Watches

PASSIONATE PURSUITS

by Charmian Leong
Behind the accolades, innovation, and glamour of Omega is a world of collectors whose devotion to the brand transcends cosmetic appeal. Discover the captivating chronicles of two horological enthusiasts.

For The Record – Jared Danaraj

Jared Danaraj’s work as a technologist keeps him oriented to the future, but his passion for timepieces is grounded in the captivating stories of the past. 

The allure of luxury timepieces often stems from a heady mix of craftsmanship and one-upmanship, but for Jared Danaraj, the motivation that led to his sizeable collection of wristwatches and clocks is a little more abstract. “I’ve always been interested in the concept of time,” he says. “It’s the one thing you’re not making more of, you’re always running out of it, so watches are like time capsules that capture the most interesting moments of your life.” Danaraj currently owns about 200 timepieces, but close to 30 of them are from Omega. The catalyst for this preference was decidedly less esoteric: “I wanted to be James Bond.” 

Omega Watches Jared Danaraj - Passionate Pursuit

Danaraj started collecting watches in the late 1980s and what he amassed was dependent on what he could afford at the time. He started with a Casio G-Shock, and slowly followed up with quartz-powered Tag Heuer watches with plastic bezels. “Then Golden Eye came out with Pierce Brosnan wearing the blue Omega Seamaster 300M Quartz, and I lusted after that piece,” he recalls. “It took me about a year and a half to save up for the automatic version [Ref. 2251], and eventually acquired it in 1997. It was my first ‘proper’ watch, and I still have it!”  

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With a rising income potential, his collection expanded, drawing him further into the captivating annals of Omega’s history. “These days, I look at aesthetics first because it has to be visually appealing. But the impulse is followed closely by functionality, history, and purpose,” he explains. “Most people may not know that Omega isn’t just known for making watches that went to the moon. It pioneered many movement innovations in the 1930s, it supplied watches to the British military during World War II, launched a huge amount of iconic designs in the 1970s, created the James Bond series and partnered with Michael Schumacher in the 1990s, and even now it is still the official timekeeper for the Olympics. Holistically, there is a lot the brand offers that doesn’t get enough credit.” 

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Though Danaraj could probably cut it as an Omega historian, his work as Vice President of Solutions Engineering (AJP) at global software company UiPath is what provides the means to grow his collection. “These days, it is the limited editions, special collaborations, and commemorative pieces that appeal to me. I don’t want to be just another guy wearing a [Rolex] Submariner,” he quips. Which is why his current favourites include the Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321, which features a faithful reengineering of the Lemania-based movement from the 1950s and famously worn by astronaut Ed White, and the Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award 50th Anniversary, or “Snoopy 3”. 

Omega Watches Charles Chen - Passionate Pursuit 4

But Danaraj is less motivated by these watches’ investment potential than he is by their ability to spark conversations among fellow enthusiasts. “I know that in the last four or five years there has been a lot of talk about watches as an asset class. Do I subscribe to that philosophy? Yes and no. Pieces like some Speedmasters will always appreciate in value, but that’s not a sustainable lens through which to view a passion,” he shares. “Passion, in my opinion, is the definition of insanity. And you can’t put an ROI on that.”

A Need For Speed – Charles Chen

Meet Charles Chen, Singapore’s most dedicated collector of Speedmaster Professionals. 

Four years ago, Omega unveiled its “City Edition” Seamaster models that were exclusive to the boutiques of the corresponding cities. These comprised Singapore, New York, London, Paris, Switzerland, Venice, and Macau — and Charles Chen wanted them all. “Being Singaporean, I had to collect all of them,” he laughs. “I asked the boutiques if they could have the different editions delivered to Singapore, but that wasn’t possible, so I went to every single city to complete the set.”

Omega Watches Charles Chen - Passionate Pursuit

It took him seven weeks of almost non-stop travelling to achieve his goal. “When I completed my quest my friends called me an ‘Omega lunatic’ but I think it suits me,” he says with another grin. “After all, an Omega was the first real watch I bought with my own money.” 

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Chen’s graduation coincided with the start of the Asian Financial Crisis back in 1997. “I sent out 200 job applications and received no replies,” he recounts. “But after three months, I finally got an offer from a consultancy firm to work as an assistant. I wanted to remember this important milestone so with my first salary, I bought an Omega Constellation Automatic because I remember a slogan back then that said an Omega should be part of every man’s wardrobe. 

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Chen’s present-day success as the founder of FoodNet International Holdings, a solutions provider for the food industry, means that his 300 watches now have their own specially designed cabinet. 120 of his tickers come from Omega, and he prides himself in having picked up nearly every Speedmaster to be released since 2001. “I’m very much into sports, and I used to enjoy football, table tennis and badminton, so 95 per cent of my watches are sporty ones,” he says, explaining his penchant for Speedmasters. Chen spends about 30 minutes every night browsing social media platforms to keep up with the latest news and launches, and calls the boutiques to make a reservation when one catches his eye. 

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But one of his favourite models came into his life quite by chance. He noticed a white-dialled Speedmaster in a store in Shanghai, but what caught his attention was its placement on the left side of the display case, suggesting it wasn’t the star attraction — likely, he guessed, because white wasn’t an auspicious colour in China. This particular timepiece turned out to be the Speedmaster Apollo XI 35th Anniversary edition, Omega’s first “panda” dial, and Charles admits he recently saw the same model sell for for 400% its original price on the grey market. 

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Chen admits it’s thrilling to see prices appreciate for some of his watches (“I keep an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of it all.”) but maintains that he is not ready to sell any of them. “I like playing with them, and Omega is one brand that I never get tired of looking at. My watches help relieve my work stress.” 

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