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Making time for everyone
WATCH collectors can be a bit like football fans - many are loyalists and stick fiercely to only what they like.
Some are even elitists, believing quality is based purely on price tags and only see Swiss-made movements as the pinnacle of horology.
Sean Wai is determined to change that and he's been doing a good job at it over the last six years since starting moVas, short for "movements of Asia" - named because the Malaysian-born, Singapore-based architect sources all his parts and movements from the region.
That enables him to keep prices of moVas watches - which are now assembled here in Singapore - affordable, compared to one with a similar Swiss movement.
"Five to 10 years ago, it would have been impossible," notes Mr Wai, who designs the timepieces himself, "When we started, it was unheard of to have a Chinese-made movement in a mid-range watch; to some extent, this is still frowned-upon but perhaps less so."
The 39-year-old attributes this to the growing affluence in the region and the growing confidence that Asian brands too can be world-class.
Couple that with patient marketing and strong word-of-mouth and moVas has convinced collectors that a watch doesn't necessarily need a Swiss-made movement or high price tag to attain luxury status.
"We noticed that other brands are starting to follow the same path as us and I guess, if not for anything else, it is a good indication that peoples' perceptions are changing," Mr Wai points out.
Case in point: SevenFriday is a Zurich-based brand that has been wowing watch collectors worldwide with its unique rectangular case designs while using the robust Miyota movement made by Japanese watchmakers Citizen.
Likewise, Mr Wai's military- and diver-inspired designs haven't gone unnoticed as watch aficionados have been giving his work the thumbs-up for its unique sportiness and sensible pricing right from moVas' early days.
Fans of the brand include Jean-Paul Maunick from British acid jazz act Incognito and local actor Lim Kay Siu, who is also moVas' brand ambassador.
Not only that, Ariel Adams, founder of influential international watch website ablogtowatch gave moVas' first watch, the GMT, a glowing review as early as back in 2010, not long after Mr Wai started it. That model is now a collectible because it has gone out of production but it has also evolved into the GMT II, which bears its own signature octagonal case.
"In some of our newer designs, we play up the different ways a watch can be constructed," says Mr Wai, whose architectural background naturally comes in handy when he conceptualises a new piece.
"Technical aspects and detailing become very important; articulation of the parts that make up a watch - for example, the bezel, case, caseback - and how all these elements come together becomes the focus of the watch," he explains.
This has not only resulted in more intricate designs but some of the watches also have complicated movements to boot, like the limited edition T2 tourbillon model. Not bad for a company that's just over five years old and which started out simply outsourcing everything.
These days, short of developing its own calibres, everything is done in-house. "Now we design every single part of the watch, assemble and test them ourselves and are looking at modifying movements, making skeletonised plates and exploring going into precious stones and metals," Mr Wai shares.
Upping moVas' own game is critical to the brand's evolution as it slowly moves into complicated movements. "We started with S$300 watches and are now selling watches around the S$1,000-2,000 range; it is not just a big jump in pricing but also quality, designs and overall construction," Mr Wai says. "We could have just continued to sell lower entry-level watches, but that is just not in our nature and we do not see the brand improving that way."
On moVas' next phase of growth, he adds: "We hope to push our brand up the chain steadily (and) we will try to do this by improving our designs, customising more parts and eventually having our own movements."
To view the full collection of moVas watches and to order one, check www.movaswatches.com