Meet The Owners Of Wing Wah Watch, Malaysia's Vintage Watch Specialists

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Tucked away in the least expected part of Klang Valley is a gem of a watch boutique called Wing Wah, carrying some of the most coveted vintage timepieces today. 

Siblings Michelle, Adrian and Amanda Chan
Third generation siblings (from left to right) Michelle, Adrian and Amanda Chan run Wing Wah Watch  

If you are not familiar with Subang Jaya just outside Kuala Lumpur, you might find it a bit of a challenge to get around the huge town. Thanks to modern technology though, you can ‘Waze’ to one of our favourite spots there - Wing Wah Watch.

The shop, built in the 1970s, sits in a row of shophouses right next to the Baru Pantai Highway. It is one of the last family-run watch shops left in KL and is currently run by the third generation.

Wing Wah started with humble beginnings when watch enthusiast Chan Kan opened Wing Hing in Klang back in 1958. After the original shop was razed to the ground by a fire in 1975, Chan relocated the business to Subang Jaya in 1982. Following the relocation, Chan Kan's son, Simon, joined the business and renamed the brand Wing Wah. 

The current Wing Wah boutique is located a couple of units away from the 1982 location. The interior feels warm and cozy with black wooden panelling, brass fixtures and warm lighting to exude a relaxed, comfy vibe. We could quite happily sit there for hours just browsing and trying on the watches in the luxurious space.

Wing Wah has come a long way from the days of Wing Hing, when it was primarily a multi-brand luxury watch retailer. Today, in addition to being a revered luxury watch dealer, they also have on the side a fairly extensive collection of pre-owned and vintage watches from the most illustrious brands. Siblings Michelle, Adrian and Amanda now run the business under their father's supervision. They share some tips on buying vintage watches as well as how to set your mind at ease when buying one.

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Tell us about the evolution of Wing Wah's business. 
It started way back with our grandfather, with customers who would sell their timepieces or trade in their old watches. Over the years, this activity began to grow. Today we have expanded our pre-owned and vintage watch business mainly online, and we managed to tap into the international scene. This started when Adrian, then still in college, came across a batch of pre-owned watches and asked our father if he could put them on the website to sell online. Even though the pictures were taken with a camera phone, the watches were sold out in no time. Dad was very pleased and convinced Adrian to come and work with him. He also agreed to set up a mini studio with a very decent camera, which has helped the online business even more. Of course our main focus is still with the local customers.

Vintage Rolex
Vintage Rolexes are among the popular models available at Wing Wah

Who are your customers?
We conduct our business mainly with walk-in clients who actually make up 80 per cent of our clientele; most of them are rich businessmen, politicians and some professionals. Some hear of us through word-of-mouth, and some come all the way from Klang, our hometown. Of course, a lot of customers also found us online, which has greatly helped our business. Although our customers are mainly 35 years old and above, there is a growing number in their 20s, which is a good sign. 

Where do you get your stock? And how do you vet and select them?
Everywhere, really. We have people who bring in the watches for sale, we have foreigners who heard about us and came in with watches, then there are those who approach us online, both locally and from overseas. We select the watches carefully - those in good condition and those that are repairable. After we select the watches, our father would open them up to inspect the condition of the watches. So it’s not just how the watches look on the outside, but also the movements that have to be taken into consideration. If parts need to be replaced we will do it in-house, with the original parts. We only buy watches with registration numbers and corresponding certificates, unless they are very old and it is impossible to find them. We will also check the registration numbers against the list of numbers registered as stolen goods to make sure they are not on the list. 

Vintage Omega and Rolex watches
The watches are always inspected prior to being put on sale so customers can have peace of mind that they're buying a working timepiece 

What kind of guarantee do you provide for customers?
First of all, we provide a full service and in-house guarantee for all the watches. There is also a buy-back policy if customers are not happy with the watch after they bought it. We also allow them to take our watch to other service centres to be authenticated and, if there is any discrepancy, they can get a full refund. 

What is the biggest challenge you face in this business?
Our biggest challenge by far is reaching out to customers who live faraway. We want to make them to make their purchases online without having to come all the way to the showroom or viewing the physical watch itself. We have invested a lot in cameras to take the best quality images of the actual watches themselves, and we provide multiple safe payment gateways for our customers so their payment will always be safe. Basically we want our faraway customers to feel completely safe when buying online with us. Since we established our website, customers have been streaming in rapidly. We have the website to thank for the easy access and, along with our long-standing good reputation, customers can purchase from us with ease of mind. We also grew from having only two salespersons in 2013 to eight sales executives to entertain all our walk-in and online customers.

Any advice for beginners? 
Choose something that you like personally, because at the end of the day, you are the one who will be wearing it everyday. Take the time to do your research on websites and watch forums, or talk to our chatty sales team who will be more than happy to share with you their knowledge, then glean what you can from them to help you to make your decision. We have come across some customers who rushed in to get a watch without doing any research on a particular model, then ended up not wearing it or sold it back to us in mere weeks. So please be patient with your selection. You can always come into the shop and try out all the available watches in our showroom before you buy. Don't rush into it. After all, we would very much like to see you to wear the watch you chose on your wrist for a long time to come.

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Leong Wong

Editor, CROWN Malaysia

A familiar face in Malaysia's horological publishing scene, Leong has been involved in lifestyle journalism since the mid-1990s. Besides watches, he takes a keen interest in cars and men's fashion.