ARLETTE-ELSA EMCH – BOARD MEMBER, SWATCH GROUP
In an incredibly male-dominated industry, Arlette Emch is a commanding, feminine force. A member of the board of directors for the Swatch Group, Emch is the hand behind the curtains of Léon Hatot, cK Watch & Jewelry, Dress Your Body and Swatch Group’s Les Boutiques. She is also responsible for Swatch Group Japan and Swatch Group Korea. In short, she can be considered one of the most powerful women in horology.
Born and raised in Switzerland, Emch, who has a degree in ethnology, history and journalism, was introduced to the Swatch Group empire when she interviewed its chairman, Nicolas Hayek. She subsequently came onboard in 1992 as its communications manager. Since then, she has ascended the ranks of the company with a fury that is downright intimidating. Now in the position of not only bringing her business savvy to the Swatch Group, Emch has resuscitated the femininity in many lines whose consumers are mainly women, but whose designers had hitherto been working from a male perspective. She believes that we are now in an age where women should be rediscovering their freedom to be women, without the fear of seeming lacking in strength or intelligence.
Her desire to reassert the new femininity resonates most strongly, perhaps, in the Léon Hatot brand. The master jeweler who incorporated and translated the Art Deco and Art Nouveau trends of his period into his work had left Emch an extremely sensual legacy to continue. A legacy, however, that Emch points out coincided with the birth of “women’s liberation.” She believes that women should recreate the modern definition of “être-femme.” It is the modern-day woman’s duty to negotiate her equality in society with her sequestered femininity.
Her success within the Swatch Group has certainly not been hampered by her belief that fashion is an important aspect in watchmaking and that it should certainly not be divorced from craftsmanship. After all, a large percentage of watch consumers are women. Emch has stated, “It is important to bring a woman’s feelings to watches.” And in a milieu hitherto dominated by men, she could not be more on point.
They are the pioneers in horological tastemaking: the creator of Singapore’s first standalone horological newspaper supplement, the creator of the first standalone watch magazine in Singapore, the first in our region to meaningfully use the power of the Internet to spread passion for horology and the first collector to spread his passion by ensuring that common people’s horological dreams come true.
They are a group we collectively term ‘The Tastemakers’ and it is conservative to say that thousands of watch enthusiasts depend on their cagey critique and discerning voices to guide them through the often-precarious marketing-driven shoals, and towards the acquisition of worthy watches. What is the thread that binds them together? Their strength of character based on their commitment to their principles. And so, in a world where many would-be watch celebrities and journalists are all too willing to compromise their values for material rewards or the promise of fame, they represent the steady voices of reason and truth.
Larry Wee — journalist, The Business Times
With more than a decade of financial and horological journalism experience under his belt, the amiable and articulate Larry Wee is the first true watch journalist in Singapore who played an instrumental role in starting up The Business Times’s annual watch supplement. Having also spent 20 years of his career in both local and foreign financial markets, watch appreciation to him is an enchantment (or obsession) with both the mechanical and physical aspect as well as the artisanship that goes behind every horological masterpiece. Most importantly, Larry feels that the best part of collecting watches is the fantastic camaraderie with like-minded individuals in the community and help and support of all the brand managers and retailers.
Duncan Wang — Forum Administrator, HoroMundi
Duncan is a man known for many things. For one, he is a fervent watch collector who has seen many a rise and fall since he began his collection with his first serious watch — a family heirloom he received on his 30th birthday from his father and his before him. But not just a collector, he is a forum administrator with HoroMundi.com and frequently offers invaluable support to REVHLUTION. Says Duncan, “Today’s collectors are intelligent, discerning and discriminating and this challenges the brands to be creative and smart.” Cheerful and well-liked, Duncan is also a highly respected philanthropist who devotes a great amount of time raising awareness for various charitable organizations all around the world.
Eddy Koh — Publisher/Editor, World of Watches
The publisher and editor of World of Watches, Eddy Koh is one of the Singapore watch industry’s most notable figures. Together with his title, Eddy’s presence in the media contributed much to the vibrant watch publishing business in Singapore not only by informing the public on the latest trends and innovations but also stimulating interest and awareness. He sees the local watch industry as one of the more sophisticated markets in the world for high-end watches because, in addition to the mainstream brands, Singaporeans are very receptive to independent watchmakers, making the country a fantastic platform for independents to launch internationally.
Ng Tjeng Jaw — Chief Moderator, HoroMundi.com
One of our watch community’s most familiar faces, Tjeng Jaw (or better known as Jaw) is the chief moderator of HoroMundi.com and editor-at-large of REVHLUTION. His watch collecting experience began in the ’70s through the quartz crisis to this day. Jaw is a firm believer that today’s watches have evolved beyond that of a time-telling device. “Watches are not acquired solely for their functional purpose anymore; people now look at craftsmanship, technology and emotional appeal,” notes Jaw. Similarly, Jaw feels that Singapore’s horological climate has developed significantly with the introduction of a good number of media sources like magazines, websites and forums enriching the consumer with professional, accurate and insightful information.
Singapore’s Most Powerful Watch Journalists
Larry Wee – The Business Times
With more than a decade of financial and horological journalism experience under his belt, the amiable and articulate Larry Wee is the first true watch journalist in Singapore who played an instrumental role in starting up The Business Time’s annual watch supplement. Having also spent 20 years of his career in both local and foreign financial markets, Watch appreciation to him is an enchantment (or obsession) with both the mechanical and physical aspect as well as the artisanship that goes behind every horological masterpiece. Most importantly, Larry feels that the best part of collecting watches is the fantastic camaraderie with like-minded individuals in the community and help and support of all the brand managers and retailers.
Ng Tjeng Jaw – Chief Moderator, HoroMundi
One of our watch community’s most familiar faces, Tjeng Jaw (or better known as Jaw) is the Chief Moderator of HoroMundi and Editor-at-Large of REVOLUTION. His watch collecting experience began in the 70s through the Quartz crisis to this day. Jaw is a firm believer that today’s watches have evolved beyond that of a time telling device. “Watches are not acquired solely for their functional purpose anymore; people now look at craftsmanship, technology and emotional appeal,” notes Jaw. Similarly, Jaw feels that Singapore’s horological climate has developed significantly with the introduction of a good number of media sources like magazines, websites and forums enriching the consumer with professional, accurate and insightful information.
The Opinion Leader
Duncan Wang – Forum Administrator, HoroMundi
Duncan is a man known for many things. For one, he is a fervent watch collector who has seen many a rise and fall since he began his collection with his first serious watch – a family heirloom he received on his 30th birthday from his father and his before him. But not just a collector, he is a forum administrator with HoroMundi and frequently offers invaluable support to REVOLUTION. Says Duncan, “Today’s collectors are intelligent, discerning and discriminating and this challenges the brands to be creative and smart.” Cheerful and well liked, Duncan is also a highly respected philanthropist who devotes a great amount of time raising awareness for various charitable organizations all around the world.
Eddy Koh – Publisher/ Editor, World of Watches
The publisher and editor of World of Watches, Eddy Koh is one of the Singapore watch industry’s most notable figures.
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(L to R) Sam Benjamin, Oliviero Bottinelli
Location: Mezza9, Grand Hyatt Singapore
It’s one thing to plod clumsily forward in life, barking utterances through gritted drill sergeant teeth. It is quite another to lead the most exciting watch brands and distribution companies effortlessly, while bringing to the world around you a certain panache and inimitable cool. ‘The Charmers’ inspire genuine heartfelt affection wherever they go. This is precisely the magic encoded in the genetic make-up of these very special individuals. The Charmers are singular in that they are not only the very best at what they do, but also downright the most stylish in how they do it.
To be amid their company is to instantly have access to a better universe, one ruled by their enduring passion for friendship, and for the magical machine with the heartbeat. How did we choose our Charmers? It was simple — we selected the people whose every gesture and act resonates with a profound kindness and an immeasurable generosity of spirit. Because we are — all of us in Singapore — all the better for knowing them and having them play starring roles in the horological universe we inhabit.
Oliviero Bottinelli — CEO SEA, IndoChina and India, Audemars Piguet
Just like his watches, Oliviero is the personification of high luxury. A man of fine taste from top to toe and inside out, he is the CEO of Audemars Piguet for Southeast Asia, Indochina and India. Almost a celebrity in the industry, this man of finesse and charisma is the de facto spokesperson for Audemars Piguet. Under his leadership, the brand has profited immensely from his excellent regional brand building experience, which naturally results in rapid growth in brand equity as well as robust financial performance. Oliviero is a true visionary who also never fails to take good care of his staff. Outside the workplace, he is a fanatic partygoer and his live-wire personality always brings out the fun side of those around him.
Samuel Benjamin — Divisional CEO, Timepiece Singapore and Group Director, Timepiece, FJ Benjamin
Samuel Benjamin represents the timepiece division of lifestyle retail and distribution giant, FJ Benjamin. Despite his highly privileged background, Sam (as the industry calls him) arrived at where he is today through sheer hard work and determination. Having a sharp business acumen and natural flair at trend spotting, he quickly rose through the ranks from a trainee merchandiser in 1991 to divisional CEO and group director for timepieces in 2007. At present, he takes care of FJ Benjamin’s Singapore operations as well as the group’s extensive portfolio of watch brands along the lines of Girard-Perregaux, Jean Richard, Bell & Ross, GUESS, Nautica, Nike, Marc Ecko and Victorinox Swiss Army. Working closely with all the other country heads in this family-run business, Sam’s witty and fun-loving personality makes him one of the most popular people in the Singapore watch industry.
Fiona Tan – General Manager, Richard Mille Asia
The ONES TO WATCH
John Werner — Managing Director, Richemont Group SouthEast Asia
While John Werner is in an undeniably powerful position as the new managing director of the Richemont Group, the mighty global conglomerate that boasts brands such as A. Lange & Söhne, Vacheron Constantin, IWC, Panerai and Jaeger-LeCoultre in its quiver of horological gems, we prefer to categorize him as one of ‘The Ones to Watch’ because of his role as the official delegate of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie. The foundation was created in 2005 by the Richemont Group along with Audemars Piguet and Girard-Perregaux with the sole aim to propagate passion and appreciation for high watchmaking. By infusing the world with the cultural significance of watchmaking, the foundation’s goal is to create the underlying cultural infrastructure to aid the deeply imbedded appreciation of horology around the world. Says Werner of the potential for Foundation-related exhibitions and efforts in Singapore: “The direction of the foundation is to spread the culture of high watchmaking and in Singapore we have an incredibly receptive audience.” This year, Werner will kick things off with his foundation’s participation in the Hour Glass’ mighty Tempus, universally recognized as the premiere consumer-targeted watch fair in the world. We selected Werner because in his unique position, he has the possibility to truly elevate Singapore to an ever higher level of visibility through future collaborations with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie.
Maxime Labey — Managing Director, Chopard (Asia)
Maxime Labey sent shock waves through the Singapore watch industry when he suddenly announced that he was leaving Jaeger-LeCoultre, the brand which he was instrumental in building up in this region, for an all-new professional adventure. But let’s backtrack a bit to get the full story. Half a decade ago in 2002, Maxime Labey had come to Singapore a fresh graduate from the INSEAD business school. Although his experience didn’t lie in the luxury watch business, he quickly forged a reputation as one of the industry’s most dynamic managing directors, enabling Jaeger-LeCoultre to make the transformation from a stuffy and antiquated marque to a brand with an exciting cachet and strong New World equity. He developed a reputation for hosting the most exciting, most consumer-friendly events and was instrumental in bringing “the manufacture comes to you”, a literal mobile manufacture demonstrating how movements are made, to our shores. It was soon clear that of the expatriate managing directors living in Singapore, Labey was one of the most capable. In 2007 rumor had it that Labey was tapped to spend a year in the manufacture before being sent to an even more high level post for Jaeger-LeCoultre. But at the 11th hour, Labey announced that he had instead accepted a position as the new managing director of Chopard Asia. While we certainly commiserate with JLC’s loss, we have no doubt that Chopard is destined for even greater things with the dynamic Labey at its helm, just as we are certain that we as a nation will benefit immeasurably from his decision to remain in Singapore.
Ong Ban — COO, Sincere Watch
There is no denying it: Sincere Watch is a massive force of nature, an omnipotent retail empire that also features the most dynamic commercial vision in the Singapore watch industry. Sincere Watch’s success comes from not just backing the right brands such as A. Lange & Söhne, F. P. Journe and Franck Muller but also from developing all-new retail concepts. Its Emotus outlets spread horological passion at affordable price points to new generations of consumers while its mighty HH (Haute Horlogerie) platform collaborates with the world’s most prestigious brands such as Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin to create one-of-a-kind timepieces. These efforts have helped place Sincere Watch on the global retail map. Sincere was the first retailer to make the important conceptual leap to integrate the ideas and concepts of their customers to help craft special edition dream watches. The man overseeing every single facet of Sincere’s operations is Ong Ban. And he may very well be the single most dynamic individual in the entire Singapore watch industry.
Cheerful, soft spoken and almost neurotically obsessed with watches, Ban is an anomaly in that he is one of the sole retail leaders who is also an immense watch fanatic. Rumor has it that several years ago, he was actively wooed by another retailer in Singapore and it must be said that Ong Ban’s decision to remain with Sincere Watch has been instrumental in the retail giant’s ascension to the title of top Singapore retailer. What is the secret to Ban’s success? Says the head of one major brand in Singapore, “He is incredibly adaptable and multi-talented. The Chinese have a saying that he is formless like water, meaning he can adapt to any situation.” Ng Tjeng Jaw explains, “Another one of his strengths is that he is a great people manager, he handles everyone from clients to his employees perfectly.” To us, Ong Ban is definitively one of the individuals that has enabled the growth of Singapore into a watch hub.
(L to R) John Werner, Ong Ban, Maxime Labey
Location: The Shopping Gallery Hilton Singapore
The Next Generation
To express who these individuals are with the most compact economy of phrase, it’s fair to simply define them as the industry’s most dynamic young leaders. And as they strive confidently forward into the golden promise of the days ahead, they will already have left significant imprints behind. Interestingly, two of them are relatively new to the watch world: one coming our way via Apple Computer, and the other by way of the Swiss consumer food giant, Nestlé. The third has been immersed in the industry for the vast majority of his working life. But in each instance, they have all brought something new to the table. Whether it is a series of limited edition commemorative porcelain dial timepieces, a new horologically savvy acumen or a dynamic new vision for the future, each has already contributed significantly in the role he occupies.
‘The Next Generation’ is the generation of the future — the generation tasked with connecting watchmaking’s values to the culture of tomorrow. To have these men at the helm of this heady responsibility is confidence inspiring indeed!
Christopher Kilaniotis — Managing Director of Singapore,
Malaysia and Indonesia, Cartier
Based in Singapore, Christopher was appointed managing director of Cartier Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in January 2007. But the jocular Australian is no stranger to the brand as he has been working with Cartier in various countries since 1999, moving from watchmaking to luxury retailing and on to brand management. In fact, along the way, Christopher had had the fantastic privilege of working with some of the best watchmakers in the world. Always hospitable and attentive to others, the perpetually immaculate Christopher emphasizes a good deal on emotion. To him, watches are about emotion. “Everything is linked to emotion, everything is linked to a special moment. We want to give our clients that special feeling and we want them to feel proud of their purchase.”
(L to R) Daniel Talens, Kelvin Lim
Location: Mezza9, Grand Hyatt Singapore
Daniel Talens Tellez — General Manager SEA, SA Desco
While many people tell you they love watches, few of them are willing to completely alter the course of their lives to work in this industry. For literally putting his money where his mouth is, we feel Daniel Talens Tellez, the dynamic finance specialist who speaks five major languages, has all the makings of one of Southeast Asia’s most promising watch industry leaders. Daniel Talens Tellez was a highly successful young man with one of the best jobs, in one of the best companies, living in one of the best cities in the world; and yet somehow, he was not satisfied. He explains, “I was the finance director for Nestlé UK, living in an incredible apartment in London and all I could think about was watches.” So when his friend Edouard Meylan called him to tell him he was leaving one of the prime positions in Southeast Asia’s watch industry to pursue his studies, Talens Tellez felt the hand of fate guiding him.
Talens Tellez has picked up his life, moved to a new country and become the newly appointed general manager for Desco Luxury Group’s Southeast Asian subsidiary, S. A. Desco Singapore Pte Ltd. Here, Talens Tellez oversees the distribution and brand building of Maurice Lacroix, Graham, Arnold & Son and Gerald Charles. Managing the group’s operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, the accomplished and efficacious Spanish national Tellez has made remarkable strides in improving efficiency and organization of his team while forging strong interpersonal relationships with the key retailers and media in the region. But it’s ultimately Singapore that benefits most from the inclusion of this remarkable individual in its talent pool.
Kelvin Lim — Vice President, Glashütte Original
Heading up the sales and marketing for Glashütte Original in Singapore, Kelvin knows that the Singapore consumer market is a sophisticated and discerning community. Says Kelvin, “Singapore has got one of the most active communities of watch enthusiasts in the world!” Talented yet unassuming, he was headhunted by several transnational corporations before joining the Swatch Group in 2003. Although his tenure with the Swatch Group is his first foray into the luxury watch industry, he has proven himself as a force to be reckoned with by ascending the corporate ladder from a sales manager to vice president in just three short years. Kelvin expresses strong confidence that the strong and stable economy in Singapore is what gives the country its unique position in the luxury watch industry.
Location: Singapore Marriott Hotel
(L to R) Larry Wee, Duncan Wang with REVHLUTION staff Cheryl Lim, Eddy Koh, Ng Tjeng Jaw
Location: Ricciotti Italian Deli & Pastry
David Heng — General Manager, Vacheron Constantin (Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore)
Look at the Richemont Group today and you’ll see that only Vacheron Constantin has a Singaporean running its watch operations here. That’s because David Heng has proven himself over a decade’s worth of leadership in the watch industry to be one of its exemplary leaders. Heng has been instrumental in laying the foundations for the current success of the Singapore watch industry, proving himself extraordinarily capable at marketing, sales, interpersonal skills and forging brand equity for brands as diverse as Baume & Mercier and Vacheron Constantin. He perfectly understands the psychology of selling luxury products and is an exemplary people manager. He is also one of the best loved individuals in the watch industry for his genuine affection for his peers.
Cyndy Lim — Brand manager, Breguet (southeast asia)
If there’s one “grande dame” of the Singapore watch industry, it would be Cyndy Lim. The brand manager of Breguet for Southeast Asia and Australia is direct, dynamic and gets her things done her way. Overseeing Breguet’s great success year after year, she is a great performer with a very direct personality and her primary focus is to relentlessly fulfill her duty as a an extraordinary brand manager.
Wong Mei Ling — General manager, LVMH Watch & Jewellery (S) Pte Ltd
Business Times journalist Larry Wee had this to say about Wong Mei Ling: “It’s always been a pleasure to work with her. You can always count on her to get things done, big or small. While always passionate about the brands she represents, this has never gone to the extent of forcing us journos to accept what she has to say on face value. Mei is pleasant but never obsequious, clever but never boastful, and helpful to a fault. You can’t ask for more in this always tough — and at times rough — industry.”
Daisy Cheong — Managing director, Geneva Master Time
It’s not far wrong to classify Daisy Wong an institution in herself, where the watch trade is concerned. When she entered the watch business in 1964, with Favre-Leuba, the watch business, like everything else, was very much male oriented. But Daisy Cheong has shown that she thrives on challenges, and today, with over 30 years’ experience with Patek Philippe, is responsible for the brand’s sales, marketing and servicing, in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The ones who built the foundations of the industry that is growing at such a hyper-accelerated pace, these members of ‘The Establishment’ should each be decorated with service medals for valor through campaigns fraught with both challenges and rewards. They come from a diverse range of backgrounds, but are all drawn to the watch industry by their love for watches and their deep, unflagging commitment to their respective brands. This collective commitment has enabled Singapore’s watch industry to flourish. In the same way that without a past, there can be no future; without the efforts of the esteemed members of the Establishment, there could be no watch industry in Singapore today.