From Hong Kong to Singapore and Malaysia, three of the region’s most prolific watch collectors – Lung Lung Thun, Alfred Chua and Dixon Chin – unlock their treasure troves of horological masterpieces to unveil a celebration of love, family and happiness.
Born and bred in Miri, Sarawak, Dixon Chin moved to New Zealand at the age of 12, then to Hong Kong – but in his heart, he’s truly Malaysian. That sense of origin is what defines the 41-year-old entrepreneur, who began his career as an investment banker, then grew his wealth in iron ore mining in West Africa before turning his attention to sustainable agriculture. It’s also perhaps what drives him to think about creating bonds with his children that last beyond his lifetime. The answer came in a most appropriate manner – a gift of a Patek Philippe in white gold with diamonds that was gifted to him by his father on his wedding day.
“My dad had a few watches and he treasured that Patek very much,” recalls Chin. “Now, whenever I miss him, this watch helps me to remember him. I feel proud wearing it and feel like he’s with me. This is his legacy and so that got me thinking that I want to start telling my own story for my children, too.”
Chin’s first watch, however, was a Rolex Daytona Ref 16520 that he bought with his first bonus back in 2003. It has seen him through life’s journeys and holds a special place in his heart, but about five years back, he began building a story that his two boys, Damian, age 7, and Donnie, age 3, will one day be able to share in and remember him by.
In 2016, when he was invited to Art Basel by a private bank to view some art, what caught his eye instead was an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked in its full mechanical brilliance and resplendence. Chin put in his interest and waited. Eventually, after five long years, on his 40th birthday, Audemars Piguet offered it to him. “In Hong Kong, the allocation for this watch is maybe two pieces a year, so even if I managed to get on the wait-list as number 100 and I was 40 years old, by the time it got to my turn, I wouldn’t be around anymore,” he explains. “So I’m very, very thankful that I was able to get it.”
The gregarious watch lover with a love for cigars, champagne and whisky had started building an impressive horological collection many years prior. A self-confessed maverick when it comes to bucking trends, Chin prefers smaller watches to the bold, large dials that attract other collectors. He also has a penchant for the understated yet meaningful addition that defines his personality.
One such example is the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Limited Edition that he wears whenever he travels abroad. “I bought this because at that time, I wanted a watch made of bronze. It patinas very well, more black than green, which gives it a good vintage look and makes me feel rugged when I go to Africa,” says Chin. Then, over one Chinese New Year, when he visited his parents back in Auckland, he chanced upon an opportunity to buy a Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712R – but it required flying over 24 hours to London to procure it. “The one thing I like about Patek is their slogan – ‘You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation’ – and that really stuck,” he says.
This year, Chin turned 41 in style when Audemars Piguet yet again offered him two rare additions to his collection – a Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin Ref 15202ST and a Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ref 26615TI with a salmon Grande Tapisserie dial, the latter of which is limited to 300 pieces. “The Jumbo is one of the most classic watches ever and is my go-to dress watch. It goes well under the sleeve of my suit and is understated,” says Chin. “And I don’t have a complicated watch, so when they offered me a Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar with salmon dial, I was elated. For some reason, they like to give me something for my birthdays – and I’m very thankful for that.”
There’s one final piece that defines how multi-faceted of a personality Chin is – a Memorigin Stellar Series Imperial timepiece that’s from Hong Kong and made in China. “Most luxury watches are Swiss, but I want to own something of my own heritage,” he proudly declares. A flying tourbillon with a sky-and-Earth-themed skeleton dial and an Earth sphere GMT indicator, this timepiece represents a powerful confluence between Western mechanics and Chinese art.
For Chin, watch collecting isn’t about investing in future financial gain, but an intimate way of telling his story. He wears his watches every day, rotating once a month, and relishes each scratch, aging patina and all that comes with the vicissitudes of life. His hobby represents so much more, creating his own vintage from the day he buys these timepieces until the day he passes them down, together with his stories, to Damian and Donnie. Chin’s watches are part of his legacy – a lesson his own father taught him with a wedding gift years ago.
Originally published in ECHELON Issue 6