In the heart of Hong Kong, three finance professionals, Johnathan Chan, Helbert Tsang, and Carlos Pang, found themselves united by their shared interest of horology. Beyond being avid watch collectors, the trio wanted to impart their appreciation of horology and connect with like-minded individuals. In 2021, they started The Horology Club (THC), an open and inclusive Hong Kong-based community of watch enthusiasts. The group fosters an atmosphere in which anyone can feel comfortable sharing aspects of horology they most enjoy.
Bridges asked the founders to share their favorite watches and tips for budding watch collectors, in this exclusive interview.
From your personal collection, which watch do you wear the most often and why? Is it because of the size, color, or style? Or because of the meaning and story behind it?
Johnathan: Recently it’s been probably the Tudor Black Bay 54 that they released earlier this year. It’s just so versatile. I’m often with my kids, and with the Black Bay, I don’t have to worry about damaging the watch, it gives me confidence that it’s basically unbreakable. I can wear it to the pool with them, taking them to Disneyland; it’s a perfect daily wearer.
Carlos: The watch I wear most often from my personal collection is the Habring X THC Erwin School Piece. It’s not an exorbitantly expensive timepiece, so it doesn’t induce anxiety every time it brushes against a corner. The joy of a daily watch lies in its ability for the wearer to enjoy it without constant worry. But this watch holds a special place in my heart for more than just its practicality. It boasts a jumping second complication, which causes the second hand to elegantly tick once every second; fooling the untrained eye into thinking it’s a quartz watch. This subtle detail adds to its charm, and only those who are knowledgeable about watches can truly appreciate it. What truly makes this particular edition remarkable is that it marks the first collaboration watch from our club. With only 10 in existence, each owner is a cherished friend I’ve met on our watch-collecting journey. It’s a piece that embodies shared experiences and camaraderie.
THC has built a network spanning the watch world that benefits both watchmakers and collectors. It’s a win-win situation, as collectors gain access to unique pieces or have opportunities to collaborate, and brands gain valuable insights and feedback from enthusiasts.Helbert Tsang, Co-founder of The Horology Club (THC)
Helbert: In my personal collecting approach, I tend to favor watches that push the boundaries in terms of mechanical engineering, craftsmanship, and design. Many times, these watches tend to come from small manufacturers that take a more artisanal approach to watchmaking, and would produce a very limited number of watches every year compared with the traditional mainstream brands. However, when it comes to watches that I enjoy wearing the most, I would gravitate towards those that are comfortable to wear while exhibiting the above qualities. Size, weight, and design are often the main contributors to the wearing comfort, and it is quite important that whatever watch I’m wearing needs to fit in and become part of my outfit of the day. A watch that I acquired early this year and has been a regular feature on my wrist for almost five days a week is the Cartier Baignoire Allongee; specifically, the XL-sized yellow gold version from 1991 with a whopping length of 52mm. You may be thinking, ‘how can such a long watch be comfortable?’. It helps that the strap attachment point is a bit more inwards, but the most amazing thing about this watch is that the case curves around your wrist, much like a melting clock in Dali’s ‘Persistence of Memory’.
As the founders of watch appreciation club, THC, watches are obviously not primarily for investment. But from your own collection, do you have any pieces that have maintained or even increased in value since you added them to your collection? How do these watches differ from your most worn watch?
Johnathan: I’ve purchased watches that have maintained and increased in value, but I’ve also had pieces that don’t hold value, either. Generally speaking, the ones that performed better were watches from brands that initially were not widely recognised, but over time, have gained recognition among aficionados and the wider public. So my advice would also be to look where other people aren’t looking.
Carlos: Ah, the enigma of value and investment in the world of watches! Within my collection, some watches have appreciated in value, while others have experienced a decline. The key to a watch’s value lies in meeting certain criteria, such as high finishing quality and relative scarcity. Once these factors are satisfied, the whims of social media exposure take over, making it nearly impossible to predict which timepiece will seize the spotlight, next. If only I possessed the precise knowledge to discern the differences between these “hot” watches and my beloved Habring, I might have amassed a fortune speculating on the next horological sensation.
Helbert: Out of the watches in my collection, some have increased in value since I have bought them and some haven’t. I think that’s the nature of the hobby and everything gets its day in the sun. Trends come and go at an alarmingly increasing pace, with social media fuelling interest in watches. I’m sure a lot of people would be very happy to find out that the watches in their collection have gone up in value; but I think sometimes it can be a curse as much as it is a blessing. When a watch in my collection drastically goes up in value, I find that it often changes the way I view and treat the watch. I’ll feel like it is suddenly more “precious” and I may not be able to wear it in such a carefree manner as before. So for me, the consideration of value is often a double-edged sword. And that’s why I often tell people to base their purchasing decision on what they would like and enjoy, then any increase in value would just be the cherry on top.
What is your current “grail” watch? And what do you think of its cost/value ratio? How do you think it’s justified? Or does it not matter because of its unique beauty and complications? Would you see a timepiece like the one you chose increasing in value, over time?
Johnathan: My current grail watch would be a unique commission from Greubel Forsey, one of my favorite brands. I think compared to some other brands operating in that ultra-expensive price range, Greubel Forsey is able to provide some of the best finishing and watchmaking, which are important aspects, for me. I think the cost is justified, as these pieces do take a painstakingly high number of manhours to produce, and the R&D is often spread over a tiny production quantity. I feel most of the people who have the means to purchase such a watch aren’t yet familiar with the brand and the fullness of what they can do. In the upcoming years, as more people get to know about Greubel Forsey, I think it’s very possible they could stay collectible and become even more so in the future.
Carlos: My current “grail” watch is the Patek 3939, a Grand Complication that features both a Minute Repeater and a Tourbillon. These two complications are among the most intricate mechanisms in mechanical watches. The Minute Repeater allows the watch to chime a sequence of sounds to indicate the time, while the Tourbillon counteracts the effects of gravity on the timing mechanism. Only around 300 of these watches were produced, so they will cost both of my kidneys and more. To any sane person I think it’s clear that the cost/ratio is not justified; but let’s be honest, that’s the case with any watch that costs more than an Apple watch. I do believe that this watch will further increase in value, over time. As the population grows and people’s quality of life improves, there will be an increased demand for beautiful collectibles. Additionally, the limited supply of these watches further contributes to their appreciation in price.
Helbert: My current grail watch is the Anniversary Watch by George Daniels. George Daniels is known to be the inventor of the co-axial escapement that is present in most Omega watches these days; but it is important to remember that he is one of the most significant independent watchmakers of our time and is the pioneer of the Daniels method of making watches entirely by hand under one roof. In the late 2000s, Dr. Daniels collaborated with his protégé, Roger Smith, to make 35 pieces of the Anniversary Watch to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the invention of the co-axial escapement — one of the key achievements of Daniels’ career in watchmaking. The two of them collaborated on the design of the watch, and the series is subsequently produced by Roger Smith. I see this watch as one of the most important watchmaking collaborations in the past century; it is also the last watch to be signed by Daniels’ brand, as he had sadly passed in 2011. With the availability of the time on our phones and other screens, the utility aspect of watches is no longer relevant — much like how paintings were no longer used to accurately capture a face or a scene after photographs were invented. But with the relegation of the utility aspect, I believe the artistic expression and historical significance of watches would become increasingly more important in the appreciation of watches. And, independent watchmakers who dedicate their life to this field and put their heart and soul into their work will be regarded as the artists of our time, with watches being their medium. With that in mind, I reckon the appreciation of independent watchmaking can only become more widespread, over time.
THC has built a network spanning the watch world that benefits both watchmakers and collectors. It’s a win-win situation, as collectors gain access to unique pieces or have opportunities to collaborate, and brands gain valuable insights and feedback from enthusiasts.
Carlos: We all try to squeeze time from our personal lives to make this happen and we’re rewarded with the passion and enthusiasm of our members. To date, THC has almost 500 members in Hong Kong. They have also touched base with other watch clubs around the world and hope to exchange ideas and experiences with collectors from other countries.