This 55-year-old Swiss-certified watchmaker is somewhat of a legend among watch watches in Singapore and has a steady stream of regular clients. EX visited his humble shop The Watch Specialist’s Clinic in Serangoon Gardens, which is filled with tools not unlike Pinocchio’s workshop, to chat about his life’s passion – watches.
EX: How did you become a watchmaker and what exactly do you do?
Willie: My father was a watch repairer and I used to watch him fix watches. There was where my passion for watches started and I “played” with my first watch at age 17. I graduated from Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program in 1993 and in Switzerland, the title of a watchmaker holds as much prestige as a doctor or lawyer.
My clients give me their watches, which range from new models to prized one-off antique, and I maintain and restore them by doing a 100 per cent strip. That means, I take out every single component of the watch, clean, oil and fix any broken parts, and put them back together.
Every single component?
Yes, every single component right down to the tiniest screw. There are dealers that only do a partial service but a full strip is the Swiss requirement and that is what I do. Every watch that goes out of this shop is in line with the Swiss quality standard.
Are there any watches too complicated for you to restore?
No, there are only watches that are time-consuming to restore because its components can go up to hundred of pieces. Time taken also depends on its condition but if you’re willing to fork out the price, I will do it.
Once, a client asked me to restore a Patek Philippe watch. It took me six months and I charged him 15 thousand Swiss Franc. He didn’t bat an eyelid; he said he didn’t expect anything less for a watch as valuable as that. There are only three of that watch in the world and after restoration, it was auctioned at half a million US dollars. Right now, I’m working on a Lange & Söhne watch, which has about 300 components and retails at over $120,000.
What is the one thing consumer neglect about their watch?
People know how to choose and buy expensive watches but they are not aware that watches, just like cars, require maintenance to preserve its original condition, regardless if you wear them out or not. It’s a pity to buy a $20,000 watch only to have it lose time because it’s not cared for!
Willie’s tips for watch care
1. Have the battery changed every 18 months, it’s the cheapest thing you can do to care for your watch. Battery leaks may spoil the components, which will then be costly to fix.
2. Send your watch for a waterproof test every three years. The humid weather in Singapore can sometimes damage the seal.
3. Get your watch serviced every five years. A properly maintained watch will last you a long time, especially if it’s something you want to pass on to future generations.
The Watch Specialist’s Clinic is located at 3 Maju Avenue. Call Willie at 9238 0054 to make an appointment.