Cover Photo: Stephanie Teng for Tatler Asia

Raphael P Young’s need to blow off steam compelled him to become a die-hard watch collector

After spending some time with Raphael P Young at Hong Kong’s The Upper House, where we enjoy a stealthy mid-afternoon cocktail together, it becomes obvious that this watch collector is a true original whose character combines passion, precision and panache. Smiling and bespectacled, with shoulder-length hair tied back in the style of a debonair, world-conquering James Bond villain, Young has been buying watches for about 20 years alongside his wife, Linda.

His collection runs the gamut from Richard Mille, IWC Schaffhausen and Audemars Piguet to an incredible limited-edition World Time wristwatch by Patek Philippe, which is his most treasured piece. “In 2017, I travelled to the States several times and spent a lot of time in New York, which I found very inspirational,” he tells me. So when Patek launched the World Time Ref 5230G New York Limited Edition, he couldn’t resist seeing it in the flesh at an exhibition held by the watchmaker at Cipriani Wall Street, a power-lunch establishment in downtown Manhattan. “It was so beautiful and very discreet.” At around US$53,000 a pop, only 300 were produced, each with a detailed dial depicting New York’s skyline.

Young’s collecting ethos isn’t limited to a specific brand or aesthetic; instead, he looks for watches that resonate with his values or remind him of certain milestones. His first serious purchase was a Franck Muller Long Island in white gold, which he bought to take the pressure off after an eight-month-long project during which he hardly slept. “I had been working on a merger integration project for a banking group here in Hong Kong,” he says.

Soon, Young made a habit of treating himself to a new timepiece after big professional wins. About ten years ago, after a particularly successful 12 months in Singapore, for example, he acquired the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin Ref 15202 in stainless steel, which was released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the watchmaker’s Royal Oak.

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There’s a common thread that runs across Young’s many interests—his persistent pursuit of improvement. Whether it’s in his business as a management consultant, his passion for sports or his collecting, Young is focused on success. “I’m a curious person and have always wanted to learn, so the research that goes into collecting is really fun for me. I love the hunt.”

Despite collecting mostly modern wristwatches, Young is especially interested in collections with strong histories. His Rolex Submariner Ref 116618LB, for example, which he fondly refers to as “Bluesy”, is arguably the world’s most celebrated divers’ watch. The Submariner has been worn by Hollywood actors, sports legends and pretty much every other set of noteworthy people you can think of.

Young regularly shops at Harrods and flew to London specially to collect his yellow gold model from the department store. While there, he and Linda were invited to attend a concert at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden alongside the venue’s chief executive, Alex Beard, and Richard de Leyser, managing director of Rolex UK. Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco was performed by world-renowned opera singer Plácido Domingo, who Young met afterwards at the post-performance dinner, which was also attended by Rolex CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour.

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Young is especially charmed by Rolex, and owns a Cosmograph Daytona in almost every case metal. He managed to get his hands on the highly sought-after Pepsi-bezel GMT-Master II, which was one of the most talked-about new watches at Baselworld 2018. Again, he flew to London to collect his new purchase, which he wore days later at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, where Roger Federer was the defending champion. Young bought the Tudor Black Bay GMT Ref 79830RB two years later. Nicknamed “Diet Pepsi” by collectors because of its near-identical bezel, it makes a compelling companion for the Rolex GMT-Master II.

More recently, Young acquired the newly unveiled Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight with a navy dial. “There was a lot of hype surrounding this watch,” he tells me. “It was probably the most hyped-up watch in 2020. I got it in October and just love it.”

Over the last year, Young has also started collecting luxury fountain pens, mostly from Namiki and Montblanc, which he also refers to by their various nicknames—“Diplomat”, “Nob”, “Classic Twist”. “A gentleman should always wear a good watch and carry a good fountain pen,” he declares, as if implementing an official law. He also appreciates bespoke clothing, and wears a custom-made, maroon-coloured Brunello Cucinelli blazer to our interview. After all, what’s the point in amassing a prestigious array of watches if you have nothing to wear them with?

See also: Hong Kong's Watch Collectors Are Some Of The Most Knowledgeable, Says Jacob & Co Founder

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