My Three Watch Wardrobe: Author Mr Kevin Kwan
“Punctuality was very important in my family,” says Mr Kevin Kwan, author of the Crazy Rich Asians series of novels and MR PORTER’s Style Council Member. “I’ve always been instilled with an appreciation for watches. It was part of getting dressed up and going out in public, and I feel naked without a watch.”
As a child of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kwan’s first contact with the watch world coincided with the boom in high-tech digital watches. “In those days, it was really fun to have watches as gadgets,” he says. “My brother is five years older than me and I’d get his hand-me-downs: he had a Citizen watch with a touchscreen that could actually do addition and multiplication on the screen. I thought that was the coolest thing.”
Forty years and one ever-growing watch collection later, has an appreciation of watchmaking’s more complicated or avant-garde side remained? “No,” he laughs. “I completely veered off in the opposite direction. As important as the watchmaking is, for me, it has become an aesthetic object. Form does not follow function – sorry! Function follows form, because I got very into design and I’m a very visual creature. So, for me, it’s all about the look of the watch first and then you bolster that with the technology and the ingenuity of what happens behind the scenes.”
Given the challenge of assembling a fantasy three-watch collection, however, Kwan’s choices reveal a careful balance between functionality and style, including an upgrade to his first “proper” watch.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date
“I’ve actually had my eye on this watch for some time. I saw it in Rome a couple of years ago at this wonderful watch shop right by the Spanish Steps and was just struck by the design. It’s a classic dress watch, but the dial looks like you’re getting behind an Aston Martin, with all the batons and the dates arrayed around the top.
“I never thought I would, but I’ve reached the age where I forget what day and what date it is. My father wore a Rolex Submariner for years, and at one point he got sick of it because he wanted a watch that told him the day. So he got rid of it without telling any of us, and bought a Timex with a day and a date. I remember being appalled. I thought, just look at a calendar. But now I’ve become that guy.
“At least with this, you have this elegant, handsome watch that’s functional in the most beautiful way. I know it’s Tuesday and it’s the 10th of whatever, but it’s set against this really impactful blue dial and rose-gold case.”
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Date
“On a daily basis, I’m a very rough person. The Vacheron would only come out at night or for special occasions. I’m active – I go on hikes, I go swimming, I go to the beach. So, I need an everyday watch that’s waterproof and durable, and I think this hits all those marks. You can go diving in it, you can go hiking, rock climbing, jump off a boat if you need to. It really looks like it can take a beating and yet it doesn’t sacrifice that elegance, which harks back to the amazing heritage of Jaeger-LeCoultre.
“I like that you could be going out for a hike, but then you run home, put on a blazer and this watch still dresses up very nicely. It’s got that graphic, functional thing, but then when you really zoom in on the details and the intricacy of the dial, you know, it’s beautiful and classically JLC.”
Baume & Mercier Hampton Automatic Dual Time
“I have a soft spot for Baume & Mercier. My parents gave me a Hampton when I graduated from high school, because I loved the way it looked. I personally tend to favour rectangular watches – it’s just been a personal quirk of mine to prefer that that elongated look. To me, it looked like a watch that Jay Gatsby could have worn, but was still very cool and current. So, it was really my first adult watch. I still wear it, and despite having numerous watches, the two times I’ve been stopped and someone’s complimented my watch, it’s been that – my oldest and least expensive watch.
“Of course, my Hampton is now over 30 years old. It’s a much simpler design, and they’ve supercharged it since then. In my normal life when we’re not in lockdown, I’m travelling eight months out of the year, and I don’t like travelling with expensive watches, so I’ve actually been looking for a good dual time watch that’s not too much. It was a delight to stumble upon this and see how Baume & Mercier has reinvented the Hampton – it really brings me back.”