t a time when the world in general (and the watch world in particular) is going through rough and transformative times, we had the opportunity to meet Hong Kong-based watch collector Lung Lung Thun.
Her first watch was a Chanel J12, which she bought after graduating from college in the UK. A few years later, after moving to Hong Kong (on the Kowloon side), she discovered the fantastic world of vintage and second-hand shops, and the browsing started...
In 2016, she acquired a vintage Audemars Piguet in yellow gold with an annual calendar and moon phase. Her love for the brand grew in 2018 as she took possession of a frosted gold AP limited edition, designed in collaboration with the Florentine fine jewellery designer Caroline Bucci.
Although the horological world is slowly opening up, it is still unusual to come across female watch collectors. What does she look for in a timepiece? Here are some of her refreshing insights on watch collecting.
- Lung Lung Thun
What was the first watch in your collection?
I had wanted a Chanel J12 since my first year at university. Back then, in 2007, there was a lot of heavy marketing for both J12 watches and 2.55 handbags, and I was convinced that was the way to go. I was still discovering my own taste and style. When I graduated from university and went back to Singapore, I decided to buy a J12 to celebrate my first job. But it was only a first step: at the time, I couldn’t have told you exactly why I needed that watch in my life!
So I started to hunt for another timepiece. And that’s how I found Audemars Piguet. It was love at first sight. I liked the history and vision of the brand, the people, their watch designs, and the fact that the design of the Royal Oak was somewhat masculine, which reflects my personality well. My first AP was a purple Ladies’ Chronograph Offshore.
“With Audemars Piguet, it was love at first sight: I liked the history and vision of the brand, the people, their watch designs, and the fact that the design of the Royal Oak was somewhat masculine, which reflects my personality.”
How did you develop your taste in watches?
I like precious metals such as rose and yellow gold. I did go through a Daytona phase, but I got it out of my system eventually (laughs). Now, I purchase with a clear direction and purpose. My favourite complications are perpetual calendars, or at least a nice moon phase.
I love the Royal Oak, as it is masculine and sporty, yet you can still make it look feminine with a few twists. There is a lot of history that can be traced back to understanding how the shape and design of the timepiece have evolved. I’m also very interested in A. Lange & Söhne, which I feel is a reflection of my deeper understanding of movements, and I also like the philosophy of MB&F.
Most of your collecting timepieces have quite intricate dials...
I have always been drawn to “loud” watches. I enjoy dressing simply and letting the watch do the talking! A fine watch is essentially a piece of art. I like the challenge of fitting so many details onto a watch, yet balancing it so it still pleases the eye.
“I have always been drawn to ‘loud’ watches. I enjoy dressing simply and letting the watch do the talking!”
Do you also collect timepieces as a reminder of certain memorable events or experiences in your life?
Not really! But there is one exception. After I moved to Hong Kong in 2017, I purchased a watch that didn’t come from an authorised dealer for the very first time. I wasn’t used to negotiating and searching for specific pieces, so I must say it was an experience that really excited me. This timepiece will always be part of my collection because of the memories it holds.
I don’t necessarily buy pieces to mark occasions. I’m constantly on the lookout for my next watch, and sometimes these searches can take months. I mostly use watches as a way to motivate me to work towards my goals!
What can you say about the evolution of the local collecting scene in Hong Kong, following the pandemic outbreak?
I am very lucky to be in Hong Kong, because people really love watches here. Nothing has really changed as far as the enthusiasm for collecting is concerned, and there are still waiting lists for “blue chip” watches. I do, however, miss having huge get-togethers with my watch collecting friends. Thankfully we can still connect through WhatsApp group chats.
What pieces are you currently on the hunt for?
I must say that I am still on a high from my latest purchase, which took me a few months to hunt down! I am currently drawn to vintage pieces with smaller cases. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that by the time this interview comes out, I will have found and be holding my next piece...
What is your impression of retailers’ attitudes towards female collectors?
There has been a huge shift in customer experiences in the past year. Retailers are listening more to female clients, in terms of what their preferences are, and they are creating events that are both interactive and educational. However, there is still a huge need for watch communication to become more diverse, more “real”, and to feel relatable to women from different regions and backgrounds.
What is the future of Hong Kong as a watch hub, given the current political challenges?
I actually don’t think too much will change: if you look at recent auction turnout and results, the pandemic and the political climate have not deterred the enthusiasm of collectors here. However, you can see that mainland Chinese are relying less on purchasing from Hong Kong.
“There is still a huge need for watch communication to become more diverse, more ‘real’, and to feel relatable to women from different regions and backgrounds.”
What is your opinion of the new watch hub being created on the island of Hainan?
I love it. I have always welcomed competition because I think it spurs innovation and pushes everyone to work harder and to deliver more. This is good for collectors. I also think that watches have become increasingly hard to access, and having more channels for people to enjoy this hobby can only be better for the industry as a whole.
Looking at the watchmaking industry, what would you wish to change?
It would be great if brands could provide prototypes for people to try directly in the stores, so as to give them a first feeling of the timepiece and decide if they want to be on a waiting list, rather than purchasing it directly. Also, I find that marketing at the moment is very unclear and highly confusing, although there are a few brands, like Patek Philippe, that have clear communication that makes sense in terms of handing over to the next generation.
Maryanne Maina is a luxury concierge consultant and writer based in Paris, France, and Nairobi, Kenya.