Watch Enthusiast Darren Toh Understands How to Curate Desire



An oft-discussed facet of the watch collecting journey is the understanding that it is something to be passed on to succeeding generations – not just the timepieces, but more crucially, the knowledge and passion for horology developed through the years. Darren Toh, whom we met during his tenure at the Singapore Watch Fair, embodies the successful passing of the horological baton from one generation to the next. Explaining that he currently shares a collection with his father and that he acts as the curator for this joint collection, he shares the journey so far, and how his tastes have evolved along the way.

First Steps

Usually, it is the first watch that holds the most sentimental value, and with Darren, it is no different. “I was in Primary school when my dad passed me a watch just to wear for an event, and he took it back a day later. I’d say that was the instance that kicked off my interest in watches. Later on, after he noticed my growing interest in watches, he passed me his Breitling Superocean, and taught me how to wind and set the time on it – the first time I attempted setting the time, I completely pulled out the crown,” he recalls with a laugh. Thankfully, the watch was eventually restored to functionality, and Darren learned his first lesson in horology: “I learned to be more gentle with watches, and began to learn how they worked, especially why the stem came out with the crown that first time!”

Besides the humorous memories that the watch holds for him, Darren also found out the significant symbolism behind the watch later on: “I found out that the Superocean was the watch that my father received in celebration of my parent’s wedding anniversary – he wore it for a good decade or so before passing it to me.”

“Although I don’t really wear the Superocean as much now, the good memories I’ve had with it, and the familial symbolism it holds, marks it as the one watch that stands out in my collection in terms of sentimental value.”

Learning to Walk

Like many others who share the same passion, Darren shares that the next port of call in his watch-collecting journey was with the established international manufactures. “The first watch from a major manufacture that I actively sought out was the Rolex Submariner 116610LV ‘Starbucks’. Green is my lucky colour, and I had read a lot about Rolex at that point, so I thought it was something worth looking at,” he explains.

“Following the ‘Starbucks’,” he adds, “I fell in love with the Rolex Daytona. To begin with, it’s a chronograph – a complication that’s grown to be one of my favourites – and its versatility was, and still is, highly appealing to me.”

Swimming Deeper

Darren’s initial dip in the pool of established manufactures eventually led him to dive deep into the ocean of complications. “I began getting really deep into the artistry of Patek Philippe, and the intricate craft and finishing that goes into their movements, so that’s when the Patek Philippe World Time (5231J) and the 5905R-001 Annual Calendar Chronograph came in.”

“But by and large, my favourite complication right now would be the chronograph, as the collection reflects,” he adds with a smile.

On the Horizon

Admitting that he still has some way to go in his collecting journey, his current tastes are a reflection of how it has evolved along the path. “I met Nelson (Lee, co-founder of the Singapore Watch Fair) about four to five years ago, and he introduced me to independent watchmakers. It didn’t take long before I got hooked. The first independent that caught my eye was MB&F – the Horological Machine 4 in my collection caught my eye because of its radical design. When I first saw it in the flesh, I thought, ‘is that a watch? What’s that?’, I was so confused.”

“But as much as I was into independents, I realised my father didn’t share the same appreciation, and my moving overseas necessitated a versatile watch that I could wear for six months straight, so I dialled back on independents a little.”

“Currently,” he adds, “the watches that get the most wrist time reflect that – the platinum Rolex Daytona 126506 ‘Ice Blue’ is the one that gets the most wrist time, followed by the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980/1A. I know I’m at risk of being categorised as just another follower of the integrated bracelet, sports watch trend, but there’s a practical value in their versatility and robustness, especially in a hot climate like Singapore’s where I’ll sweat a bit more.”

Despite maturing in taste and his increased focus on functionality, Darren insists that he still retains a keen interest in independent watchmakers and complications – aspects of his interest that he intends to explore in the future. “I’m definitely going to be looking out more for independent watchmakers, especially when I can eventually curate one purely to my own tastes. Also, while there are already some complications in the collection, I’m also definitely on the lookout for more in the future – maybe a perpetual calendar, hopefully a minute repeater, and maybe tourbillons.”

While it is easy to stereotype the next generation of watch collectors as hype-chasing and excessively particular about investment value, young collectors like Darren are a breath of fresh air, and a timely reminder that the kids are alright.

This article is slated to appear in WOW’s Summer 24 Issue, out soon.

For more on the latest in watch reads, click here.

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