Time tells many tales, because the saga of Honest Positive Watches exhibits. This journal has tracked a few of these tales, intermittently, over the previous 20 years, however we have famous one fixed: present CEO Ong Ban. He is been on this enterprise longer than this journal has been round—longer than Coronary heart Media as an organization, in truth. The truth that Ong has been concerned within the watch enterprise for thus lengthy will not be outstanding in itself. What units him aside from most of his friends is that he has been with Honest Positive Watches all through, from its heyday as a family-run enterprise, by means of all its subsequent ups and downs, and now as a part of Cortina Holdings. He rose by means of the gross sales and operations fronts to finally turn into CEO in 2008. A continuing in Ong Ban’s journey is his ardour and enthusiasm for watchmaking and cultivating an curiosity in effective watches. One solely has to begin waxing lyrical about watches to make eyes mild up, if just for the possibility to speak about some particulars concerning the watches on the new SHH retailer in Marina Bay Sands. Ong calls this retailer the “everlasting residence” of SHH and it represents to him the core competencies which have at all times distinguished Honest Positive Watches.
From Greubel Forsey Structure to Lang & Hyne Georg, these are watches that demand greater than shiny journal adverts and shows; lately, such uncommon watches are more likely to be spoken for earlier than arriving in Singapore. The retail commerce wants an individual with a specific amount 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 the identical approach as some high-end automotive dealerships, the place some consumers wish to park their automobiles on the showrooms.
It helps that the SHH retailer has the correct of house to show watches like this, and Ong famous that he was blissful to host collectors who needed to arrange watch appreciation get-togethers within the retailer’s personal house. Evidently, the introduction of the shop permits Honest to speak about its impartial manufacturers and Ong’s personal position within the improvement of this essential watch gathering area of interest. There was a gradual stream of brand name CEOs coming to city resulting from Honest’s dedication to growing the marketplace for these manufacturers. Now backed by Cortina Holdings, that is more likely to be a powerful development alternative, provided that Cortina Watch is a associate moderately than a competitor.
We sat down with Ong for a quick chat about impartial watchmaking, the SHH retailer, the thrilling historical past of Honest Positive Watches and his personal position within the persevering with saga.
Congratulations on the brand new retailer! Honest Positive Watches has gone by means of many adjustments, simply within the time we’ve identified you. Even SHH is now in a very completely different form than it was once. Take us by means of all of it.
OK, so I believe I am going to first again up a bit about Honest Positive Watches, after which SHH. So sincere and honest Haute Horlogerie, then till now….
From 2005 or all the best way from the start in 1957?
I am going to take you (as far again) as 1992 (laughs). (However first now) — When Honest Positive Watches was acquired by Cortina Holdings in 2021 (the deal was accomplished in March 2021), I believe one of many issues Raymond Lim, CEO of Cortina Holdings, needed to discover was the strengths and core competencies of Honest Positive Watches.
We (the group at Honest Positive Watches) have at all times been sturdy with superior mechanical watches. We’ve got been sturdy with model administration. And we’ve a tradition and a ardour inside the firm round the entire topic of (horological) training. To place it in very mundane phrases, Honest Positive Watches was excellent at bringing manufacturers with nice potential to the market – we will discover winners from far and vast. So, for instance, we took an opportunity on (then unknown) watchmaker Franck Muller and took the model to Singapore — this was from a time when watches have been nonetheless being made in (Muller’s) kitchen. Honest helped make the model what it’s at the moment. In 1995 we introduced in A. Lange & Söhne, when it was nonetheless below the late Gunther Blumlein at LMH (earlier than the model’s acquisition by what would turn into the Richemont Group). Then, in 1998, (we began) the large watch pattern after we introduced Panerai to Singapore. In 2000, we introduced the (then rising phenomenon) of impartial watchmaking to Singapore with FP Journe.
So what we need to ship (with the SHH retailer) is a steady presentation of what we consider are the subsequent stars in effective manufacturing. I believe this house is the important thing for purchasers 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 the house to get individuals enthusiastic about them. That is actually our greatest motivation for getting pregnant and opening (the SHH retailer in MBS).
You have been a relentless presence by means of all of the adjustments at Honest, together with these early days when individuals may not have been satisfied of the potential of Panerai and A. Lange & Söhne. So how have you ever managed to be a relentless pressure and see so many winners?
So, clocks have been round for many years (in Singapore) and for hundreds of years (extra typically). I am certain watches might be round for many years and centuries to come back. My philosophy is that point is definitely timeless.
I instructed my first employer (within the watch trade, which was Ebel), even for those who do not pay me, I’ll benefit from the job! So for me to proceed on this enterprise and have sufficient power (to assist myself) the fervour must be very sturdy.
And I believe this is without doubt one of the essential the explanation why Honest was in a position to journey by means of so many storms; it’s as a result of there’s a lot ardour inside the firm and a real love for mechanical watches (among the many group).
This affection, this ardour may be very contagious… and with collectors and connoisseurs that we’ve served over time (as I’ve been right here), they’ve by no means seen the change of possession as an impediment to the acquisition of watches. It did not matter to them if Honest was owned by a consortium, if Honest was within the palms of liquidators or within the palms of traders…none of it mattered to the collectors.
I believe what mattered was that we continued to have interaction them in (selling) their pastime. They have been excited on a regular basis by superb watches. And I do not see this altering, with me on this position and past me… there might be one other group that can proceed the work. So long as you have got a excessive content material of feelings inherent within the enterprise, the operation of the enterprise will at all times be clean.
On the subject of figuring out the celebs of the long run – the long run Philippe Dufours, Kari Voutilainens and Roger Smiths – it is all about timing; after we go in for (any model). Is it throughout conception (when the bells are deliberate)? In the course of the introduction (when the watches are proven to potential sellers)? Or when the model has accomplished sufficient work available in the market to stabilize. These are tender expertise that you just decide up over time.
What do you consider watches as an funding object then? Does this unprecedented state of affairs threaten the fervour for gathering watches?
We’ve got by no means instructed any buyer that the watches we promote are for funding. This can be as a result of selection of manufacturers we’ve, or in our selection of merchandising. As for the scarcity of watches (out there on the market instantly or comparatively quickly), and better demand for watches, I believe that is actual, and there are a couple of causes. I believe during the last two years, in the midst of the pandemic, you have created new wealth, which has been fairly aggressive.
The pandemic additionally brought on a variety of disruption to observe manufacturing (in all places), and this disruption is affecting the availability chain. So now it would take greater than a 12 months to get some components, like a crown, the place earlier than it may need solely taken weeks. I believe with the trade workforce again in place (now), hopefully issues will enhance.
Has the pandemic proven that individuals are completely prepared to purchase on-line and with none relationship with a particular retailer?
I believe if you get a watch on this house there are two essential components. One is your relationship with the watch (in actual life moderately than as a picture on a web site), and the opposite is your relationship together with your gross sales advisor. I believe these two parts aren’t simply interchangeable.
When (given these) two parts, you attempt to create an area just like the SHH retailer, which is handy… the place we will decelerate just a little bit, relative to if you go to a daily retailer. In these watch retailers, individuals normally are available and sit at a counter and do not go searching. They purchase what they need, pay and go away. Right here on the SHH retailer, we’ve intentionally lowered the service price. That is why we even have a non-public space (which takes up about half of the 100 sq. meter areas). Shopping for watches lately (with the appearance of on-line procuring) has turn into individualistic (with individuals shopping for in solitude, impersonal). I need to deliver the group side again to the watch gathering pastime.
Was this the thought from the start with the SHH retailer?
So the project to the designer was to construct a retailer that does not seem like a watch retailer. I believe that was the important thing (to our intentions with the SHH retailer). The inside should guarantee that there’s in the beginning a excessive stage of consolation, okay, and the place the merchandise are the celebs.
So for those who see the show outdoors, it is fairly generic… whether or not it is an H. Moser & Cie watch or a Lang & Heyne watch, it is all the identical format. However the truth that each watch right here has been fastidiously chosen implies that the curation course of has already been accomplished; each watch right here already meets sure standards.
After all, it begins on the model stage first… the manufacturers we embody right here all concerned a excessive diploma of funding on our half and (rigorous) due diligence. Take the Greubel Forsey for instance…for those who purchase a Greubel Forsey from us, and 50 years later it is advisable to change the crystal, we won’t say “Sorry, we do not carry this model anymore.” So because of this the long-term sustainability of the partnership can be a part of the factors for what’s included right here at SHH. We can even have to take a while to elucidate the manufacturers and watches, since, as I defined, many of the manufacturers we’ve listed below are in all probability not that acquainted (in comparison with staples like Rolex and Patek Philippe).
And for one thing like a Greubel Forsey watch, I believe it is completely essential that collectors (or potential clients) get an actual really feel for it. Truthfully, having the ability to expertise the watches we put on (within the metallic) is hard, as a result of the manufacturing is small; every bit (from a restricted manufacturing run) that involves us might be already spoken for. We do our greatest to have items within the retailer, so once more, for instance Greubel Forsey Structure… anybody who needs one now cannot get one. However we’ve a bit in retailer for Greubel Forsey followers to come back and expertise, as a result of I believe that is essential.
Lastly, for our long-time readers, who will bear in mind SHH as Honest Haute Horlogerie, inform us concerning the identify change and the brand new brand.
To place it merely, we determined to go along with SHH as a result of Honest Haute Horlogerie is a little bit of a mouthful! And the emblem, properly it was Kate Lim’s thought (Kate Lim is Raymond Lim’s daughter and Honest Watch Restricted’s Common Supervisor) to have a part of the watch itself as a part of the design. So that is the view of a mechanical watch from the again!
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