By Justin Tay
Mention ‘Mr. Goh’ or ‘K2 Watches’ to any Seiko aficionado and you’re bound to get raving reviews about Mr. Goh. Servicing watches from the age of 12, Mr. S. M. Goh has been operating K2 Watch Company as a one-man show since 1982. With his dexterous hands and an amiable personality, Mr Goh has a loyal following from all over Singapore. And, with over a whopping 40 over years of experience servicing more than 15,000 watches, Mr Goh definitely has the solution to all your pressing watch problems.
NUS Horology had the privilege of catching up with Mr. Goh for a short interview and found out a little more on how he started to get involved with watches and his experience in setting up K2 Watch Company. Conversing in fluent Mandarin, Mr Goh often broke into a little smile as he recalled his younger days. Not one to shy away from questions, Mr Goh shares with us his personal take on watches and his advice for young collectors.
Mr. S. M. Goh
Justin: Thank you for accepting our request for the interview. Could you start by sharing with us what was your first mechanical watch?
Mr Goh: I remember I was really young then, I was about 9 years old. If I was not wrong, it was a Seiko 5 and it was a gift from my father.
Justin: And do you still have it with you now?
Mr Goh, with a cheeky grin: It’s no longer in my possession. I pawned it at a pawnshop for $50!
Justin: Wow, $50? Seiko 5s can retail for as low as S$80 now.
Mr Goh: Yes, you would be surprised, Seiko 5s were quite valuable back in the 1970s. I can remember, when I was Primary 3, I got reprimanded by my teacher for wearing a Rolex Precision to school. It was a gift from my father and it only costed S$200 back then.
Justin: How then, did you start learning about servicing watches?
Mr Goh: I was quite a rebellious teen back then. I didn’t enjoy studying at all, when school ended I would throw my bag in the living room and then go straight out to play. This alarmed my father and he was worried that I might have trouble finding a job. That was when he decided to impart his knowledge in repairing watches to me. I was only 12 then!
Mr Goh: My father taught me the fundamental basics. For example, he taught me to wear the magnifying piece on the left eye so it does not interfere with the action of your right wrist.
Justin: Did anybody else play a part in teaching you the basics of servicing a watch?
Mr Goh: My brother, Seo Choon was always also willing to teach me a thing or two. In particular, he taught me how to service the Seiko Bullhead Chronographs. Those were rather tricky to service!
Justin: You must have been a pretty fast learner! Could you share with us how you started K2 watches?
Mr Goh: I started K2 in 1982. The retail space was considered prime location back then! Tanjong Katong Complex would be so crowded, you barely had space to maneuver around the shops! Eventually, I moved over to the K1 unit at #03-K1 as the rent was S$250 cheaper than the K2 unit and had a reasonable amount of space.
Justin: Business must have been really good back then. Is there a difference in what customers in the past and present look for?
Mr Goh: Customers in the past were rather easy going, they did not really mind small price differences. Nowadays, customers are usually very tech-savvy, they would compare the parts and prices online. I would say that customers now are relatively more price sensitive.
Justin: After handling so many watches, you must have a serious personal collection yourself. What are some of your favorite pieces?
Mr Goh: To be honest, I am not a serious watch collector. Usually, I wear Quartz watches as I need the accuracy and precision in timing. Mechanical watches need more care and maintenance than quartz watches and I would prefer to wear Quartz pieces as they are hassle free.
Justin: Do you have any tips for collectors purchasing vintage watches?
Mr Goh: You should always closely examine vintage watches. You need to look out for oddities, look out for any part of the watch that stands out from the rest. I.e. If one hand is badly oxidized but the other looks brand new. You should also not overpay for watches with refinished dials, especially with regards to vintage Omega pieces. Some collectors are selective about refinished dials, some are not. At the end of day, you should buy what you like.
Mr Goh: Lastly, also be careful when you send your vintage piece for servicing. I had a customer who sent a vintage model for servicing at the official service center, the service center replaced the vintage parts with brand new parts. This caused the watch’s value to drop by more than half! So, do remember to instruct the service center to not replace any worn out parts without your authorization.
Justin: Great advice! Can I know what would be your opinion on the Older Grand Seiko Series versus the New?
Mr Goh: Personally, I believe that the vintage Grand Seiko pieces are more well-built than the new series. The New Grand Seikos although value-for-money are more prone to wear and tear. They are not as heavy duty as the older series. If you are looking for a vintage Grand Seiko piece, I would recommend the 61GS.
Justin: Thank you for the insights. It must have not been easy running K2 Watches. Do you have anybody to take over the business?
Mr Goh, with a smile: No I do not. I did not want my children to take over K2. Running a watch shop is quite tough, it’s long working hours with no CPF and no bonus. I would prefer if my children followed their passion and pursued their dreams.
Justin: That’s exactly what my father told me as well. Do you have any final advice for budding watch collectors?
Mr Goh: I would advise young collectors to be pragmatic and buy what you can afford. If you have the cash, you should go for Rolex timepieces as they hold the best value over the years. If you have the opportunity, do look for the vintage pieces in European countries. The environment there is drier and the watches tend to be in a better condition.
Justin: Thank you for your time and the indispensable advice.
Mr Goh: Thank you.
K2 Watch Company
Address: 845, Geylang Road, Tanjong Katong Complex #03-K1 Singapore 400845
Tel: 6746 0270
Photos by Ching Soon Tiac