An interview with Ronald Chew (@horologym), a personal trainer with a bulky collection of classics.
Ronald has been a collector that I have admired as soon as I started this hobby a few years ago, and I am pleased to be able to call him a friend now. Hence, it is with great delight that I am able to feature him here.
As his Instagram handle suggests, whenever he is not snapping pictures of watches, he hangs out in gyms across Singapore as a personal trainer. Read on to find out more about his wide collection of classics that are as herculean as his arms and chest, and how pumping iron invariably played a role in curating his collection.
Q: Has being a personal trainer factor into your watch taste and preferences?
Absolutely! I've always gravitated towards tool watches for as long as I can remember. I love them for their robustness, functionality, and legibility. Working in the gym further cemented my need for such watches to time my sets and to ensure they do not get damaged much from banging into weights. (I've always been wearing G-Shocks before this watch madness, I still do.)
My career as a freelance Personal Trainer isn't lucrative to begin with. I have to strategise my purchases with what little budget I have. Thus, I turned my attention to collecting watches with strong heritage and pedigree - stainless steel classics in particular - and models that best represent the “DNA”, ethos and culture of their respective brands.
As I am almost always in sports and casual attire, it only makes sense to have my collection made up of tool/sports watches to fit my lifestyle.
Q: What do you value most in a watch?
I used to be concerned with the value retention of my watches when I started out with watch collecting. However, what I treasure the most now is sentimental value over resale value. I cherish the emotional attachments and memories that I have and will form with them, regardless if they are good or bad.
For example, the centrepiece of my collection, the Rolex Submariner (Ref. 14060), has been accompanying me through many significant events ever since I bought it for my 30th birthday. From weddings to army reservists, the scars and scratches accumulated on the case and bezel suggest that it has been through thick and thin, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The watch is imbued with memories that I will fondly remember whenever I look at it.
Q: As an avid fan of Gorilla watches, what do you find most compelling about them?
With a name like "Gorilla", it definitely got my attention. Haha! The watches are big, bold, and colourful which make for serious conversation starters. They are also a complete dichotomy of my watch collecting philosophy. I love how Gorilla watches are so affordable despite using a variety of case materials (Ceramic, Aluminium, Forged Carbon, and Titanium) which are typically reserved for the domain of high-end watches; you are getting a lot for your money.
Q: You have two legendary rectangular watches in your collection - The Cartier Tank and the JLC Reverso. Based on your experiences with them so far, how do you think they differ?
I'll be comparing between my Tank Solo XL and my Reverso Grande Taille Medium Small Seconds to be specific.
The Cartier Tank Solo XL is a contemporary Tank watch with a more blown-up proportion as its name suggests. This gives the Tank a more "casual" look. Why do I say so? Well, the Tank Solo XL is an automatic watch with date, something which I wouldn't associate with a classic dress watch. Having said that, the Tank is such a versatile watch. And the Tank Solo has a hint of sportiness thanks to its flat brancards. It can be worn when dressing up or down, though I normally pair the Tank Solo XL with t-shirts and Bermudas.
On the other hand, the JLC Reverso Grande Taille Medium is my more serious and formal pick of the two due to its smaller size and lack of date. The irony is that the Reverso started off as a sports watch meant for Polo. Over time, as the tastes and consumption practices of consumers changed, so has the perception of the Reverso. Eventually, it emerged as one of the all-time classic dress watches. The Grande Taille Medium is time only, with a small seconds at 6 o'clock. It is also manual winding, which is what I love in a dress watch.
In conclusion, the Tank and the Reverso are similar yet different in so many ways. Though I'm sure that many collectors would agree that these two pieces are able to coexist and complement each other in any watch collection.
Q: How do you envision your collection in five years? Will there be a significant shift in the type of watches that you collect?
Unless I strike the lottery, I probably wouldn't be touching Haute Horology any time soon. I'll definitely still be sticking to collecting steel icons, as I have many watch goals that I have yet to attain within this category.
It has once again been a real pleasure to have Ronald answer my questions. All pictures can be found on his Instagram page (@horologym).