Tidlos Craft had the pleasure of inviting Edison Neil Chen (@bmaggieforever), Chief Director of Perfection Plastic Surgery Group, to talk about his passion for watch collecting, multicultural background and his love for the art world.
Photo Courtesy of Edison Neil Chen
TC: Where are you and your family from and where have you spent time?
Edison: My family is from Taiwan. My grandfather on my father’s side was actually Japanese, adopted by Taiwanese parents post-colonial war in Taiwan. My great-grandmother on my mom’s side was Canadian so I was actually born in Vancouver, Canada, and raised in Taiwan.
In 1997, the situation in Asia was very unpredictable. As Hong Kong was returned back to China, many parents sent their children abroad due to the situation. I was sent to Canada that year at the age of 9 to avoid the situation and stayed with a local family. It was a little hard for me to integrate with them at such a young age. My parents stayed in Taiwan to take care of my younger brother at the time. Today all our family members are back in Taiwan operating a beauty clinic group as a family business.
TC: Where and what did you study?
Edison: It was very interesting to go to primary school in Vancouver because you could choose your own classes. It was something new to me because in Taiwan every class was decided by school for us. I later went back to Taiwan to finish junior high school. When I was 16, my father’s Cambridge professor friend selected me to be a student in the UK. I spent a year at the preparation school but I didn’t like studying engineering so I went back to Taiwan.
I was later signed by an artist agency back in Taiwan surrounded by TV show culture and funnily they even kept my long hair as part of the contract, my mom was pretty upset about my long hair (laughs). Since my father is a doctor, it is perfectly normal in our culture to expect your kids to become doctors as well. I later turned down the artist path and studied law in Taiwan as my parents expected me to. I got a Master's Degree at the National Taiwan University and started my career as an attorney here in Taiwan. Sometimes I wonder how it would be if I ever had the record made by the agency (haha).
TC: What is your job and what does it teach you?
Edison: My first case at my attorney job was a divorce case. My female client was beaten regularly by her husband, however never went to the hospital every time the husband begged for forgiveness. She finally came to me because he tried to run her and their children over. In Taiwan’s court, we are not based on cases themselves but merely on rules, so I asked her to wear a secret wire at all times so I could write up everything in order to provide evidence to the judge.
Being exposed to negativities, suffering and long working hours, I was unhappy and unhealthy so I took my mother’s offer to join our family business as they will retire eventually. Now I work as the Chief Director of the professional plastic surgery group. Everyday I help people gain confidence and learn how it helps their lives. I see smiles every day and that makes me happy, it is indeed very different from being an attorney.
TC: When did you get interested in watches?
Edison: When I was 5, there was the first release of Casio G-Shock. One of my kindergarten teachers wore it everyday. It looked very much like the transformation tool from the anime Mashin Hero Wataru (魔神英雄伝ワタル) – a wrist launch control. You could press the button and become a robot. I begged him to let me wear it everyday, it was the highlight of my school time. I fell in love with watches from this time.
Photo Courtesy of greatgame.asia
Photo Courtesy of gshock.com
TC: Were watches important in your family? Did your parents own watches?
Edison: They all love watches, one thing my family values very much is to be on time so all of us have our own watches, I was told very little that being on time is politeness so a watch has been a very important tool for me.
My father has a Vacheron Constantin Rose Gold Moonphase, I didn’t appreciate it that much as I like simple dials as opposed to fancy dials like that. However, as I am 36 now, I love this watch, its design and movement are truly magnificent. As for my mom, she loves Piaget and Chanel, she is more into fashion brands, her favorite is her J12.
I bought for my wife a Gold Daytona with a green dial as a mother’s day present. She didn’t like it that much at first because it is quite big and too shiny. Until one day she saw the John Mayer interview and realized that it is a smart investment and appreciates it now (laughs).
Mrs. Chen’s Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Green Dial. Photo Courtesy of Edison Neil Chen
Talking Watches with John Mayer 2
TC: What was your first watch when growing up and what is the story behind it?
Edison: I bought myself a Swatch when I got my first ever paycheck to remember the moment. I had gotten back from the UK when I was 17, I was a kids' summer teacher. I think many people would buy Swatch as their first watch as the designs are very young and cool, and they are very affordable as well.
TC: What was your first mechanical watch?
Edison: I had two mechanical watches at the beginning of my collection. The actual first watch was a Cartier Santos, it was given to me by my father when I finished high school at the age of 18. He told me that I needed a serious watch like a Santos. It has a great design for men, it is very masculine.
The first mechanical watch I bought for myself was a Dior Homme Chiffre Rouge designed by Hedi Slimane as I have always been into fashion. It has a completely black dial with only the date in red which represents that every day should be a joyful and relaxing day like a weekend. I appreciate this design concept very much. Although many people told me that Dior doesn’t produce their own movements and the value will not last, I still think it’s a great watch, I’ll never sell this watch.
Cartier Santos Given by Edison’s Father, Photo Courtesy of Edison Neil Chen
Dior Homme Chiffre Rouge, Photo Courtesy of Watchviews
TC: Which watches hold special meaning to you and why?
Edison: Every watch I own was purchased to remember a significant moment. For example, my Paul Newman, I chose it because my business was doubling last year even during Covid-19.
“EACH OF MY PURCHAES IS TO REMEMBER THAT WE PUT A LOT OF EFFORT, EVERYONE WORKED HARD TO GET TO WHERE WE ARE TODAY.”
I got it in Singapore from a watch dealer. They don’t normally come with papers and I usually get them from dealers who are friends. This watch is my new possession.
I also own 3 Richard Milles, RM005 White Gold, RM1103 in full Rose Gold, and RM55 an American Special. RM005 shares my birth date which is the 5th, it is 44mm, pretty much the smallest you can get for men. I got my RM005 in Tokyo. There is an authorized dealer for pre-owned Richard Milles called “The Next One.” RM005 was discontinued in 2012, it is impossible to get a brand new one, at that time there were only 3 in the world – France, New York, and Tokyo, I went through a lot of difficulties to get it. After all the phone calls with all the dealers I know, I told my wife “Let’s go to Tokyo tomorrow.” I made a lot of promises to the Tokyo watch dealer, of course, my wife thought I was totally crazy but I went anyway and flew back to Taiwan the next day.
Richard Mille RM005, Photo Courtesy os Edison Neil Chen
TC: Do you have one watch that you wear often?
Edison: I pretty much don’t change it that often. When I have a new watch I wear it for a year. This year I wore the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3800 most of the time. My wife always questions me about why I buy so many watches as I don’t change often (laughs). Besides the latest Patek Philippe 3800, I also have a Nautilus Perpetual Calendar White Gold 5740 and a PP 5164 Aquanaut Travel Time which you can see a lot of scratches on because I once wore it very often.
Edison’s Rolex Collection, Photo Courtesy of Edison Neil Chen
Both the Nautilus 3800 and the Paul Newman watch have a 37.5mm case size, I think I look better with smaller watches and that’s why I would choose these two over the others. However, the Paul Newman one is manual-winding. As much as I love the sound, I would still wear the Nautilus 3800 more often as it’s more practical.
Edison’s Patek Philippe Collection, Photo Courtesy of Edison Neil Chen
TC: What brands are you drawn to and why?
Edison: I have an MB&F clock, they usually make bigger clocks but they launched a smaller spaceship watch with spider-like legs last year that I got in the Taipei MB&F M.A.D. Gallery. There were three colors, each of them only produced 99 pieces in the world. I normally don’t like independent watchmakers because it’s hard to get them serviced but I couldn’t resist the beautiful designs. I adore this gallery, they also have independent brands like HYT and Urwerk. The owner is a woman from the finance industry and a watch enthusiast. It is a pleasure to have known her.
The brand I appreciate the most these days is Patek Philippe. I have to admit that when I was in my 20s, I did not like Patek Philippe at all as they looked very old to me. Now that I am more mature it really grew on me. Like everyone says, the Nautilus bracelet is the most comfortable in the world, I agree with it fully now.
I personally would like to have a Urwerk one day, I am still considering it as it is a bit too military to me.
MB&F OCTOPOD Table Clock, Photo Courtesy of Watch Revolution
MB&F HM9 Flow Road Edition, Photo Courtesy of Edison Neil Chen
MB&F MoonMachine 2, Photo Courtesy of Edison Neil Chen
TC: Which watch would you especially pass on to your son?
Edison: I only have two answers, I will pass on all or none! It depends on if he knows how to appreciate the watches and if he knows how to cherish them. He is still young but I would only give him toys if he knows how to cherish them, otherwise I keep my all or none principle. It’s funny that I have a tray at home where I place my watches separately every day so they don’t scratch each other. My 5-year-old son has recently picked up this habit of placing his Captain America watches carefully, it makes me very proud (laughs).
TC: How do you connect with the watch community?
Edison: IG and FB communities are huge. I also follow Hodinkee and Horoguide in Taiwan. They collaborate with brands and hold VIP events to demonstrate new releases that I am invited to. For my private time, I have private groups with other watch lover friends to share our passions per brand like Patek Philippe, Rolex and Richard Mille. We think it’s better to talk about them separately so you can have a deeper discussion without having to compare them to one another.
Pharell Williams is known internationally, however, it doesn’t help to sell watches in Asia. Eastern People are more influenced by pop stars. People in LA love to put diamonds on their watches and Eastern watch enthusiasts don’t, here it would decrease the value.
TC: What observation do you see in the Asian and Western watch community?
Edison: There is a true difference between them, for Asian society the stars help sell watches. Taiwanese like naming their watches after certain famous people that help the audience recognize the brands and models. Having celebrities wearing certain watches in a way adds value to it, sometimes it’s even accidental how a star helps a brand to promote just by wearing it once. For example, Shawn Yue (余文樂), and Hong Kong actor, wore a Rolex Daytona 116518 once at his wedding, ever since the East Asian community has been calling this watch a Shawn Yue watch.
Other Asian stars name-dropping strategies in the Eastern Chinese market would be Tony Leung Ka-Fai (梁家輝) and JJ Lin (林俊傑). In the US, you can see Pharell Williams known internationally for wearing watches, however, it doesn’t help to sell watches except for the NBA community. I think it is a very weird and interesting phenomenon of pop stars’ influence here.
Another interesting thing I observed is that all my friends in Los Angeles love putting aftermarket diamonds on their luxury watches, especially Nautilus. However, if you do that here in East Asia, that would drop the value of your watch.
TC: Have you attended any watch events or events related to watches?
Edison: Just before Covid-19 hit this May in Taiwan, I was invited to a Tag Heuer-Porsche collaboration event. It was to promote and celebrate their Carerra Series. They are the only two brands that can really use Carerra. The film they showed was very powerful and exciting to learn the history, you can truly connect with them at the event. I later bought that watch for my dad as his Father’s Day present.
Last year I went to an event held by Patek. There was a wooden robot craftsman show at the event but I did not see any connection there. If they were showcasing watch movement craftsmanship, that would make a lot more sense. They just hired some famous Taiwanese YouTubers to review the watches at the event. It was fun and all but hard to see the connections without any stories.
Edison and his Father, Doctor Chen, Photo Courtesy of Edison Neil Chen
TC: What do you think about the future of watch trends?
Edison: These years all depend on the marketing, like Richard Mille. The first authorized Richard Mille dealer was Ferri Jewelry (翡麗珠寶) by the husband of the famous actress Yu Fang (郁方), Steven Chen. He and I are both parts of the Mclaren group in Taiwan so we are friends. Back then, he could sell me a Richard Mille for a significant discount, however now they doubled and tripled the price easily these few years. All because of a great marketing strategy. The same thing happened to the Nautilus 5711 the past five years, no one wanted it originally, you could buy it at a retail price but now the price has been tripled, they can really manipulate minds by marketing.
TC: Do you also collect other things and what is your philosophy?
Edison: I collect paintings and cars. I used to buy things based on preferences and didn't care much whether the object holds long-term value or not. Now that I earned every single penny with my sweat, I started purchasing them by looking at their values. Cars are purely a passion but for paintings and watches, I really care about the market values. For cars, I have a Mclaren 5710, Bentley Continental GT, Rolls Royce, Porsche Macan, and a Panamera.
For arts, I follow auctions closely in order to learn about artists and paintings. In the past three years, I have collected three paintings from Zao Wu-Ki (趙無極), the value of all three pieces has increased a lot lately. I also collect paintings from Miwa Komatsu (小松美羽), a Japanese female artist, who everyone is crazy about. She claims that she can see stuff normal people can’t see such as creatures from heaven and she is able to draw them on a canvas. I own two of her paintings and just happened to sell one yesterday to an auction house for 4 times the price I purchased it from.
The Miwa Komatsu painting I have right here in my office is called “Meeting in the Shinto Ritual” (神道儀式) that I bought at a live auction, it holds a meaning of “right timing”. Everything is about the right timing, you try to close a deal, buy a car, ask the right woman to marry you. Miwa Komatsu named the painting after the ritual because at that moment, she saw the special creature and it looked at her right back and they connected. I think this painting is my lucky charm as our business goes better after its arrival. My art side is greatly influenced by my mother, she has really good tastes, it’s all thanks to her!
“Meeting in the Shinto Ritual” (神道儀式) Painted by Miwa Komatsu in Edison’s Personal Office
TC: What are your plans with your collection?
Edison: I wish I could have a plan, the prices are crazy today. It's the same thing for art collection, I love certain artists but it’s again about timing. Once I have spare money for my personal collection instead of business, I would see what is the best deal at that period of time. For example, I really wanted a 5711R Rose Gold Nautilus but the price has skyrocketed, 4 million NTD is 4 times retail and it’s way too expensive for a Nautilus without special functions.
TC: Is there a holy grail watch, one that you aspire to own someday and why?
Edison: I would love to have a Patek 5004, Salmon Dial with Perpetual Calendar 36mm. It is super elegant but tremendously expensive. I would like to have it before I am 50 years old and it will fit my style very well then.
Patek Philippe 5004 Salmon Dial, Photo Courtesy of watchesbysjx
TC: What advice would you give people if they want to start collecting watches?
Edison: People always ask what my favorite one is. I always say the one on my wrist. If you buy a watch, don’t listen to your mind but always listen to your heart. Buy the one that you truly love.
TC: Thank you Edison for the wonderful sharing today!
Edison: Thank you Tidlos Craft.