Passion that stands test of time

Keeping up to date: Wong flipping through his collection of watch catalogues and (above) working on a watch with the aid of the loupe eyepiece to magnify the details.

PENANGITE Vincent Ong was only 21 when he decided to apply to Rolex Singapore Private Ltd as a watch repairer.

He got the job and that was the start of his horology career.

Thirteen years down the road, he is still repairing, overhauling and restoring complicated mechanical watches which may have parts numbering anything from 200 up to 300 and more.

“I was with Rolex for three years, and I was sent for training at the headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, where I was taught the fine art of watchmaking and repair.

“During my time with Rolex, they only took in a batch of people from all over the world to attend the four-month course,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Wong, 34, said from there, he proceeded to work with Breitling SA, a watch manufacturer famous for its civil aviation pieces.

He worked in Singapore before moving to Sydney for five years to work with Cartier and Zenith.

“I decided to return to Penang in 2013 due to personal family reasons. I took a break for about a year before opening up my own business called Grand Montre (montre means watch or timepiece in French) at the Penang Plaza in Burmah Road.

“Business has been fairly good and I get to do something that I love. Timepieces are my passion and I get to repair some really nice ones such as a diamond-encrusted Cartier, which can easily cost more than RM100,000,” he said.

Wong said in this day and age, watchmakers are rare and there are only watch repairers, as pieces are manufactured en masse.

He added that he was taught to sit properly by his trainers in Switzerland. Overhauling a complicated timepiece can take hours.

Each part needs to be looked at with a loupe (a small magnification device) and good posture is needed for this.

“I have to be very careful when putting back a watch with more than 300 parts. Only an experienced watch repairer can put it back properly. If there’s one part left out, the watch will not function properly at all. It will take me about two to three hours to put back a single watch.

“It usually takes me about 10 days to service a single watch. One thing I notice about Malaysians is that they do not send their watches for servicing. They only come to see me when their watches have stopped working.

“Mechanical watches need servicing just like a human body needs to go for a medical check-up,” Wong said.

Besides repairing watches, he also likes ‘hunting’ down watches for people.

“I see this as a challenge. Just tell me the model you are interested in and I will try to get it for you. The thrill for me is in the ‘hunt’,” he said.

Wong can be reached at 010-4640622 or

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