolation, OK, and the place the merchandise are the celebs.

So should you see the show exterior, it’s just about generic… whether or not it’s a H. Moser & Cie watch or a Lang & Heyne watch, all the things shares the identical format. However the truth that each watch right here has been chosen rigorously, this implies the method of curation has already been finished; each watch right here already meets sure standards.

It begins on the model degree first in fact… the manufacturers we embrace right here all entailed a excessive diploma of funding on our half, and (stringent) due diligence. For instance, take Greubel Forsey…should you purchase a Greubel Forsey from us, and 50 years later you could change the crystal, we can not say ‘Sorry, we don’t carry this model anymore.’ So this implies the long-term sustainability of the partnership can also be a part of the factors for what’s included right here at SHH. We may even need to take the time to elucidate the manufacturers and the watches, as a result of, as I defined, many of the manufacturers we feature listed here are most likely not that acquainted (in contrast with staples equivalent to Rolex and Patek Philippe).

And for one thing like a Greubel Forsey watch, I feel it’s completely vital that collectors (or potential clients) get an actual really feel for it. Truthfully talking, having the ability to expertise the watches we feature (within the metallic) is hard, as a result of manufacturing is small; every bit (from a restricted manufacturing collection) that involves us might be already spoken for. We attempt our greatest to have items within the retailer, so once more, the Greubel Forsey Structure for instance… anybody who needs one now, can not get one. However we’ve a bit within the retailer for Greubel Forsey followers to come back and expertise, as a result of I feel that is essential.

To place it merely, we determined to go together with SHH as a result of Honest Haute Horlogerie is a little bit of a mouthful! And the brand, properly it was Kate Lim’s thought (Kate Lim is Raymond Lim’s daughter and Honest Watch Restricted’s Basic Supervisor) to have a component of the watch itself be a part of the design. So it’s the view of a mechanical watch from the caseback!

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