RZE, Vario and Mitch Mason get together for “Unplug & Wind” and show us why you should consider Singaporean microbrands for your next watch
Do you ever trawl through the depths of YouTube watch content, hearing channels talk about recent watch fairs, conventions, or gatherings at bars and wonder to yourself, what would it be like to attend such an event? Well, I have and I’ve finally gotten my answer after attending my first (ever!) local watch event.
Tldr – it was awesome. Go out and find a local watch event now and thank me later.
If you’re still here (you’re lovely), here’s what went down:
Some time back in March, I had the good fortune of getting to know Ivan, the founder of Vario, who kindly lent me the Empire Automatic for review with no strings or conditions attached (Thanks Ivan!). As we chatted, he shared about “Unplug & Wind” – an upcoming event he was organising together with 2 other local brands, Mitch Mason and RZE.
The event would be something of a showcase for the 3 brands, giving enthusiasts a chance to play around with their watches and interact directly with the founders. Ivan graciously extended an invitation to me, which I of course accepted (with gleeful internal shouts of “Look Ma I’ve made it!“. Just kidding, Ivan was being nice).
Truth be told, I was half-excited, half-apprehensive. I hadn’t been to a watch event/gathering before, and the watch world can be pretty harsh sometimes. Would it be full of judgmental stares from watch snobs? Do I even know enough about watches? Was it going to be awkward?
With a bunch of unanswered questions in mind, I headed towards the café where the event was being hosted, unaware that I would be in for a horological treat.
Unplug & Wind was going to be from 7.30pm to 10.30pm; I had planned to turn up slightly after 7.30pm, which I estimated would be when some people would have gathered, and I could simply mingle into the crowd. When I reached the café however, I was surprised.
Given how it was just past 7.30pm, I had expected maybe 5-10 early birds; there had to be at least 15-20 people already inside, gathered round a central table with so many watches laid out on it. A curious pair stood outside the café, whom I joined as I wondered about my next step.
“Excuse me, do you know what’s going on here?”, asked one of the onlookers as he peered at the event poster, stuck on the outside of the doors. I explained it was a watch event, featuring 3 local brands (SG pride!). At this point, Ivan catches us all at the door, and invites us in, giving the passersby a quick introduction.
I pause awkwardly for a moment, taking in the situation. The café is nice and spacious, complete with sandwiches and finger food, whisky, gin and mixers. Talk about a party!
I take a deep breath, and decide to dive right into it, heading to the nearest tray of watches as I slot myself into the little crowd. I reach for a watch; its a RZE with a textured dial, inspired by the glaciers.
The guy on my left turns and says hi, and before I know it, we’re exchanging thoughts and opinions on the different models on display. What we liked, what we didn’t like; the conversation flows more naturally than I expected. Soon, others join in, and I’m enjoying the vibe as we geek out over things like case size, the straps and bracelets – the little things most others wouldn’t care about.
Amongst the various RZE watches on display, my favourite was the Resolute Super Compressor in Medallion Yellow. I’d seen it online before and was pleasantly surprised to find that the watch fit very well with a compact lug-to-lug, despite its strong visual presence. The yellow of the dial was closer to orange, a lovely shade reminiscent of warm sunlight.
As I move about, I’m receiving questions on what I’m wearing; it’s a watch that hasn’t made its debut here, but will be featured here in time to come: an Omega Dynamic III Chronograph. I’d been eyeing the watch for a long time and recently purchased it this year at an amazing price to boot. The piece is a great conversation starter, and I’m swapping watches with people around me. I manage to try on a Farer Resolute 36mm and (what I think is) a Rolex Explorer II 16570; kudos to the kind folks out there if you’re reading this!
The next tray belonged to Vario, and showcased its many different watches. What I noticed and liked, was that every Vario series was markedly different from the other. Each series has its unique theme and story, making for an interesting experience as you move from watch to watch.
Amongst the various pieces, my favourite was the Versa, Vario’s latest release featuring a reversible case with 2 different faces and setting of 2 different times. To change the watch face, you simply had to rotate the inner case around its axle, allowing you to achieve 2 different looks with the same watch. You might think that the watch would be big and chunky, but Vario has kept it nice and compact considering there are 2 independent quartz movements in there. Its elegant yet sporty, and clearly popular – 3 out of 5 available colourways have already sold out.
With a self-made gin & tonic in hand, I headed to the last tray where Mitch Mason was. Mitch Mason currently has 2 models: the Chronicle and Maelstrom.
The Maelstrom is a dive watch with an internal rotating bezel, while the Chronicle is Mitch Mason’s interpretation of the field watch and my favourite of the 2.
I had seen the brand online before, and was curious about how the Chronicle would wear on wrist. On paper, the 36.5mm case size sounded ideal, but the case looked rather substantial, with its “blockier” shape. On wrist however, the dimensions make sense, and the Chronicle projects visual presence without compromising on wearability.
I particularly liked this cream dial variant – the hour hand was particularly striking and very much unconventional.
Moving from brand to brand, I had the opportunity to speak with each founder. It was an interesting experience; being a watch blogger, I’m pretty much at the end of the consumer journey, and its difficult to get behind the scenes of what went into making a certain watch. Here, I could ask about their design inspirations, hear their stories and talk about what lay in store.
I suppose that is one benefit of purchasing a microbrand – if its not a one man show, the teams are often small and you can provide feedback directly to the founders as compared to big names, where the furthest you’ll go is probably a disgruntled AD retail assistant. Starting a watch brand probably isn’t easy, and it was heartening to see Ivan (Vario), Travis (RZE) and Ben (Mitch Mason) pushing forward with their passions.
As the night drew to a close, I finished off the last remnants of my drink, and thanked the organisers for a Friday night well spent. Before I leave, I’m handed a paper bag – 1 for every guest who had turned up. I hadn’t expected a door gift, but was pleasantly surprised to find a watch roll, 2 NATO straps and a T-shirt. Suffice to say, I left with a smile on my face – can’t say no to watch goodies yeah?
And so, if you’re a first-time-watch-event-attendee like me, or are still thinking about whether or not you should head for a local event, here’s 2 good reasons:
- The Tribe
- The people are really nice! Most of them are fellow enthusiasts, and are all there for the same reason you are: watches. With a common topic that can go on for hours and hours, there probably won’t be much awkward silence. Just let loose, share your thoughts and be a good listener. Sure, there’s probably going to be some snobs here and there – just give them that well-practiced half smile and move on. Most importantly, don’t be a snob yourself – geek out on watches, and soak in those good vibes.
- The Watches
- Watches, watches and more watches. There are soooo many watches. Not only those on display, but those on wrists – it’s wrist candy galore. Casually ask what someone is wearing, and they’ll probably be more than happy to tell you about it. Be nice and you might even get a wrist shot, or best – try it on yourself! These events are a great way to be exposed to multiple brands and watches you never knew you needed (your wallet is secretly crying, I hear it).
- Pro tip #1: In case you’re wondering, please, wear a watch. Showing up at a watch event without a watch is like showing up to a gun fight without even a knife. Well technically, it’s not nearly as life threatening, nor even remotely violent, but there’s no better way to strike up a conversation than to ask about what’s on a wrist. Having a watch on means fellow enthusiasts get one more watch to look at – everyone wins!
- Pro tip #2: If you’re interested in someone’s watch, don’t be afraid to ask nicely. You should also ask if the other party’s cool with you taking some pictures, or trying it on. Do also expect people to ask to see, feel or try on your watch. If you’re not comfortable with that, keep it friendly and decline politely.
Ultimately, if you like watches, give it a shot; I’m sure you’ll get something out of it – perhaps a new friend or two, or maybe even a watch?
I know I’m looking forward to my next event.