Do we really need to own a Swiss timepiece from the biggest names? What really sets them apart? How do we get started? Sneak a peek into the elusive world of luxury watchmakers this month

A billion-dollar industry, a symbol of status, an engineering marvel, bearer of heritage, mark of luxury, irreplaceable heirloom, and an embodiment of history and tradition. Of the many names and labels attached to luxury watches, one thing’s for sure: they’ve fascinated us for generations, regardless of where we come from and our personal background.

Here to answer our questions this month is Alex Neo, founder of TVG, a leading purveyor of exclusive timepieces from quality microbrands. Read on for a peek into the illustrious world of watches. Find out just what it takes to get started and what they really stand for.



How did you enter the watch trade?


I was in the trade of luxury watches for a decade before I started TVG.

At the time, I was looking to fill a vacuum within the market. I wanted to be able to provide people with more options, to find a middle ground where consumers are able to access good timepieces that are both unique in their character and yet doesn’t cost a bomb.


Why did you choose to bring in the watches that you bring in?


I look for watches with character. They have to first appeal to me on a personal level. As such, most of the watches at TVG have a unique character that will showcase various personalities. They have to stand out and shine on their own, instead of being a “me too” watch that is on every other person’s wrist.

I’d say that the watches at TVG, you won’t see it at other shops or retailers. They also don’t necessarily conform to the norm and do indeed take certain personality traits to really accept their designs.



Do you only deal with microbrands?


Yes, TVG is 100% microbrand. We don’t have to engage in price wars with mainstream brands, especially with the rise of e-commerce these days. We’re also able to focus on individual designs and product differentiation. I’m very strict on deciding which brands to work with – they need to have a robust product development strategy so that they’re able to keep things fresh and innovative, constantly better their precision and quality, and regularly push out new product lines.

It’s only sustainable if clients can follow these brands down the road, having new options to choose from time to time, instead of simply banging on individual products.


Can you tell us more about how they stand out and why they’re better?


They’re not mass produced, fairly priced, and consumers can easily access the brand owners themselves so there’s a closer relationship between buyer and owner.


Without a huge bank account, how do we start our own collection of watches?


It’s important to first establish what you’re looking for and what you really want. Are you looking for something tradeable? Something versatile? Or something dependable to wear daily?

From novelty collections to unique Japanese brands, big luxury names to independent microbrands, the reality is it’s a fluid market now. Consumers have very flexible and dynamic mindsets these days. It’s not so much the brands, price tags, or even familial heritage anymore; rather, it really depends on individual context and exposure.

Consumers prefer buying something that highlights their personal traits and preferences these days. Especially for high-end consumers, they’re looking for exclusivity more than just a brand name. A rare, limited microbrand piece that can’t be found on the market, for instance, would appeal to them a whole lot more than the premier series of a luxury house.



Can you summarise the key differences between big watchmakers with heritage and contemporary brands?


Production. The big heritage brands have the ability to meet demand around the world. Even with specific collections and their relevant short supplies, these brands have resources at their disposal, to tap into when needed.

Independent microbrands almost have a ceiling in their supply capacity. Even though their demand may not be as huge, their resources are also significantly lesser. As a result, they face a pressure to make every cent count – without additional resources, they have no choice but to make carefully calculated moves, even if it means limiting themselves sometimes.


What are the terms laymen should look out for when shopping for watches?


The Movement. It’s how the watch is powered – how the entire mechanism moves, basically. The most common are manual, automatic, and quartz movements. If you’re looking to pamper yourself with something exquisite, but yet prefer a fuss-free piece that you’ll be wearing on most days, I’d say go for automatic watches.

Then, I’ll look out for the country – is it Swiss, Jap, or German made, for example – and the materials used on the watch. After that, pick it up or even wear it if possible, and just see if you like it. At the end of the day, like every other aspect of your grooming and outfit choices, it really boils down to how you feel about the piece – it’s an emotional trade, after all.


So which do you go for – Swiss, Jap, or German?


Swiss, because I came from that industry. And we really cannot deny the Swiss of their prowess in watchmaking. My next choice would be Japanese, then the rest of the pool. Because of the Japanese’ constant innovation, there was actually a time when their market was ahead of the Swedes’.



Would you recommend quartz or mechanical watches at the same price points?


Mechanical. Because mechanical watches have a spirit within them. They carry generations of engineering and artisanal mastery. Battery-operated watches almost feel lifeless inside, if we look at it that way.


Do modern watches and independent brands have their own value for our generation?


Yes, definitely. Like we mentioned earlier, the value attached to watches are in nature very intangible. Any watch could form part – or even the start – of your watch collecting journey. If we look at contemporary microbrands, even with the modern market’s level of competition, they have been able to sell; because they’re fundamentally willing sellers providing for willing buyers.

With new trends and definitions when it comes to value and prestige, microbrands have also been on the rise due to their production limitations. Due to limited stock, buyers may not be able to procure one even if they’re willing to pay. In turn, their values surge in the eyes of avid collectors and VIPs.


To find out more about TVG's exclusive collections and unique timepieces, head over to their official website here.