Prime Time King: Johnathan Chan, co-founder of watch-collecting community The Horology Club, cherishes the new complications in his life

A horological revolution is underway, spearheaded by Johnathan Chan and his cohorts’ passionate pursuit of timepieces. What began as a friendly fascination with watches has budded into the establishment of Hong Kong’s first inclusive community for watch collectors, aptly named The Horology Club. A commitment to individualism and a desire to break free from the uniformity often associated with the city’s watch culture has led to a haven for people to share their love for distinctive timepieces.

As for his own wrist rewards, Chan opts for well-tuned and elevated classics in keeping with his status and style as one of the club’s three co-founders, as well as choices that may turn heads. “Ever since I was a child, I have always been a bit of a non-conformist. I always enjoyed going against what was supposed to be the ‘right’ path,” he recollects. “Well, that’s a nice way to put it; basically, I was a rebellious child! I think this has carried on to my taste with watches, I derive enjoyment from picking watches that might be off the beaten path.”

When we meet in his smart Hong Kong residence, Chan is deep in his work zone. The 36-year-old millennial is an alpha male in appearance but radiates affability and approachability, tempered today perhaps by a hint of jetlag – only 24 hours ago he was in Geneva for Watches and Wonders 2024. He wears a beige sports jacket, white button-down shirt and dress shoes with the same sense of nonchalance and ease as he does T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Not surprisingly, he is well-versed in interviews, especially when they revolve around watches.

“It was crazy busy in Geneva,” he exclaims, happily. “I’ve been doing this [talking about timepieces] for the past few days. Non-stop. So I guess Watches and Wonders helped me prep for today!”

Once Upon A Time

Truth be told, watches have run Chan’s life for a relatively short time. He has clocked up a decade and a half in finance, and it was only five years ago that a relaxed afternoon with a buddy changed everything. On his Instagram account – where his handle is, fittingly, @watchbruh – a recent post of multiple monitor screens attests to his last working days of living the dream as an equity derivatives trader.

Black sweater top by Zara, grey pants by Suit Supply, Greubel Forsey Double Balancier S2

“I have worked in the finance sector for 15+ years and for the last 12 years, I was an equity derivatives trader, trading mostly for Hong Kong markets. I got into the world of watches through a good friend Helbert Tsang, who is also one of the co-founders of The Horology Club,” he says. “I have him to blame for being on the verge of financial ruin, as he was the one who introduced me to this hobby!”

Their chat sparked a desire on his part to own a unique timepiece that resonated with his personal style, and that quest led him to select the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Geographic as his first watch. Its sector dial and second time-zone complication captured his imagination, setting the stage for his horological odyssey.

Hour Legacy

Today, a number of more off-beat collectibles show the depth of his new-found connection with watches. There’s the Greubel Forsey Double Balancier Convexe S2; a vintage Vacheron Constantin Chronograph; the MB&F x Urwerk C3H5N3O9 ‘Nitroglycerine’ ZR012 Experiment; and a custom design Laurent Ferrier Micro-rotor, the only one in the world made in tantalum. In between posing for the camera, he explains the technical attributes of each piece and how it speaks to him as a collector. His passion is crystal clear and very endearing.

Chan’s collection is impressive, running the gamut from unusual cult classics to instantly recognisable icons. “I truly believe a watch is like an extension of your personality, and so when you are spending so much money on something that will be on your wrist all day, often the last thing you want is to wear the same thing as everyone else. Naturally, it leads to my pursuit of timepieces that are generally rarer and more unique.”

Denim shirt by Zara, white T-shirt by COS, denim pants by Levis and MB&F x Urwerk C3H5N3O9 “Nitroglycerine” ZR012 Experiment

At the other end of the spectrum, he also owns a Cloche de Cartier nicknamed ‘Belle Pêche’ (Beautiful Peach), a special order for The Horology Club that he personally designed. Key to this piece is the versatility of its unique bell-shaped case: it’s elegant enough to be worn with a suit or tuxedo, while still sufficiently sporty to match more casual outfits. It’s an effortlessly cool watch, not unlike the man himself.

“For me, emotion is the most important characteristic when it comes to deciding the value of a watch,” he says. “Oftentimes, when I decide to purchase a watch, it’s actually down to the relationship I have with the people behind the brand. These relationships have led to The Horology Club Creations, where we have a hand in the design of the watch. Naturally, this evokes strong emotions when seeing the end product – almost like it’s your own child, and that feeling is irreplaceable.”

Complication Relationships

In addition to organising regular events and devising content to enrich the watch-collecting experience, The Horology Club has given rise to smaller subgroups that explore other shared interests such as sports, photography, art and wine. By fostering these connections beyond the realm of watches, the club creates a sense of camaraderie and provides a welcoming environment for members to engage in meaningful conversations and forge lasting friendships.

“The most rewarding aspect has definitely been the people; I’ve been able to meet some of my closest friends through the club and these are relationships that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” he shares. “Also, it’s about being able to provide a platform for people to find out more about their own tastes. At our events, people are able to see watches they might not ever see. When you try these on, sometimes you realise something you never thought was suitable for you might be a perfect choice!”

Blue polo sweater by COS, denim pants by Levis, unique piece Laurent Ferrier Micro-Rotor in Tantalum watch and white sneakers by Common Projects

With Chan’s leadership and the passion of its members, The Horology Club is poised to shape the future of watch culture in Hong Kong. And in their case, in contrast to other fast-growing communities, the more complications the better.

“The culture at The Horology Club is a draw as we highly emphasise on the openess and inclusiveness of the watch family. Everyone is on a different path with different tastes and it doesn’t matter what or how you collect. Every story and watch is worthy of hearing. This culture of being kind is at the heart of our community.”

As our shoot and interview draws to a close, Chan checks his watch and looks relieved. A tennis match, his next session of the day, awaits. He smiles and gestures with air quotes. “That was fast. We’re right on ‘time’.”

Interview, Text and Art Direction by: Joseff Musa Photographer: Jack Law Videographer: Jack Fontanilla Cover: Beige sport jacket and white shirt by The Armoury, grey pants by Zara, watch by The Horology Club Special Order Cartier Cloche and black dress shoes by Johnston and Murphy