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Building a collector community

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon • 12 min read
Building a collector community
Talenia Phua Gajardo, founder of online marketplace Luxglove, relates how the Luxglove Classic Car Weekend came about and what’s in store at the pop-up event and beyond.
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Talenia Phua Gajardo, founder of online marketplace Luxglove, relates how the Luxglove Classic Car Weekend came about and what’s in store at the pop-up event and beyond.

Do you have a piece of jewellery, a watch or a collectible that was passed on to you by your grandparents? Don’t just put it away in a box at the back of your closet. If you want to sell it, log on to the Luxglove website for help. On the other hand, if you are looking for something specific, you just might find it on this website. Luxglove, founded by Talenia Phua Gajardo, is an online marketplace that offers a curated collection of art, design, watches, jewellery, collectibles, rare whisky and most recently, classic cars, from individual sellers and dealers in Asia.

“Luxglove did not feature classic cars initially, but it was definitely meant to be,” says Phua Gajardo. “A private collector came across our website because someone recommended that he take a look at our Rare Whisky selection. He then got in touch with us asking if we’d be keen to feature his 1961 Ferrari 250 GTE — which is one of the highlights on our site. He had issues finding the right marketplace for this special vehicle and felt that our platform fit what he was looking for.”

Phua Gajardo is delighted at the prospect of featuring classic cars on Luxglove as she confesses she has had an interest in cars since she was a teenager, going so far as calling herself a “car nut”. After listing this first vehicle, she started talking to local car collectors and enthusiasts and came up with the idea of organising a pop-up event.

Hence, the Luxglove Classic Car Weekend was born. Phua Gajardo explains: “The main focus is on cars because our classic cars are the anchors for the event. The star of the show will be the very rare 1961 Ferrari 250 GTE. It also marks the launch of this new category on the Luxglove platform, to which we will add more special cars for sale as we continue to grow and expand.”

There will be a total of 22 high-performance, luxury, classic and rare cars, among them Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis and Jaguars, at the event. The aforementioned 1961 Ferrari 250 GTE, the 265th unit produced in the first of three series totalling 954 units, will be one of five cars on sale at the event. Cars on display will include a 1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GT, 1959 Porsche 356A and 1978 BMW M1 E26, along with a rare Lamborghini Diablo.

Phua Gajardo is confident the Singapore market is ready for such an event. She reasons: “There are numerous active car clubs and enthusiast groups that meet on a regular basis, and it’s a highly engaged community of passionate people. We’re excited to be able to bring them together to share their common interests and to learn from each other as well.”

The Classic Car Weekend will be held on Sept 24 and 25 at furniture and home accessories boutique Asiatique Collections on Dempsey Road. Collectors, aspiring collectors and enthusiasts are encouraged to attend. It does not matter if you are not looking for anything specific, Phua Gajardo says, as the aim is to build the community and bring like-minded people together. “It is for people who appreciate craft, design, and vintage.”

Apart from admiring classic cars and having your fill of gourmet food and drinks, you can attend talks and panel discussions on collecting watches, whiskies, cars, coins and stamps by a team of experts. “The topics were selected based on common questions we have received through our online platform and were also suggested by our speakers. These are experts in their fields and are individuals who are not only passionate but also knowledgeable,” she says.

Time after time
One of the speakers will be Christie’s Hong Kong senior watch specialist Nicholas Biebuyck, who will also be conducting complimentary watch valuations during the weekend. In a run-up to the event, he gives Options some insights into watch collecting.

What are the timepieces that are most sought after, and why?
Timepieces with the right balance of craftsmanship, rarity and provenance will always be the most sought after. Whether it is the fine diamond setting displayed in something like the Vacheron Constantin King Kalla, the rarity of the Ecole piece from Naissance d’une Montre or something such as the exceptional pocket watch created by the hands of Abraham-Louis Breguet himself, all of these pieces are sought after for their own reasons.

How do we know if we have a collector’s timepiece? Should we be looking at high complications?
Complications represent one facet of what makes a watch a collectible. Hours of labour and love that have been poured into a piece will always be apparent on the surface, whether it is a split second chronograph from Patek Philippe or the exceptional finishing on display in a Philippe Dufour Simplicity. These things will make themselves known to those with a discerning eye and become worthy of being added to a collection.

Are vintage timepieces becoming increasingly harder to come by? Vintage pieces themselves are not becoming harder to find, but those in top condition are rarely coming on the market, thus making them incredibly scarce. That is because the current owners of these pieces know that once they let them go, it will be very difficult to get them back, and even if they can, they will have to pay a heavy premium for it.

What are some of the ways you discover rare pieces? Do you actively source for them or do collectors come to you?
It is a mixture of the two. One of the main roles of an auction house specialist is to identify where important pieces lie at any given moment. That knowledge will be built up through years of communicating with collectors and identifying when things change hands. This has become somewhat easier with the rise of Instagram, where many owners proudly post their latest acquisitions. Of course, one of the greatest feelings one can have in this line of work is waking up in the morning to an email or phone call from someone saying, “I have this old Rolex with buttons on the side, three circles on the face and little squares inside them”. Sometimes, the best pieces come out of nowhere, but there is no guarantee of this.

How did your interest in watches come about?
I remember reading an article on [British horologist] George Daniels when I was a teenager and being fascinated [by the fact] that this one man could make a whole watch by himself. Not long after, I had the pleasure of meeting him at the retrospective of his work in London, where we spoke and he told me to go and buy a lathe [machine] and start cutting gears. This was just before I was heading off to university to study mechanical engineering and I made the tough decision to go ahead with this path, even though I had [contemplated] joining the watchmaking school in Birmingham.

What are some of your favourite pieces?
My all-time [holy] grail is the Patek Philippe 5004 split second chronograph perpetual calendar — I would be happy with platinum, or even better, acier. I also have a deep love for classic chronographs such as the Omega Speedmaster, Heuer Autavia and Rolex Daytona. In addition, I love the history of watches such as the British military-issued Rolex Submariners and Omega Seamasters, as well as the gold TAG Heuer Carreras given to Ferrari drivers in the 1970s.

You also have a passion for classic cars and motorcycles. How did that happen?
I spent my early years in a garage with my father most weekends as he had a love for British cars and motorcycles, which require continual maintenance if you want to use them. I still have a great love affair with them — I own two Nortons — and a huge fondness for vintage-era Bentleys, Austin Healey 100s, Land Rovers Series and Mark I Minis.

How will a panel discussion help people appreciate fine timepieces?
One of the core components to improving one’s understanding of a particular market is to hear as many different opinions on it as possible so you are able to draw your own conclusions. The panel discussion with those from inside the industry is a great way to achieve that.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us what you will be speaking about on Sept 24?
I feel privileged to be alongside Oliv iero Bottinelli and Michael Tay for the discussion, as we all have a shared love of watches while approaching it from different angles. I am sure it will be a very lively and enlightening conversation that is not to be missed, especially with the astute moderation by Su Jia Xian.

Date: Sept 24 and 25
Location: Asiatique Collections, Dempsey 14A
Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249669
Admission: Guests will be required to
download the LUXGLOVE app for entry. The app
is available for download on the Google Play
store and Apple store.

Sept 24, Saturday
11.30am: Watch Collecting Panel
The Ins and Outs of Watch Collecting in Asia
Moderator: Su Jia Xian
Speakers: Oliviero Bottinelli, Michael Tay, Nicholas Biebuyck

4pm: Whisky Collecting Panel Whisky Collecting — How to Start Building Your Collection
Speaker: Mike Soldner

Sept 25, Sunday
3.30pm: Car Collecting Panel Collecting, Storing, Maintaining, and Running

5pm: Coins & Stamps Collecting Panel Converting Passion for Coins into an Investment
Moderator: Deirdre Ball
Speaker: Jay Jhaveri

Oliviero Bottinelli, board member of Audemars Piguet
After graduating magna cum laude in business administration from the Business School Lausanne, Bottinelli started his career with BP de Silva Group of Companies. During his tenure, he gained experience across various project management roles in Swatch and Omega. His passion for watches accelerated during his employment as marketing manager of Audemars Piguet Singapore for Southeast Asia. In 2000, Oliviero became CEO of AP Southeast Asia before assuming the position of managing director in 2009. Since 2015, he has been concentrating on board membership of AP globally and continues to be involved in key strategic committees.

Su Jia Xian, founder of SJX
Su, better known by his initials SJX, founded Watches By SJX in 2011. One of Asia’s leading watch experts, he has been involved in the watch industry for over 15 years, having gotten his start as a watch journalist. SJX contributes to over a dozen publications in Asia, including in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan. Beyond journalism, he now advises watch companies, auction houses and collectors. He is also a member of the Council of Experts (Retail) at Gerson Lehrman Group, providing independent consulting to institutional investors. In 2014, Chronos Japan magazine included him in the “Who’s Who of the World’s Watch Persons”.

Michael Tay, group managing director of The Hour Glass
Tay became group managing director on April 1, 2015, after serving as executive director since 2005. He joined the company in 1999 as its business re-engineering manager. Tay has extensive watch industry experience, having headed multiple segments of The Hour Glass’ businesses, from specialty watch manufacturing to greenfield channel distribution and retail development. He is a member of the governing Cultural Committee of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and a member of the jury for the Grand Prix d’Horologerie de Geneve. Tay also serves on the boards of the National Heritage Board and STPI, institutions engaged in the advancement of the heritage and visual arts sector in Singapore.

Nicholas Biebuyck, senior watch specialist at Christie’s Hong Kong
Biebuyck joined Christie’s in April 2016, after having entered the auction world in 2010 with Bonhams. He returned to Bonhams in 2014 to head its Hong Kong watches team, during which he gained a unique understanding of the market in Asia. Known for his passion for vintage chronographs and issued watches, especially those from Rolex, Omega, TAG Heuer and Patek Philippe, Biebuyck has a wide appreciation for everything from early English pocket watches through to fine modern pieces from the great independent watchmakers. He is well regarded among collectors for his depth and breadth of knowledge, and his honest, analytical and thorough approach to appraising pieces.

Mike Soldner, business owner of B28 Seoul and The B28 Whisky Fund
Born to American social workers in Asia in the late 1970s and raised in some eight countries in Southeast Asia, Soldner spent many years in public relations and the service industry. He was briefly GM of luxury aviation company The Flying Club before starting his first specialist whisky venture, Malt Vault. Subsequently, he went to work on his latest passion project, B28, an intimate bar. Soldner moved to Seoul and the following year, B28 Seoul was conceived, quickly becoming the city’s premier whisky bar. In late 2013, Soldner established The B28 Whisky Fund in Singapore, an investment vehicle to acquire and distribute rare whiskies, which was followed by the development of Winston’s, Korea’s first small-batch, craft spirits importer.

Eli Solomon, publisher at Rewind Media Pte Ltd
Solomon has spent a lifetime, punctuated only by a spell as an equity salesman in an investment bank in Hong Kong, in the company of cars. His interests are varied, from running a rare book business specialising in Southeast Asian material to building an archive of historical material on motoring and motor sports in Asia. His motor sports interests include searching for (and rebuilding) historic race cars and, when time permits, wringing the neck out of his single-seater Formula 2 Brabham. In 2010, he established Rewind Magazine, now a bimonthly classic and motor sport magazine for the Asian market.

Deirdre Ball, head of investment sales at Stanley Gibbons Investment
Hall has been in Asia since 1982 when she was first posted to Singapore from the US. During her time in Singapore, she developed a deep understanding of Asian culture and went on to hold senior management roles in financial services, publishing and marketing with leading global companies including The Financial Times. She joined Stanley Gibbons in February 2015 as head of investment for Singapore. Stanley Gibbons specialises in alternative investments. The company, which is headquartered in London and has offices worldwide, has been the home of rare and valuable stamps since 1856.

This article appeared in the Options of Issue 745 (Sept 12 ) of The Edge Singapore.

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