Omega What if you marry a chicken?
How a Chinese idiom explains Emilyn Lee’s love for Omega and its Speedmasters.
The Chinese idiom 嫁鸡随鸡, 嫁狗随狗 (jià jī suí jī, jià gǒu suí gǒu) literally means: “marry a chicken and follow the chicken, marry a dog and follow the dog”. For the uninitiated, it probably sounds extremely strange and perhaps offensive but it is neither. This idiom refers to how a wife would generally tend to follow her husband’s interests and believe in his ideas. It can also be taken as an advice to be more accepting of those around us.
This idiom is exactly how Emilyn Lee describes her watch collecting journey. Her romance with George Tan, a gentleman who had developed a passion for watch collecting, allowed her to fully appreciate timepieces and what a brand like Omega has to offer.
Lee, who is in her early forties, leads a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) analytics team at COMO Group, a Singapore-based company with business interests in hospitality, fashion as well as organic and specialty foods, among other things.
“George is my first love. We met when when we were still in high school and I was around 17 or 18 years old. Our dates included memorable visits to the weekend flea market in Sungei Road to seek out knick knacks, pots and pans, electronics, toys and watches. He was genuinely hooked on the thrill to discover the unexpected. I gradually realised that he was particularly keen on watches. From thereon and through subsequent flea market dating excursions, we built upon our complementary skillsets – he was more hands-on and enjoyed having vintage watches in his hands while I was more into researching the watches. That’s how my watch collecting journey began,” she explains.
“Many people have wondered if I genuinely have an interest in watches or is it because of my other half. Well, the answer is ‘yes’ for both. I saw his passion and dedication in watch collecting and I wanted to help him with his hobby. Everything thereafter simply fell into place.”
Said to have its early beginnings in the 1930s along the Rochor River, the Sungei Road flea market sold second hand goods and eventually became known as the thieves market because at some point in time, vendors even peddled stolen and illegal items. Interestingly, British Army gear including uniforms, billycans and backpacks were sold there during the 1960s, especially after Singapore’s independence. Singapore was once a British colony and became an independent and sovereign state on 9 August 1965 after its expulsion from Malaysia. By 1971, most of the British troops stationed in Singapore had withdrawn. This could explain how British military wristwatches appeared in the flea market. Omega, was of course, a supplier of watches to the British Ministry of Defence and such watches at the flea market caught the attention of Emilyn and her then boyfriend and now husband, George.
“In the history of Omega, they have proven to be experimental in their approach. They have introduced many styles and designs as compared to other brands with only one DNA. Omega has come up with very interesting and bold timepieces many others wouldn’t have been particularly keen on. That was one reason why the brand was attractive to us. The brand was recognised, offered diversity, was readily available and the pre-loved timepieces were friendly to wallets, especially at the time when we both had recently graduated and had only that much excess funds to satisfy our then newfound hobby.”
More than two decades before the Sungei Road thieves market made way for development in mid-2017, Emilyn and George had already moved on to second-hand dealers, the Internet and eBay to source for pre-owned timepieces of their liking.
© WorldTempus / Timmy Tan
While she has a taste for Rolex, Cartier, Tudor and Audemars Piguet watches as well, Emilyn’s favourite brand is Omega. “I love Omega because of their incredible ladies collections especially vintage dress watches. It is practically impossible to find one that suits me these days, especially for my small wrist,” she surmises.
For everyday wear, Emilyn’s Omega choice is her 1996 Speedmaster Automatic Day-Date, otherwise known as the Mk 40, with a steel bracelet. “The Mk 40 was the first Speedmaster that caught my eye. It didn't have the traditional black dial but a greyish one and it comes with interesting sub-dials. This interesting and recognisable piece is actually my fourth Mk 40,” Emilyn says matter-of-factly.
Noticing my puzzled expression, she explains how a colleague of George who was in search of a vintage watch for his wife visited their home to seek help and advice. “I told him about my Mk 40 and how I liked it. The next thing I knew, he said that the Mk 40 was the perfect gift for his spouse,” Emilyn relates with a grimace. “George, being the ever hospitable, soft-hearted and obliging soul he is, sold it. I was obviously peeved. To appease me, George said he’d source for a replacement piece that will be in a much better condition. I am now into my fourth Mk 40 as all three earlier ones were sold under similar circumstances by George to his friends. Next time, I’d tell people I like other watches,” says Emilyn with a laugh. “In fact, I have another Mk 40 as George found a back-up piece with a leather strap as the price is still affordable just in case he something happens again. He hasn’t learnt his lesson.”
Omega Snoopy Award © WorldTempus / Timmy Tan
Indeed, the Mk 40 isn’t the only Omega dear to Emilyn that was sold. “My dear husband bought me the first generation Omega Snoopy Award. His buddy’s sister came to our home one fine day, saw it and insisted she had to have it because she loved Snoopy. Though George initially declined her repeated offers, he eventually relented and sold it,” Emilyn reveals.
However, I spot the first generation Omega Snoopy Award that was launched in 2003 beside her. She picks it up and holds it affectionately in her hands. “After that was sold, George had a challenge finding another piece as he insisted on having the complete original box set including the instructions and the special decal that came with it. It took us a long time and thankfully, we eventually got one but it came with a price – one that was three times the original!”
While pre-loved watches can be replaced, what is most heartening to know is that Emilyn has stayed true to her very first love, George, who is, in our opinion (and we are confident many will surely agree), irreplaceable.
© WorldTempus / Timmy Tan
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