A man with as many names as Johnny Lin can only have interesting tastes in watches. Chang Ping Lin, or if you want the Chinese order Lin Chang Ping, JP for his friends, 28, will never forget how he got to know Hautlence. After seeing the brand’s watches on Facebook, he wrote an email to the Hautlence team who invited the Project Engineer from Taipei, Taiwan to come to a collectors’ event a few months later. And that’s when he pulled the trigger and he’s been a fan ever since. Enough reasons for me to be interested and to speak to him about his HLRS 03, a watch that mixes the brand’s unique design and a display with jumping hours and retrograde minutes.
Frank, MONOCHROME – JP, before we start on your beautiful watch, could you share some ideas about time itself from a theological point of view, since you are a theology researcher?
JP: With pleasure! Firstly, our lifetime is limited, short, and accompanied by many distractions. I must learn how to number my days which enables me to live by the right priorities. When talking about priorities, I need to understand which things will last more than others. For example, maybe reading some good books or watching an inspiring movie is better than indulging in video games all day. Spending time with the ones I love, which creates eternal values or memories, is better than immersing in my works which provides me with temporary benefits. Making money is important, but it is not most important. When connecting these to watchmaking, I find that it is not about the debate of the classic or temporary appearance of a watch. It is about the inner value or attitude of watchmaking that matters. With the limited time and resources, I need to choose a watch or a brand that shares similar values with me. Is this brand honest enough to their manufacture and in-house movements? Does this brand focus more on creating watches than producing products? Does this brand just repeat the models from the past or has it started to make its unique tradition? In sum, to me, knowing the priority is the foretaste of eternal life.
Secondly, for me, time is not about circularity or reincarnation. On the contrary, it is oriented and it has its beginning and direction. In this worldview, I know that my life is not only about work, family, and personal achievements but also about the responsibility in my time. I not only live in the now but also live with responsibility. Responsibility to me means the past, now, and future. I do not live in a meaningless circle, but in a line that leads somewhere. I am a person who brings the old wisdom, teachings, and stories with him to carry them out in the present time and then make developments that will benefit the next generation. In thinking this way, my work, entertainment, my deeds all have been given meaning. Even watchmaking has been given meaning if you look at it from this perspective. The watchmakers in old times did not make the watch only for profits but for their responsibility to their God, particularly in Switzerland and Germany. That is why we can see the beautiful mechanism with excellent finishing in their pocket watches. And even the components we cannot see have great hand-finishing. Why is that? No one can see them. It doesn’t make any sense. Many people today may think it is a waste of time. We want things to go fast and efficiently. But for these ancient watchmakers, their God could see it. They regarded their work not only as a job that made watches for the collectors but also as a way of carrying out their faith. The beauty of watchmaking is a concrete expression of their faith and passion. In short, they honoured their faith by doing outstanding work on watchmaking. In my opinion, they transformed an ordinary, limited work into a timeless, eternal value. It is a great example of living with responsibility in a short lifetime!
Now, every time I hold a watch, I am not only admiring the appearance but I am also fascinated by the worldview, intangible values, stories, and passion behind it. And it is my responsibility to share all of these in my time.
Wow, we’d never looked at it that way. Now please tell us more about that first contact with Hautlence!
It was in 2014 when I first saw their watches on the Facebook fanpage of a retailer from Taiwan. At that time, I was just a freshman who was fascinated by the watchmaking world, especially independent watchmaking. Without any hesitation, I then looked for the contacts and immediately wrote an email to the Hautlence team, since I wanted to know more about the brand and where to see the watches personally. I was surprised that they replied to me in a short time, and even invited me to a collectors’ event a few months later. Interestingly, Sophie, the brand manager of MELB Asia at that time, sent me a file called “TECHNICAL TRAINING HAUTLENCE 2015” which contained more than 70 pages of what I needed to know about the brand, such as history, factory, calibres with all technical info, instruction manual, target consumers, and even marketing tools! With the help of that file, I now understand Hautlence profoundly better than ever before. Thank you, Sophie, for a strange file!
Could you share any of the details that attracted you so much to this brand?
Let me put this in three dimensions: unique appearance, excellent design, and creativity. When seeing the piece personally, I’m easily attracted by its looks, including the movements, unique retrograde system, TV screen shape case, and honeycomb dial. As for the design, it’s not only the architectural elements but also the wearability on the wrist that attracts me. The case and even the straps and buckles are all well-designed. Although they may have encountered some struggles in recent years, they still present many creative timepieces, or not timepieces really, but wearable mechanical art devices. The brand is cool, inspired, and enjoyable. Some may say this kind of product is not timeless or classic, and you can never pass it on to your children. But for me, the main goal of owning the piece is to enjoy every moment in my life in the company of the piece. To some degree, it is pathetic that a man would buy the piece as an investment for the future or for someone else and not himself. This will lead to stress, nervousness, and certainly losing your smile.
You chose to buy the HLRS 03, why this particular model?
I found the HLRS 03 to be handsome with its honeycomb dial which provides the dial with layers. And I am a big fan of honeycomb dials… Besides, it is a huge non-round watch with a non-precious metal case which is suitable for my daily life. And most important, it looks very sporty compared to other models. The HLRS to me is a combination of architectural elements and sporty design. When I first tried on the piece, a HLRS 01 which belonged to Bertrand Meylan, in 2014, I just crashed into it… Since then, I have read all the articles and watched all the videos in which HLRS appears, even just a few seconds. That’s why I purchased it at the renowned pre-owned watch store “Wang Yung-Chang Clock & Watch” in Taiwan in December 2020.
MW: How do you go about looking for pieces for your collection?
I now have three principles for collecting watches: 1. It has to be a manual-winding-time-only watch, 2. it has to be from an independent brand and 3. it has to have some special mechanism or excellent finishing that I can wear in my daily life. I’ll explain. I am a big fan of manual winding watches. It always comes to my mind before the automatic one. The winding duty of HLRS is a daily pleasure that brings big smiles to my face. The action of the winding wheel is smooth and resounding. It’s just perfect for me! Moreover, it is not only a manual winding watch but also a time-only piece in which I don’t need to pay any attention to the date changing or chronograph components. I can play with the retrograde mechanism and set the time whenever I like.
Concerning the brand issues, I still consider Hautlence as an independent brand, even though it belongs to a small family group, MELB holding. I enjoy the excitement from many independent brands. My very first watch event was with Hautlence in 2014, so it was quite reasonable to start collecting with my first love. As to the final part, I love a watch that I can wear instead of putting it into a cold hard safe with no light. Besides, the watch must not be too boring to wear. It needs to have something special no matter what it is. I can find all these elements on the HLRS which contains a very cool retrograde mechanism, the hollow design that allows me to look directly at the balance wheel without turning it over, the superb bevelling on the bridges, and an interesting jumping hour. Chang Ping with jumping hour?! So much enjoyment on the HLRS!
So that’s why you chose this model.
To me, the classic HL is not only too small to wear but also not comfortable with the alligator straps. It is pretty moist at all seasons in Taiwan, so rubber straps, as well as metal bracelets, are much more suitable and comfortable. The HLRS that I bought is accompanied by one rubber strap and one alligator strap which I can choose according to the weather. Moreover, it has super convenient quick-release spring bars in the straps so I can clean the whole watch without scratching its inner side of the lugs.
MW: What reactions do you get when you wear the watch?
I always wear it to do leisure activities in informal attire on the weekend. And within a few weeks, I am going to take my HLRS to Yangming mountain for having some walks and sunshine in this cold winter. I hardly get any reactions when I wear it, and I enjoy this. Usually, when someone sees it on my wrist, he/she may think that it indeed is something special but just cannot figure out the brand nor pronounce the name. A month ago, one of my close relatives saw me wearing my new watch, and then instantly grabbed my wrist to see it. As expected, she frowned and didn’t know what to say, so she then released my hand and let me go, ha-ha. I was very happy knowing that I chose the right one. If I wore a Rolex or another big brand, she would know easily and immediately loudly tell everyone we know. I just want to stay low profile. This is why I love independent brands. I don’t want a watch that is so easy to be recognized. Those who know will always know. And for those who don’t know, I have the opportunity to choose whether to introduce the story and brand behind the watch or just keep silent. The initiative is on my side.
Any ideas on the market value of your watch?
Yes, I do know the current value. I will never go to sell my first love, so I don’t care about the resell value of this HLRS 03. To me, collecting the watch is not about the numbers. However, maybe my children will sell it if they don’t like the watch…
Are there any more watches on your wish list?
Ah, so many. Infinite desires with a limited budget. As mentioned above, collecting the non-round watch with manual winding movement will be my priority now. Considering the cost of future maintenance, I also want to keep my collection at 6 to 8 watches at most.
So here is my list: 1. Cellini Rolex Prince 5443/9, 2. H. Moser Henry with double hairspring in white gold, 3. Parmigiani Fleurier Hebdomadaire in steel or white gold version. 4. Moritz Grossmann Corner Stone in white gold, 5. Grönefeld Watches (I don’t know which one will exist when I have the budget to purchase), 6. De Bethune DB28. I try not to think when I can buy any of them; I need to work harder now, haha…
Could you share any of your collecting tips with our readers?
If you like Hautlence, just don’t think too much. Go for it! After purchasing it, you can start saving part of the budget on future maintenance, since I know the fee of full service of an in-housed watch is not cheap. Regarding the place to find it, I still see a lot of HLRS available on Chrono24. The resale price of Hautlence watches is very low, including HLRS. Try not to think about the resale value but think about the enjoyment and pleasure that it brings to you. For me, it is the true value of this watch. In general, when collecting, it is most important to know what you like and dislike. In short, know yourself. To achieve this step, one needs to read more books or articles about watchmaking, watch more videos about watches on YouTube, and join more watch groups or clubs to exchange collecting experiences with as many collectors as you can. The more knowledge you obtain, the more precise you will be when collecting the watches. Secondly, one needs to know the budget. If one doesn’t have any limits on the budget, then it is ok. But if one has a budget, one should know the range which he/she can afford without any pressure. Thirdly, one needs to know his/her purpose in buying the watches. Thanks to technology, we don’t really need a watch to tell us time anymore. Then, what is the reason you want to buy a watch? Find your own answer, and enjoy collecting the watches!