Two Of A Kind: Get A Grip

They are different product categories, but both are caught in claws

Alabaster Industry’s ‘Web’ watch and the the Adidas Yeezy 45 in slate. Photos: respective brands

From wristwatches to sneakers, things are getting clawed. American cult watch brand Alabaster Industries is known for releasing timepieces that sellout in minutes. Their watches were first available here at Dover Street Market SG last April. DSMS has announced that Alabaster Industries will be back in the store this Saturday. One of the most distinctive (hence, sought after) feature of the watch is the stainless steel case cage, shaped like some claw, catching the face in its menacing grip. Even the lug (which holds the matching band) are talons. It is not quite traditional, for sure. They do appear rather sinister, even when the face of the watch is violet, but collectors love the ungual bezel precisely because they do not look like anyone would mess with them.

No less ominous-looking is the Adidas Yeezy 450, first seen online last February. Even in the butter yellow that the brand calls “sulfur”, there is no escaping those bestial appendages—only Kanye West (or his design team) has made them more alien-looking. In fact, they have been called “futuristic”. The shoe is essentially a Primeknit upper caught in the claws, made of the now-trendy material, EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam. The entire base has been described as a “dynamic-shaped” sole. Seen from the top, if the sneaker does not hold a foot or is propped by a shoe tree, it looks like flaccid fabric framed by limp dough. However strange it looks, the Yeezy 450 remains wildly popular, and difficult to score.

Looking at animal extremities for ideas is not that strange a practice. We remember Alexander McQueen’s “armadillo” shoes. That the fascination with hoofs is now extended to claws is really, especially in the case of Alabaster Industries, rather a matter of time. Even Raf Simons’s skeleton bracelet-cum-arm-band is in similar territory, never mind that the reference is decidedly human. Fashion is clearly in the grip of the strange and the claw-like. When will chicken feet be next?

Alabaster Industries watches will launch at DSMS on 6 August 2022. Adidas Yeezy 450 is available at

Moonswatch Madness

…unabated. A month after the launch of the most desirable timepiece of the year, the showcase is still empty. Shoppers are told by Swatch: “visit us regularly”

At the ION Orchard Swatch store, scene of the confrontation between security personnel at the launch of the over-hyped and over-loved Moonswatch exactly a month ago, an organically-shaped, pentagon showcase fronting the smallish space was left surprising empty. Not a single piece of merchandise was seen beneath the glass top, not even a prop. The base of the display unit is plastered with a depiction of a group of planets and emblazoned with “Bioceramic Moonswatch Collection” above. It left one in no doubt as to what it was supposed to house. But empty it clearly was. It could have been the aftermath of a heist!

By now, our interest in the Omega X Swatch collaboration has, admittedly, waned. Not because of the difficulty in scoring something not of limited issue, but because of the very public fallout from the hype. There are people who are still angry! In any case, we were still curious about the timepiece and wanted to have a close look at it, even if we wouldn’t be allowed to touch it. We were told it appears plastic, and we wanted to see for ourself how much so. But as soon as we neared the Swatch store, we knew it was not meant to be.

Not because of the difficulty in scoring something not of limited issue, but because of the very public fallout from the hype

We asked a sales guy if there would be stock coming in. Helpfully, he said, “Don’t know when the next stock will arrive. We have not been told.” Was there ever stock replenishment after the raucous launch? “Yes,” he offered as-a-matter-of-factly. “Once.” And when was that? “About two weeks ago.” We turned to browse at whatever they had. Three groups of people within a minute approached the same fellow to ask him about the Moonswatch. And to each, he had the same answer: everything in the negative. The inquirers did not appear to be disappointed; they happily accepted the bad news.

A notice, protected by acrylic, addressed to the “Moonswatch fan” (Swatch was not aware that there were seriously many?) read: “We are overwhelmed by your fantastic support and by your extraordinary enthusiasm for the Bioceramic Moonswatch Collection. We do our best to fulfil demand and we hope that anyone who is moonstruck… will soon be able to lay their hands on one of these watches (they were in the mood to pun!).” It wrapped up with, “Visit us regularly, as the store will be supplied as production permits.” How regularly are those interested expected to come back? Daily? Weekly? Fortnightly?

Passing the guy on our way out, we remarked, “Wow, there are still many people interested”. The rejoinder was swift: “We get 200 calls and walk-in inquiries a day.” Two hundred, did you say? One thousand four hundred a week? “Yes. Two. Hundred.” Do you take reservations? “No reservation allowed. To be fair to everybody.” And how often do we have to come and check for availability? The guy was probably bored by our questions by now. But he did have a workable suggestion. “You should wait until the interest is not so high,” he said earnestly. “Or when everyone has bought their watch.” Thank you, kind sir.

Photo: Zhao Xiangji

“It’s Madness”: Swatch Hits The Jackpot

The response to the launch of the MoonSwatch is even better than McDonald’s Happy Meal giveaways. Reports emerged that it’s the same throughout much of Asia

Swatch at ION Orchard this morning. Photo: Singapore Atrium Sale

The crowd at the opening of Uniqlo in Ang Mo Kio yesterday was nothing, “insane” as it might have been. This morning, at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and ION Orchard, you’d think that mask-off Tuesday had arrived, rather than the launch of a mere timepiece: the Swatch X Omega Speedmaster MoonSwatch. A friend of SOTD’s texted us at 9.30 this morning, saying: “It’s madness; it’s like they’re giving the watch for free. Don’t come.” He was at ION Orchard—“I know they say that with mask on, no social distancing is required, but jostling?” His frustration is understandable, just as the response to the launch of the MoonSwatch is expected. Yesterday, at the Swatch store in Orchard Central, we were advised by the friendly staff not to join the “crush”. One of them told us to “wait for the restock”. And why not? Swatch has never touted the MoonSwatch as a limited release.

The thing is, who’d believe this—an explodable throng outside Swatch? This was not the first drop of some Yeezy sneaks. It made the manic scramble last December outside the Foot Locker at Orchard Gateway look like nothing. At ION Orchard this morning, tempers flared quickly and things became so bad that the easily-angered even challenged security personnel to do the unthinkable. One video starting circulating online during lunch time. An antagonised fellow shouted at uniformed officers as if he was denied entry into his favourite KTV bar. With his face mask down to his lips, he challenged them in Mandarin: “你拿枪射击我啦 (Take your gun and shoot me, lah)”. Someone was heard responding: “This one three hundred dollar (sic) only, leh”. Many took to social media to lament how poorly Swatch ran the event, with scant crowd management procedures in sight.

In Shibuya, Tokyo. Photo: Tokyo Touch

In Taipei’s 101. Photo: Watchbus

Queuing in the rain in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Photo: Frankie Herrera

But it was not just on our island that the Swatch stores were ”overwhelmed”, as one marketing executive told us, pointing to how the staff at the stores could not manage the “determined” shoppers. Reports started to appear on social media after noon of the crowds that swarmed Swatch outlets in the capital cities around us. Our contact in Japan was the first to tell us that what he saw outside the Shibuya store was “discouraging”. In Bangkok, we were informed, Swatch “cancelled” the launch as the crowds at all three of their launch sites were “overcrowded” and “baa (crazy)”. A friend from Macau, who took time off from his job at the front desk of a hotel, too, reported that there was “no way” he could cop the watch. In neighbouring Hong Kong, our contributor saw queues snaked round blocks in Causeway Bay, with those in line waiting in the rain. The police eventually dispersed the crowd and Swatch Hong Kong announced that “the launch will be on hold until further notice“, prompting Netizen to call the event a “disaster”. More stories shared on social media also expressed dismay and shock at the hordes and the lack of order in Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. Swatch really scored big this time.

The mad dash outside CentralWorld, Bangkok. Screen grab: Payu Nerngchamnong

Last-minute signs posted on the Swatch store in CentralWorld, announcing its closure. Photo: ttoeytraveller

Outside Kuala Lumpur’s Pavilion Mall. Last night! Photo: Shopping Mall Malaysia

Many were unhappy that the situation had “turned messy”. Despite being told that the watches (11 colours) are sold out, scores chose to hang around outside the two Swatch stores here, which prompted the retailer to announce via Facebook around noon that the MoonSwatch “is not limited edition, and more opportunities to purchase will be available in the coming weeks”’ It also urged “customers without queue numbers (to) please kindly refrain from visiting the store as we are temporarily out of stock”. Netizens started sharing that the sale of the MoonSwatch is not limited in quantity and would be available again. But that has not stopped those lucky enough to buy one (the initial limit of two per customer was amended to a single piece) to resell it on Carousell for a staggering S$4,888, in one offer. That is madness too.

That the response to this collaboration between two watch brands could be this frenzied and staggering is perhaps to be expected. While the tie-up was teased on social media for a week (including full-page ads in The New York Times telling readers that “It’s time to change your Swatch,” or “It’s time to change your Omega”), many did not know what it’ll turn out to be. Global curiosity raged. When images of the MoonSwatch were released two days before launch, the news spread more rapidly than any spacecraft heading for the stars. Swatch and Omega have, with one timepiece, debunked the believe that people do not wear wristwatches anymore. The MoonSwatch is one landing no one imagined.

Update (26 March 2022, 6pm): According to local media, Swatch Japan has “cancelled the release” of the MoonSwatch due to “shoppers flooding” designated stores in Tokyo’s Shibuya and Harajuku districts. It is not clear when the release would be reinstated

Watch Brands Are Pairing Up Too

Swatch meets Omega. And a fresh take on the Speedmaster Moonwatch—the Bioceramic MoonSwatch. In a word: handsome

The buzziest collaboration this month is the tie-up of Swatch and Omega. This is—as far as we’re aware—the first high-low pairing between timepiece brands. We didn’t see that coming, but we are also not surprised. Swatch teaming up with Omega is rather like Gucci and Balenciaga coupling, in that both watch labels are stablemates under The Swatch Group. This is not, however, a Beams and Casio collab with very little tweaking of the later’s timepieces. This is far grander as it taps from Omega’s “legendary” Speedmaster Moonwatch, reimagined and cleverly called MoonSwatch. Not since the Big Bold, launched in 2019, has Swatch rolled out a looker of a timepiece this desirable.

It is not always easy to describe Swatch as desire-arousing. But this time, it is vastly differently. Three days ago, a friend of SOTD who does not wear or own a watch, excitedly sent us a photograph of the pink ‘Venus’ MoonSwatch and an accompanying two-word message, “Nice, right?” Swatch has created something covetable. And they achieved it with Omega. This is a pairing on rather equal footing: The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch’s recognisable form factor and Swatch’s original material, the Bioceramic—a “blend of two-thirds ceramic and one-third bio-sourced plastic” derived from castor oil. Classic and cute in a comely face. The result is a watch a young James Bond might wear if he is not so hooked on the Seamaster!

The Omega Speemaster Moonwatch was born in the same year of this nation: 1965. It was, however, first worn in space by Wally Schirra in 1962 during his Mercury Atlas 8 mission and was the first watch worn on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. It has since been on all manned US space flights and worn by American astronauts on the moon. The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, typically around S$8,000, has, as collectors like to say, impeccable ”pedigree”. And on the MoonSwatch, “the key Moonwatch design features are all there. The asymmetrical case, the famous tachymeter scale with dot over ninety and the distinctive Speedmaster subdials,” as Swatch promises.

Typical of Swatch, though, the “budget Speedmaster” has the pop sensibility that we have come to expect of the Swiss brand. The MoonSwatch comes in an impressive 11 colours (the black could really pass off as the Omega original!). Each is named after a planet and is accompanied by its own “mission”. And, like celestial bodies in the night sky, all hours, minutes, chronograph seconds hands and hour markers glow attractively in the dark. Despite its galactic appeal, Swatch modestly describes their iteration of the Omega signature, “a down to earth take on the watch that went to the moon”. Could we expect a humble Swatch X Breguet next?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Swatch X Omega Bioceramic MoonSwatch, SGD372, is available only at Swatch MBS and ION Orchard from tomorrow. Expect a long queue. As a staffer told us, “wait for the restock”. Photos: Swatch

Update (26 March 2022, 1.30pm): Swatch has just posted on Facebook, urging those without a queue number “to kindly refrain from visiting the MBS store” where the MoonSwatch is available, as they “are temporarily out of stock”. One Marcus Song shared on the Swatch page, “It was mayhem at your Ion boutique and it was not possible to find a proper queue, I totally gave up and left”

Casio Rocks On

A new collaboration with Japan’s leading guitarist puts Casio in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

You have seen his electrifying performance at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympics last year. Hotei Tomayasu (布袋 寅泰 or Tomayasu Hotei in the West) is a rock guitarist, known not only for his rousing stage presence, but also his distinctive guitar—with the hand-drawn, grid-like white pattern on an ebony fretboard—which debuted in 1985. In his native country, a close-up of the guitar is enough for any Japanese to know who is playing it and what performance would follow. And now, that unmistakable irregular grid appears on the Casio GA-2100 watch, popularly known (and hashtagged) as “Casioak”.

Mr Hotei rose to fame in the ’80s as the lead guitarist of the rock band Boøwy (pronounced boh-ee). He went solo in 1988 after the break-up of the band he co-founded. That year, the group became the first male artists to score three number-one albums in a single year on Japan’s Oricon charts. As the story goes, Mr Hotei was expelled from school in his home city of Takasaki for retorting, when his teacher disapproved of his long hair, with “Jesus had long hair”! He went to Tokyo where he formed Boøwy with vocalist Kyosuke Himuro. Although they lasted only seven years, the band’s influence in Japan is considerable: in 2003 HMV Japan placed Boøwy on 22nd of “100 Most Important Japanese Pop Acts”.

Audiences outside Japan may recognise Mr Tohei’s instrumental track Battle without Honour or Humanity ((バトル・ウィズアウト・オナー・オア・ヒューマニティー) in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1, which soundtracked the scene when O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liew) and The Bride (Uma Thurman) were in the Tokyo live-music club The House of Blue Leaves (where the girl band’s played, shoe-less!), before their violent showdown outside. In fact, that song, with its recognisable riffs, first appeared in Sakamoto Junji’s 2000 film New Battle without Honour or Humanity, in which Mr Tohei wrote the soundtrack and played the role of Masatatsu Tochino, a nightclub owner who dislikes crime gangs, but is brought into direct battle with the yakuza.

The new Casio GA-2100HT-1A has less of a bad-ass attitude or the original guitar’s avant-garde leaning at the time it appeared. It is all in the surface treatment of the bezel and the strap, for the watch is really based on the popular GA-2100, launched in 2019, so there is no tech tweak or update. Casio describes the watch as “slim”, as compared to, say, a typical G-Shock timepiece. The pattern does distract from the watch’s characteristic octagonal face, but some may find it rather evocative of something Swatch would do.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Casio GA-2100HT-1A, SGD269, is available at Casio stores. Photos: (top left) Casio and (top right) Toshiba-EMI

About Time

Swatch has not only gone bold, it’s gone Big Bold. Better to ensnare the living-large influencer-shopper?

Swatch Big Bold

By Mao Shan Wang

Gosh, I don’t remember when I last looked at a Swatch. My father just told me that he bought Swatch watches when they were a single brand, not a luxury conglomerate—The Swatch Group. How many decades past was that? Thirty-four years ago, or in the year 1983, when Mario Bros debuted, pre-Pokémon! He then went to unearth a pair of Swatches, still in their clear cases, to show me. One is unambiguously inspired by the Kama Sutra, the other, similarly erotic (or perhaps just suggestive), sports hands that are two parts of a woman’s fully-naked body, both circa 1993—clearly a visual that’s way before #metoo and a particular NUS saga. Looking at the pristine straps, they have never been worn. Strangely, they do not make me curious about my father’s wrist-watch choice. Nobody looks at their father that way!

My lack of notice of Swatch is, I think, commensurate with their lack of notable timepieces, especially after the advent of the smartwatch. Until now. Launched today is a watch that is gigantic—by Swatch standard anyway. An eye-catcher no doubt conceived for the age of conspicuous wear. It is not certain why Swatch decided to launch the Big Bold, as it is known, but let me guess: The traditional Swatch—the one that disrupted the timepiece market in the ’80s—is a mere 25mm for women and 34mm for men, dimensions possibly considered minuscule by the needs of social media habitués. The Big Bold is almost double the size of the women’s style, at a generous and, more importantly, unmissable 47mm.

Swatch Big Bold P2

According to Swatch, the “Big Bold is an attitude, a mindset, a way of ‘being’ in the world”; it “longs for those that embrace being noticed”. You see! 🤭 And, to be caught sight of, it’s not enough to be bold, it has to be “big bold”. Since one is not synonymous with the other, it’s perhaps best that one augments the other. Big and bold, the way loud and proud, too, go together.

In terms of size, this appears to be as conspicuous as 2011’s Swatch Touch, one of the earliest digital watches and an oddity of a timepiece with a wide, rectangular screen in portrait orientation, predating smartwatches. Big Bold, admittedly looks more conventional then the Touch’s hard-to-place font; the numbers, although just four, are readable.

Look-wise, the Big Bold reminds me of the customisable Pop Swatch, but designed by a military type, possibly a pilot! The pop was gleefully infused with the Swatch aesthetic, but was too targeted at teens. I see the similarity perhaps because the Big Bold is just as resolutely circular! Launched in 1986 (and re-introduced in 2016, thirty years later), Pop was as playful as it was ingenious (or irreverent), but perhaps due to the (overtly?) fun leaning did not quite catch on with the serious fashion crowd, except Debbie Gibson fans.

Swatch Big Bold P3

However, the more I look at the Big Bold, the more it appears to me like a 3D-printed watch! It’s hard to say why. Perhaps it’s because of the simplicity of form, the modest styling of the bezel, and the dotted-bumps of the strap. These days, 3D printing is not churning out some figurine from your manga dreams. Anything can be 3D-printed. Jewellery, I have been told, are now popularly produced this way and sold. If bangles and such can be 3D-printed, then why not watches? Besides, Swatch is not new to the use of polymers.

In fact, when it hit the market back in 1983, Swatch’s thermoplastic-molded, weigh-next-to-nothing wrist watches were thought to be a life-saver of what the Swiss industry called a “quartz crisis”, one thought to be the result of the profusion of Japanese quartz watches such as those by the quickly rising Casio. Swatch took the world by storm, enthusiastically releasing delightful timepieces in all sorts of colours and, then, un-thought-of prints and patterns, and, in doing so, was the first brand at that price point to create collectables that drove those who hoard things such as McDonald’s Happy Meal figurines and stuffed toys quite crazy.

What will draw similar reaction this time round is Swatch’s pairing with Bape (aka A Bathing Ape) to make the Big Bold fancier, and simultaneously launch the collab when this hunk of a watch is released. I’m not sure if this will create the same buying frenzy as the recent KAWS X Uniqlo team-up, but I have no doubt the Big Bold X Bape (yes, I, too, spotted the delightful alliterative visual of the branding) won’t be around by the time you read this and head to the flagship store at Orchard Gateway, where it is rather discreetly launched today.

Swatch Big Bold P4Limited-edition collaboration with Bape

With Bape, Swatch, it seems, is riding on an icon of youth and reaching out to a new gen of watch users, which may be a small, small group, judging by the attendees at the launch event, held at the Substation yesterday afternoon. Of the 12 people around me, only two wore a watch. When I moved to another spot near the food wagon, among the 19 munchers there, nine wore a timepiece (one was an Apple Watch).

It has been reported in the past years that the watch has lost its appeal among smartphone users, since we now tell the time by just looking at a phone screen or be duly informed by the timekeeper, Google Assistant. Honestly, I don’t know how well for-millenials-by-millennials brands such as Olivia Burton is doing, but, apparently, they are making the young pick up watches in encouraging numbers. Perhaps Swatch is on to something.

Or perhaps celebrity-endorsement helps. A bespectacled, beanied, and prosperously-girthed, non-BTS fan Dee Kosh appeared; his presence visually and audibly felt. Indulging delightfully and loudly in nachos, the YouTuber-turned-radio-DJ gesticulated excitedly as he talked to a captivated audience. I looked at his bare, excitable wrist. The Big Bold can roost there—a striking face for an unabashed similar.

Swatch Big Bold, from SGD140, launches today. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

From Maxi-Cash To Maxi-Dash

Local pawnbroker Maxi-Cash goes into luxury business, offering merchandise that are distinguished by the euphemism, pre-loved

Maxi Cash store @ Lucky PlazaMaxi-Cash at Lucky Plaza

The selection is impressive: a major-league medley of Chanels, Hermèses, Pradas, Guccis, Rolexes, Cartiers, Panerais, Audemars Piguets, and all the gold jewellery that you would need to make a very impressive trousseau. These were all available at the launch of LuxeStyle, a new brand by pawnshop chain Maxi-Cash. This, however, isn’t the pawnshop of your grandmother’s time; this is the pawnshop of today, one with verve, if not persuasive style.

And it was with palpable vigour that Maxi-Cash launched their sub-brand at the Grand Hyatt’s function rooms called Residences yesterday, accompanied by visual merchandising and styling workshop calibrated to impress. The major high-end brands were represented with such force that you would have thought that this was preface to the International Luxury Conference. Many of the items were in such pristine condition that it was hard to guess, at least initially, that they were second-hand. Could this be why Maxi-Cash is creating a parallel luxury shopping experience for those less inclined to pay full retail? Re-sellable is without doubt a very attractive condition for a pawnbroker.

LuxeStyle is, according to Maxi-Cash’s CEO Ng Leok Cheng, the company’s “latest pre-loved luxury retail line.” Despite what that suggests, LuxeStyle is less a line—such as their own brand of jewellery LeGold—than a retail concept that caters to an economic climate generating desirous wants and the appetence for material goods with appreciable value. Mr Ng added, “the objective of LuxeStyle is to provide more than just a transaction, we aim to be the leading styling resource in Singapore.” But when the members of his staff were asked where the displayed luxury items were from, they would only say, “we have our sources”, at the same time refuting the suggestion that the merchandise is unredeemed items from their pawnshops.

Maxi Cash store @ Lucky Plaza pic 2Maxi-Cash is also a retailer of their own jewellery brand called LeGold

Truth be told, we’ve never stepped into a Maxi-Cash outlet before. So we visited one—a branch on Victoria Street. Unlike the pawnshops of the past, at Maxi-Cash (and a host of others) you won’t be approaching a counter and peering through the grille. Here, glass-top display units, recalling those in department stores of the ’70s, line both sides of the store and house the stuff for sale in a manner as inviting as any jewellery shop. We did not see a single handbag or timepiece. Maybe it’s the store’s location: just next to the New Bugis Street (aka Albert Street), a veritable day-and-night pasar malam. So we thought we should check out what is touted as “the first-ever pawnshop to begin operations in Orchard Road” instead.

Contrary to its moderately high-brow show-and-sell at the Grand Hyatt, Maxi-Cash’s Orchard Road store—specifically in Lucky Plaza, about half a kilometre away from the hotel—is a modest shop and a very small depository of luxury goods. The interior is similar to that of the Victoria Street branch; only here, one of the two store windows was filled with what LuxeStyle is about: bags, watches, and jewellery from the major fashion houses. Inside, no more bags were seen, but watches and jewellery were hard to miss.

Despite its small selection, passersby were enticed by the Maxi-Cash window. Although during the time that we spent observing, no one took the attention beyond the shop’s door, it is clear that there is considerable interest in pre-owned Chanel Classic Flap bags and the like. The selling of used luxury goods has, in the past five years, become big business, if the success and growth of brick-and-motar stores such as the American chain What Goes Around Comes Around and Fashionpile are any indication, or online sites such as the hugely popular Paris-based Vestiaire Collective, now boasting over five million members worldwide and offices in five countries.

Maxi Cash watchesWatches are a key product category in the offerings of LuxeStyle

Also known as “re-commerce”, previously mainly associated with the bigger luxury markets of the West, this trade is quickly gaining ground in Asia, where China, despite the political clamp-down on ostentation, is leading the growth in the sale of luxury goods. Consumption, as we have seen in mature markets such as Japan inevitably gives rise to disposal, which itself leads to more consumption. And there have been companies such as the Nagoya-based Komehyo—a second-hand luxury goods dealer with more than a dozen stores throughout Japan—that have led the way in retailing used products. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Komehyo has recently announced a joint venture to expand into China, underscoring the very real potential of peddling the pre-loved.

Here, Maxi-Cash’s entry into prime vintage, which according to CEO Ng Leok Cheng “was formalized this month”, is seen as somewhat belated. Competitor Money Max has introduced Love Luxury, a marketing initiative that even piques with programs such as “Learn How to be a Smart Fashionista”. Before pawnbrokers came into the picture as a serious player, brick-and-mortar operators such as Madam Milan and The Attic Place, and online portals such as Bagnatic were taping into the slow but steady acceptance of used designer bags. But unlike many of the physical stores, the public-listed Maxi-Cash enjoys a visibility that comes with 41 outlets on our island. LuxeStyle, although not present in every one of them (13 for now), has the advantage of leveraging this network.

Pawnbroking as financial service has a long history in Singapore. In the 1800s, when it slowly enjoyed economic visibility, a pawnbroker was considered somewhat condescendingly to be a “poor man’s banker”. According to reports, Singapore’s first known Chinese pawnshop Sheng He Dang (生和当) opened in 1872. By the mid-1900, pawnbroking was a thriving business that, interestingly, saw mostly Hakka proprietors. The pawnshop that many remember from their younger days took its form and look from those that emerged in the ’70s, when the pawnshop was starting to be seen in more places. At that time, registered pawnshops totalled 50. Despite the advent of modern credit products, pawnshops have not succumbed to the threat of obsolescence. In fact, according to the Ministry of Law website, there are presently 224 registered pawnshops here.

Maxi-Cash launch product displayThe product display at the launch of LuxeStyle

That pawnshops such as Maxi-Cash have to change is part of the shifts that have affected all manner of retail. These days, people not only pawn but sell their prized possessions as well at a pawnshop. The re-selling of unredeemed pawned items or those sold outright to the pawnshop should move to the same momentum as any modern retailer. Yet, none (as well as specialist re-sellers) has approached the sale of luxury items the way Komehyo and their Japanese counterparts have: set the goods in a surrounding that they deserve.

Instead, the luxury bags, watches and jewellery share space with existing merchandise in display confines that are not initially built for their more posh inhabitants. It would seem, therefore, that the target audience of many pawnshops-turn-purveyors-of-luxury-goods is more attracted to the lower price (in the case of Maxi-Cash, “at least”, the staff chirpily pronounced, 30 percent less than regular retail) than the trappings of luxury.

At Maxi-Cash’s Lucky Plaza outlet, flanked by a minimart that goes by the name Asagao and another pawnshop, the competitor Money Max, the presence of LuxeStyle is not discerned, except for what is seen in the Orchard Road-facing window. Inside, members of the staff are friendly enough, but amid the loud chatter of a seller trying to get a good price for what could be his wife’s valuables, it is easy to forget that it was bags—maybe watches—that you had come in for.

LuxeStyle is in Maxi-Cash stores islandwide. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Job’s Old Watch Is Cool

seiko-nano-universe-2017The ghost of the famous who died do come back to tease. Who would have guessed that an unremarkable watch that Steve Jobs used to wear before Apple even thought of the possibility of wearables would be the timepiece to have in the age of the Apple Watch. The irony is compounded by the fact that the black turtle-neck fan is not known to love wearing watches.

Seiko announced recently that they will be reissuing that watch—then called the ‘Chariot’—in an updated version with Japanese fashion retailer Nano Universe, whose collaboration with Seiko on the Prospex diver’s watch is on many Japanese hipsters’ wish list. This came about a year after the Apple founder’s watch was sold in an auction for a mind-boggling USD42,500, a figure that probably startled the folks at Seiko. This was not a timepiece designed to capture the hearts of ardent horologists. Steve jobs probably bought it in a shop such as the always packed May May Watch Dealer at The Bencoolen, wearing it without much thought about the impact it might have on fashionable wrist wear in 2017.

Steve Jobs on  Time.jpgThe October 17, 2011 issue of Time on which the Seiko Chariot appeared the Apple Mackintosh. Photo: Norman Seeff/Time

The original mid-’80s ‘Chariot’ was not an exceptionally noted watch at that time, not even when Steve Jobs wore it for the sitting shot by Norman Seeff for Time in 1984. Mr Seeff later wrote in 2011 for the magazine that the image “was completely off the cuff, spontaneity that we never thought would become a magazine image.” The ‘Chariot’ was powered by quartz, quite the type watch snobs will sneer at. Yet, because of the photograph, which was used as a Time cover following Steve Job’s death in 2011, the watch is desirable to the point that it deserves a re-issue.

We’re not sure if the allure of this watch is restricted to fashion folks or gadget geeks with a weakness for memorabilia associated with tech greats. There is always appeal in stuff that is low-tech, anti-fashion, and starkly simple. However hard Apple may try with the Apple Watch, sometimes the imperfect tick-tick movement of a quartz timepiece is more charming than the changeability of a digital watch face. Nondescript can sometimes beat glamour with its own dull-face magnetism.

The Seiko X Nano Universe watch will be issued on 10 March in Japan in two sizes: the original 33mm and the new 37.5mm. Now news yet if either one will be available in Singapore

Feels Like A Watch

casio-wsd-f10-smartwatchBy Low Teck Mee

The styling caught my eye and the weight seduced my senses. When I touched Casio’s new “smart outdoor watch”, WSD-F-10, I was totally sold. Here is a smart watch that looks and feels like a real watch—yes, the one that tells time, not the one named after a fruit (adding a crown does not fool me) or those round-faced wannabes.

My enthusiastic response to the watch can be better understood if you know that I have been waiting for Casio to release an Android Wear-enabled watch for a long time. One of my favourite Casios is the Mr-G 110 from long ago, and I have always hoped that Casio would issue the watch as a smart reincarnation. With its square-ish face, I have always thought that that particular MR-G would be perfect candidate as an activity-tracking companion to a smart phone.

But it was not to be. Still, the launch of the WSD-F-10 is very much welcomed. Here, the watch reminds me of the lens of the brand’s action camera, the Exilim EX-FR100: a round face framed by a case in a vivid colour, in this instance, orange. Sure, with the black strap, this seems ideal for Halloween, but there is also a sporty vibe that outdoor types would appreciate.

A Casio watch is known to be tech-packed and remarkably durable (apparently the WSD-F-10 is “compliant with military standards”), so I shan’t elaborate. This smart watch is no exception. Performing as dutifully as other Android Wear watches do and apps aside, it comes equipped with accelerometer and gyrometer, which means whether you’re trekking in the mountains or waiting for a trout by a river, you’re covered.

The best part about the WSD-F-10 is that it does not look like a smart watch. No one would guess it isn’t G-Shock’s slimmer sibling. That, to me, is damn smart.

Casio WSD-F-10, SGD 699, is available at Casio stores. Product photo: Casio

The Winning Bronze

Tudor Black Bay BronzeBy Raiment Young

Gold maybe the preferred colour of Olympic champions or hip-hop artists with cash (or a shoe design contract!), but bronze may be the fashion colour of the moment. Or, at least, I think it could be. To be more specific, after seeing the ‘Bronze’ release of the Tudor watches intriguingly named Black Bay, I feel that this colour, sometimes mistaken as copper, is rave-worthy.

On its own, the Black Bay diver’s watch is a rather conventional utility timepiece that, despite its rather sinister moniker, looks like it could be a sibling of the Rolex Submariner. Tudor, of course, has often been inspired by the watches of its parent company, which has unfortunately spawned the consideration that Tudor is the poor man’s Rolex (didn’t they once say that about Tag Heuer too?).

Since well-heeled isn’t how I describe my current standing, I am drawn to versions of stuff usually (unfairly) associated with “poor”. To me, there is nothing lesser about Tudor watches just as there isn’t a vestige of lowliness in “poor man’s Paris”, Prague. In my hands and on my wrist, the timepieces of Tudor feel as good and desirable as those of its dearer elder, and have as much heft, a quality I seek, particularly in diver’s watches.

The Black Bay Bronze is as handsome as Black Bays in other colours. Sure, bronze isn’t a precious metal (it’s foremost an alloy, for those of you who have forgotten the periodic table!), but like gold and silver, it shines. If like me, you are averse to the gleam typical of such materials, the Bronze has a brushed finish which dulls potentially distracting surface brightness.

But what is a real draw for me is the canvas strap, a fabric quite inconsistent with a watch meant for the deep sea. The Black Bay is mostly packed with two straps. And the Bronze is no exception. You get to choose between a leather strap, which looks like an aged Shinola, or a woven jacquard piece in what is dark khaki to me but is gold to others (Tudor calls it “beige and brown”). There’s a lighter single stripe in the middle, which augments the watch’s sporty leaning. It’s a detail that apparently hails to the French navy of the past.

Military and sports influence aside, the latest iteration of the Black Bay is the ideal wrist wear to peep from beneath a Vetements sleeve, no?

Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze, SGD5,472, is available at Tudor, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, and authorised dealers. Photo: Tudor

This Pink’s The Thing

Pink PowerFrom top left: Samsung Fast Charge Batter Pack 5200mAh, Apple Watch Edition 38mm 18-karat rose gold case with rose gray modern buckle, Garmin Vivofit 2 with rose gold band, iPhone 6S, Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, Ray-Ban Round Metal Flash Lenses, and Adam Elements 256GB iKlips Lightning USB3.0 dual-interface flash drive

By Low Teck Mee

Please don’t say pink is the new black. It isn’t. I’ll take orange for my black; just don’t make me think pink. Well, not the pink Apple is trying to pass off as ‘Rose Gold’. A pink in any other name is still pink even in a hue that’s not quite easy on the eye at first glance. Thanks to the Cupertino company, much of the tech world is now enamoured with this shade of diluted air bandung. Even fashion accessories cannot escape the grip of this weak colour. And men are taking a shine to it as if life will be rosier with it.

I really don’t get iPhone 6S and the Plus version that are stained in that misleading, if not trying, ‘Rose Gold’. I was, frankly quite shocked when I first saw it at Nubox months ago. I asked the eager-to-sell-me-this-pink (!) sales guy what he thought of it and he smugly answered with a question: “Do you know it is the most popular colour now?” Or course I did not know. Who would have guessed that the chromatic love child of gold ingot and png kueh could find so many admirers?

Know I came to when I started seeing USB drives, USB data/charging cables, USB car chargers, portable hard drives, mini speakers and so many more I cannot now remember in that colour that makes me weep. And then there’s Ray-Ban’s Round Metal—a style I truly like—looking at me as if it had emerged from the wrong vat of dye. Poor thing. Ray-Ban’s eyewear has always been associated with a certain machismo. You can’t get manlier than a pair of aviator. Yet, here we have a pair of sunglasses eager to be part of Apple’s epicene ecosystem!

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t subscribe to colours as determinant of gender identity. I don’t dislike pink; I equate it with a shade of subtle pleasure: strawberry milkshake, cotton candy, cherry blossoms, and albino dolphins. I don’t connect it to the back of what’s considered the world’s best-selling smartphone. Pink is a nice colour for clothes—Chanel does some pleasing pinks, so does Raf Simons. Pink’s good for sneakers, too—even Nike’s Air Max 90, a hunk of a shoe, comes in pink (regrettably, Asics Gel Lyte 3 has released, gasp, a ‘Rose Gold Pack’!). But this pink, the metallic pink that’s oddly on the cloying side, this pink that’s neither Champagne nor Zinfadel; this is, to me, a poor pink.

‘Tis the season of giving: some hapless chap is going to be stuck with a thing in this pink.

Nothing To Watch

Apple WatchApple Watch: Just two of the 34 combinations you can choose from

By Low Teck Mee

The Apple Watch is not a game changer. There, I’ve said it. Some people want to wait and see, but I’m happy to state it now. And it feels as good as the moment Apple finally announced the existence of the wrist-bound wearable: other people can breathe easily and with triumphant delight; I am just relieved that the phantom iWatch can finally have a grave (possibly in the iCloud among nude photos of movie stars) and that many of you can put an end to years of mindless speculation.

Oh, this is not to knock the many ecstatic fans who cheered so loudly when Tim Cook teased on stage with “one more thing” that you’d have thought everyone was given a free trip to the moon. When the Apple Watch was finally revealed, it was a standing ovation inside Cupertino’s Flint Center for Performing Arts—a temporary church to the cult of the fruit that was once a pome of temptation at the beginning of time. No, this is to join everyone else in delighting in Apple’s big reveal.

Apple Watch on the wristThe Apple Watch on a wrist as seen in

But it’s no revelation that Apple is late jumping onto the already crowded smart watch bandwagon. Then again, Apple isn’t exactly a forerunner of mobile technology. As with the iPhone 6’s (and iPhone Plus’s) bigger screens, the Apple Watch is really just joining the club, which is fine since the club doors were never closed. But is this fashionably late?

Apple sure knows it needs to get into the kid leather-bound good books of fashion folk. In Cupertino, fashion editors were in attendance even when New York Fashion Week hasn’t ended. Vogue stalwarts such as Franca Sozzani and Emmanuelle Alt showed up, so did unlikely watchers Gwen Stefani and Liberty Ross. Elsewhere, Instyle’s Kelsey Glein considered it “well worth the wait” and “an object of beauty”. Mobile and tech news site BGR quoted colleague Eric Wilson as saying that the design is “generic in the sense of its flexibility and individualization.”’s Tim Blanks was clearly seduced: the Apple Watch is “where art, luxury, technology, and romance (he was taken by the gadget’s ability to send out heartbeats!) meet”. Vogue China’s Angelica Cheung tweeted, “Standing ovation for #apple #iWatch (sic)”. On the same medium, three and half hours before the Cupertino event, British Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman claimed she was “looking forward to a life-changing watch”, but did not say after that if her life was changed. She did later blog to say that the watch she saw earlier “practically makes thinking redundant and it’s got the fusion of cool design, likeable graphics and techno wizardry that we expect from Apple”. Self-confessed “non-digital specialist” Suzy Menkes opined, “From a fashion point of view, the external aesthetic seemed neutral: neither super-stylish nor repellent. I would imagine that geeks would love it more than aesthetes.” GQ took rah-rah-ing one step further by posting a “fashion spread” on its online version: the Apple Watch peeking from under suit-and-shirt sleeves, underscored by leather bracelets. It seemed only New York Times’s Vanessa Friedman was willing to go against the grain, pondering, “Does it rewrite the rules of our aesthetic expectations?” And her answer? A firm “no”.

Apple Watch GQGQ‘s super-quick reaction: a fashion spread on

To be honest, I have not seen the real thing. What I have seen is what most of you have seen: from what is being posted online and on Apple’s song-and-dance homepage, now appended with a new tab “Watch”, filled with eye-popping images of its latest Swiss army knife of a toy. One of the earliest visuals to appear on Instagram made me think: Nano reborn. Then I saw a video-demo of the home screen and I thought it was an attack of emoji, only to realise, quickly enough, it was a galaxy of widgets! Cute UI and a techie’s idea of elegant form factor may not be comfortable partners to a Dior suit or handles of a Chanel 2.55. I’m sure Apple thought of that. That’s why the Apple Watch itself is a tad better-looking than what its competitors put out not long before. That’s why they will be offering two watch sizes in three different cases (stainless steel, anodised aluminium, and 18-carat gold), as well as a slew of straps that will bring the total styles to a not unstaggering thirty four. That’s why in their marketing speak, they’re eager to assure that “there’s an Apple Watch for everyone”. The thing is, I don’t see Patek Philippe trying to please all and sundry.

Maybe I am looking at this wrongly. Maybe this shouldn’t be viewed as a fashion item, an accessory as vital to one’s image as a bag is. The bag houses our entire life, but these days, it’s likely the smart phone that’s storing our increasingly digitised existence. Apple Pay—the electronic payment system, also just announced—will before long render our wallets redundant, hence possibly our bags too. The Apple Watch is Apple Pay-enabled. Is Apple Watch then a viable mobile addition, replacing our smart phones altogether? Many people seem to think and hope so. I wonder what will happen if, as a result of the rise of Apple Watch, Louis Vuitton loses a sizeable part of their bag business. The mind boggles.

Apple Watch digital crownApple Watch’s navigational tool “digital crown” (right)

I am also amused by how so many reviewers were bowled over by Apple Watch’s “digital crown”—no doubt nifty and qualifies the device as a watch—when the idea is really not new. Back in the days when Sony was making hand phones without the Xperia branding, pre-Sony Ericsson, it had incorporated into some of its handsets a neat little feature called the “jog dial”. Especially memorable was the compact Music Cellular Phone CMD-MZ5, a handset that predated the iPhone. Unlike the “digital crown”, Sony’s “jog dial” was able to scroll up and down, rock forward and backward, and be pressed inward to execute commands. At that time, about 2000, the “jog dial” was awesome. Today, with touch-screen tech, the “digital crown” really isn’t grand.

That’s the thing about the Apple Watch: it’s a product conceived to meet our expectations, not exceed them. Sure, there are gimmicks galore, but will we need them to navigate a day in our mundane life? Some of the features may be useful, but most of them require third-party apps. What’s most exasperating for would-be smart watch owners not propped by iOS is that the Apple Watch won’t work without an iPhone. What good  is a button without a buttonhole?