Cover L'Epée, one of the brands Cultured retails in Singapore

Founders Nelson Lee and Ali Nael share their motivations and ambitions for “Asia’s Baselworld”, launching in October 2022

As the ongoing JeweLuxe Festival draws to a close with its final chapter, “From the Beginning of Time”, which runs until 22 April, exciting news have surfaced: the inaugural edition of Singapore Watch Fair will be held in October this year.

The brainchild of JeweLuxe’s co-founder Nelson Lee and 2ToneVintage's founder Ali Nael, Singapore Watch Fair is both the offshoot of and spiritual successor to the watch-centric segments of JeweLuxe so far. The fair will see the participation of independent watchmaking brands, auction houses and retailers on a larger scale, with promise of an elevated positioning to boot. In this exclusive interview, Lee and Nael share more about these changes.

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Tell us about this final chapter of JeweLuxe, which is centred on watches.

Nelson Lee (NL): JeweLuxe has always been very closely associated with not just jewellery, but also watches, and I think it shows in “From the Beginning of Time”. However, we made the decision last year to carve this segment out from the fair and enter a multi-tier partnership with Ali. It’s an interesting progression beginning with the debut of Cultured, a retail brand focused on independent watches. We are also moving on to host the Singapore Watch Fair in October, which is a standalone watch fair. In a way, we are ending the watch segment’s participation in JeweLuxe very strongly, then immediately moving on to develop its identity further.

Ali Nael (AN): What we’ve done is to separate the watch content out from JeweLuxe, and given it its own brand. Cultured and Singapore Watch Fair are now part of a bigger group, A&N Luxury, which Nelson and I founded to grow this part of the business together. While JeweLuxe remains focused on jewellers, A&N Luxury will focus on watches in various ways, including Cultured and Singapore Watch Fair.

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Does this mean that JeweLuxe will go lighter on watch content in its subsequent editions?

AN: Yes this is already happening.

NL: I think a good way to see it is that the ongoing chapter of JeweLuxe is almost like a teaser for what Singapore Watch Fair will offer later this year.

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What are your plans for Singapore Watch Fair then?

NL: We want to build on the growth that we’ve already had over its previous iterations. What we want to do this year is to offer a new, elevated positioning, from the partners we bring in to the format of the fair itself. Attendees can look forward to having prominent watchmakers flying down to attend the fair in person, for one. We will also have panel discussions, private dinners and other activities centred around the fair’s physical location at Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road. The idea is to make this Asia’s Baselworld, to present the best of watchmaking from around the world—in Singapore.

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How would you like to develop this new fair?

AN: We want to elevate the experience for attendees, for a start, like what Nelson mentioned. We also want subsequent editions to have more and more brands coming on board, especially international ones. We are cognisant of the limitations that we have, given the presence of other retailers in Singapore, but we are always on the lookout for new brands that are making an impact on the market with beautiful creations that we as collectors can admire.

There’s a retail element to JeweLuxe, in that attendees can buy the jewellery and watches that they are interested in. Will this be the case for Singapore Watch Week?

AN: They will be able to, because they’d be meeting the watchmakers behind the brands who can take their orders. The interaction and personal touch is something that Singapore Watch Week will be able to offer.

NL: It will actually be the best time to buy the watches, because you’d be talking directly with the watchmakers who created them. We’ve never believed in the distinction between B2B and B2C models for such fairs anyway. We want to be consumer first, and the consumer can be equally well-served whether the brand has direct access to them, or whether a retailer decides to come in as the intermediary.

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