Fourteen years into the business, Wee Yong O is certainly not new to the luxury watch industry. Having started as Assistant Brand Manager of Sincere Fine Watches — one of Singapore’s most established luxury retail and distributor — handling mainly Franck Muller and previously in-house luxury brands such as Chanel, Wee Yong now spearheads Franck Muller as its Brand Vice President.
SolitaireLuxe gets personal with the watch executive.
Tell us about the first watch you’ve ever owned.
It was a basic Casio quartz watch that carried me through the joys and troubles of my school and growing up years. A pity it didn’t survive beyond that, it would have been great if it took me through National Service (A/N: mandatory period for all Singaporean men to serve in the uniformed services).
How many watches do you own now? And would you consider yourself a watch collector?
As of now, I own a couple of Franck Muller timepieces that I have purchased over the years. Having worked for the brand for over 14 years, I believe very strongly in the brand and what it stands for. In my opinion, Franck Muller is the original maverick in the world of independent watchmakers.
What is your preferred watch face?
The Tonneau shape. The Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex shape is my all-time favourite. The curves are in perfect proportions, the watch sits very well on the wrist, and it is so distinctly Franck Muller.
Irrespective of brand, what is your idea of the “perfect” timepiece?
This may sound odd, but my idea of the perfect timepiece will always be the next new timepiece by Franck Muller. Every year, we make constant improvements to our offerings, be it technical or aesthetic ones. Any imperfections and even feedback from our customers are sorted out, and our timepieces can only get better with new features and new executions.
The truth is, we’re always in pursuit of the perfect timepiece, so much so that we are never in possession of one.
Personally, how did you get into the business?
Fourteen years ago when I joined the company, the watch industry was at its most exciting. With different brands, old and new, classic and avant-garde, the watch business was most vibrant and dynamic. So when I saw the opportunity to enter this industry, I grabbed it. And as the cliché goes, the rest is history.
Please tell us more about Franck Muller’s latest collection, and what do you think are the two most important pieces?
The two most interesting highlights from the latest collection would include the Vanguard Gravity and the Backswing. These are pieces that have been birthed out of the latest Vanguard series, a reinterpretation of the iconic Cintrée Curvex.
The Vanguard Gravity reinforces Franck Muller’s position as the Master of Tourbillons, demonstrating a new concept with its elliptical shape and structure. Occupying the entire lower side of the dial, the impressive oversized elliptical tourbillon is the quintessential marriage of technical prowess and visual impact.
The Backswing once again showcases Franck Muller’s unconventional approach to watchmaking, daring to be different, fun, and not too serious. This piece got a lot of attention from the press at the WPHH 2016 fair held in Geneva back in January, as it features a golfing watch with a case and dial that have been machined to match the ornamentation of a golf ball. Complete with a central swing counter and open-worked hands adorned with luminova, the wearer never loses track of all his strokes on the green with the help of a “score” and “reset” push button.
Do you see Franck Muller doing a haute horlogerie smartwatch in the near future?
We can safely say no, as a smart watch is essentially still viewed as a device and not a timepiece. Franck Muller has always been and is still all about mechanical movements.
What are the three most important trends among your buyers?
The three main make up for our buyers include:
1) Those who are true blue fans of the brand. They love the unusual, unconventional, and loud pieces that are signatures of Watchland, and make an incredible statement on their wrists. They buy into the brand simply because they love what we, Franck Muller, stand for.
2) Those who are looking for versatile and aesthetically appealing pieces that can be taken from day to night.
3) Those who want sportier pieces. We’ve really seen an increasing number of buyers for the Vanguard series, which feature a sportier aesthetic with its smooth clean lines, oversized and futuristic appliqué relief numerals, and leather on rubber straps that have been fully integrated into the case.
What is the ratio between your female and male buyers? Do you see a rising trend for female buyers?
The ratio of our buyers still leads in the male segment. However, like other watchmakers, we’ve noticed that the taste for complicated watches is definitely on the rise among the ladies.
Diamond pieces from Franck Muller have always been popular with the ladies, but we do see more and more of them buying special pieces, like the Skeleton Power Reserve.
We also notice a trend for ladies who prefer watches made in men’s sizes. For example, the Vanguard men’s collection comes in two sizes, 41 and 45; and we’ve had quite a number of ladies buying up to size 41 for their own personal day to day wearing.
What can we expect from Franck Muller in the next five years or so?
As Master of Complications and Master of Tourbillons, you can always expect new and groundbreaking innovations and high complications to be in the future line-up of the brand’s offerings.
All images courtesy of Syahmin Ritzwan and Franck Muller