Feynman Timekeepers: Singapore’s Latest Microbrand ExplainedWritten by Alvin Wong
A behind-the-scenes look with brand owner Lim Yong Keong.
Starting a microbrand is no child’s play for Lim Yong Keong, the 35-year-old IT consultant-turned-entrepreneur behind Feynman Timekeepers. And it is certainly not an endeavour that he takes lightly. Take the brand moniker, Feynman, which Lim reveals is named after his four-year-old son. “It is a serious name,” he says. “I wanted to tell myself that is not something I am doing for fun.”
Feynman Timekeepers has generated considerable buzz even prior to the start of its Kickstarter campaign in late-November, where its debut collection, Feynman One, garnered 100 per cent funding within an hour of its launch. Through word-of-mouth introductions and exclusive showcases, the timepieces have been receiving favourable reviews.
The Feynman One collection, which comprises three references, offers a fresh take on the classic dress watch. While the watches are endowed with hallmarks of an old-school dress ticker with features like sensibly sized 39mm cases and hand-wound movements (the ETA Pesuex 7001), the Feynman One timepieces also exude contemporary cachet. From the off-centred and multi-layered sub-dials, to the capricious lizard tail-shaped sub-seconds hand, the myriad details combine to offer a modern and off-kilter aesthetic. Even so, Lim reveals that the design is more than fastidiously considered, topped off by applying the ‘Golden Ratio’, the legendary ancient mathematical formula, to ensure that the watches look geometrically coherent and pleasing.
“I am a watch collector myself, and I wouldn't want to make something that I wouldn't buy, or adds no meaning or value to my collection,” says Lim. “Feynman watches are not just something to sell and make money. I really want to build something that I am proud of." Here, he takes us through some key details of the Feynman One collection.
“We started with the movement first – that is, to decide on its origin and type. Once I decided that I wanted a hand-wound movement with sub-seconds, the costs for building Feynman became clearer. I love winding watches, and I wanted my watch to give the same kind of feeling. We eventually chose the ETA 7001 because of the top-grade certification, which is a grade below chronometer level and has good finishing. The movement gives me the security I need to build a quality mechanical watch. Instead of saving funds now and eventually having to spend on after-sales service, I decided to invest more in reliable movements."
“At first, I looked at all the watches that I like and wanted to include all of their features. I had wanted a dress watch in the mould of the Seiko Presage, with an Urushi or enamel dial. However, as you can see, the final product is very different from the original idea. The only constants were the colour green, which I wanted to feature prominently (see the Founder’s Edition), and the Breguet-inspired coin edged design.”
PUTTING TOGETHER THE CASE AND DIAL
"I was insistent about having a case that isn't larger than 40mm with a coin edge. (The Feynman One watches come in 39mm cases.) The combination of classic and contemporary elements were also very important to me. That’s why I felt that the typical dial layout was rather plain. We then decided to rotate the movement slightly, so that the positions are a bit askew to give the dial a more modern look. However, the right side of the dial looked kind of empty as a result. I then recalled another brand having its logo on the side, which I tried and liked, so that was how the logo ended up there.”
DOMED CRYSTAL AS A FINAL TOUCH
“Initially, we opted for a flat crystal with triple-anti-reflective coating. It would be similar to that found on the Seiko Astron. If you looked at the watch, it was almost as if the crystal wasn't there. However, I also know that watch lovers go crazy over domed crystals from the way they take watch shots. So I asked for more samples, this time with a boxed dome crystal, which is a modern sapphire crystal alternative to Plexiglas. True enough, I showed the options to a close group of collector friends and they all chose the domed crystal version.”
ABOUT THE LIZARD MOTIF
“The lizard motif holds special significance for me. I've been adopting it since my friends from China told me that it is an auspicious symbol. For some reason, my son also loves the lizard. He has lizard toys and everything! We then incorporated the lizard tail into the logo plate's design and the second hand. It works very well on the second hand from a design standpoint, but also as a reference to how a lizard's tail would break if it felt threatened. Here, it looks as if the 'tail', which is the second hand, had broken off from the hour and minute hands. The fact that it continues to rotate signifies that it has a life even after it had broken off from the parent body - symbolising also the heartbeat of the watch.”
Alvin promises not to be a douche when talking about watches. He may have scoured the Basel and Geneva watch fairs for the past 15 years, and played an instrumental role to the growth of Singapore's pioneering horological and men's lifestyle publications, but the intrepid scribe seeks to learn something new with each story he writes.