Recently, I got to spend a morning talking watches with Kam Daswani, a personal friend and founder of whisky business Dram Good Stuff (you can find out more about it here), who happens to own some pretty remarkable - or should I say, pretty Dram Good - timepieces. Relaxed and friendly as he has always been, Kam walked me through his watch collection in detail, and explained his personal stories with them. And of course, I, being a complete whisky novice, seized the chance to pick Kam's brain and learned a thing or two about his trade (now I know what a bourbon is).
And this, is your third episode of My Watches and I. Let's get to it.
KD = Kam Daswani
JM: Kam, it's super happy to have you today. Thanks for accepting my invitation. Before we move on and talk about your collection, can you introduce yourself a bit?
KD: Sure. By birth, I'm Indian, but my father moved to Hong Kong in 1956, where I grew up and consider home. I even went to a Chinese boy's school and a lot of my good friends are Chinese. That's the beauty of being in Hong Kong. I don't see Chinese, Americans, Europeans. I see friends. I then went on to study gemmology in Los Angeles and worked in the jewellery business in Hong Kong for about 5 years, before getting into the property trading business. Currently I am running a full-fledged whisky business, which is one and a half years old.
JM: Interesting. So tell me, how did you first get into watch collecting?
KD: Actually I started developing an interest in watches after my grandfather passed away, who, in his final days was still wearing his Rolex Day-Date. After he died, my grandmother passed the watch to my mother, and asked her to give it to me. Can you imagine that this watch - must have been 50 years old or something - has survived him and now I'm still wearing it! It is something that could go on for generations. And a Rolex just holds its value and doesn't diminish with time. And I'm so fascinated by that.
JM: This is such a nice Day-Date. And the condition is quite awesome. Did you begin collecting Rolexes after this?
KD: I did. The first good watch I bought for myself was a Submariner in 1988 or 1989. And then I sold it a while later looking for an upgrade. As time went by my Rolex collection got a little out of hand. I had the Milgauss, I had the Submariner and at one point I had three Rolex GMTs! One in solid gold, one in steel and gold and the other one in steel. In the end I kept the one in solid gold , which remains my go-to watch, and let go of the other two. And this is really an indestructible watch. It's the watch I wear with the least concern, because I know nothing can happen to it.
KD: They have a unique history, instantly recognisable and you cannot deny the feel-good factor. Wear it, and you feel like a million bucks. That's the honest truth. I had the original "El Primero" Daytona in white dial and then got myself the black dial and white dial version of the next generation Daytona. The white dial version I eventually sold and replaced with the 2016 Daytona with black bezel and white face. As for the one in rose gold, I wore it quite a bit when I was in the property investment business, especially when I needed to wear sports jackets quite frequently. This would be my evening dress watch.
JM: You seem to enjoy chunky watches and I see a couple of Panerais and Hublots in your collection. Are they an extension of that affinity to bigger watches?
JM: Talking about movement, we kind of have to mention JLC too right? I see you have a couple of them, can you walk us through?
KD: I think JLC probably makes some of the best movements out there. My first JLC was this one, the Duomètre Quantième Lunaire. I was at their launch party and I just fell in love with it and I knew I had to get it. The movement is just crazy. Definitely something I wear to important, formal events. I also love how the needles are precisely pinpointed, perfect for someone with a little OCD like me. I also like how when the crown is pushed back into position after I adjusted the time, the needle doesn't jump. It's that precise.
KD: Ever since I purchased the Duomètre, I was invited to many of the subsequent launch parties of their pieces and when THIS came out, I was completely taken aback. This is the Extreme LAB 2. I love chronographs and I also like it when a watch has an analogous display, and the Extreme LAB 2 is a combination of both. It has a digital chronograph minute display and it jumps completely and instantly as the needle touches 12. Again it sort of feeds into my OCD (laughs).
KD: It's the perpetual calendar Ref.5059G, with the retrograde date. And I'm still fascinated by it. Sometimes when it's the end of the month I'd just sit there, look at the watch and wait for the date hand to jump all the way back to the start. This one, the Breguet (Note: we will get to that one later) and the F.P.Journe (Note: we will also get to that one shortly) are my go-to tuxedo watches.
KD: Yes, the Regulator Ref.5235G.
JM: Probably the most un-Patek looking Patek ever.
KD: True, and it's so rare that I have never seen it on anybody's wrist. It's not formal, it's not casual and I didn't really know what to do with it! A friend of mine who owns a watch business approached me one day and recommended me how this is a must-own and I thought, ok I'd buy it (JM: that's one co-operative customer!). And I only started researching it after I bought it. I even asked my wife whether I should just keep it sealed and sell it. But she encouraged me to just start wearing it and enjoying it and I have no regret since. It's such a cool watch. And I figured, because of its layout (Note: a Regulator is a watch with the hour and minute hands sitting on separate axises) it might be the easiest watch for me to tell time on as I get older!
KD: Yes. This, for the longest time, was my swimming watch. It's a Nautilus, it's supposed to be in the water. For me, a watch should suit my personality all the time. And this Nautilus does it for me. I could show up in the office in it, have lunch with bankers wearing it and carry on with my day without having my watch determine whether I could do something or not. And I really like its design, its heftiness and all that. Can't find any flaws.
KD: Sure. These are both tuxedo watches and I wear them to black-tie events, balls etc. The Breguet was actually my longest running tuxedo watch, ever since I bought it in 1991. I have a recent story to share on this one actually. I was wearing it one day, dropped by at a Breguet boutique and a very well informed saleslady recognised it and told me that the person who did the engraving just passed away last year. I was like, "how do you know that?". She said that this reference is quite unique in their portfolio and only one master engraver handled them; there are maybe only five of this around. I've not verified the information myself but if I do go to the Switzerland, I'm gonna wear this watch, visit their headquarter and find out.
JM: The engravings are expertly done. Imagine the number of hours that went into it!
KD: Indeed. I was approached by a watch company one day about this piece and I began looking up F.P.Journe the person, and was thrilled to learn that, firstly, he's still alive (laughs) and secondly, how he has consistently won accolades over the years. The only time he did't win was when he didn't participate or when he was a judge! As for the watch itself, it has this gorgeous dial with very fine details. At the time I was looking to add a watch that is simple, that tells time only. I was choosing between this one and the Chronometre Bleu and I ended up getting the Souverain instead, since it is slightly rarer.
KD: I'd want to add a tourbillon watch one day. I don't own a tourbillon, nor a minute repeater, simply because they are prohibitively expensive, especially in the primary market. But I do want to get a tourbillon some point down the road and when I do, I'd want a Lange. I think they make really good ones, the work they do is just spectacular.
JM: And do you have a favourite watch brand/ watchmaker? Even the independents?
KD: I really appreciate what Greubel Forsey does. They have come to Hong Kong once and I attended their seminar, and they walked me through their manufacturing process and showed me some of their pieces. And they were so excited by their own pieces and so welcoming. I just find the stuff they do mind-blowing. The degree of perfection they look for before they call a watch finished makes me place them in very high regard. In terms of mainstream brand, I'd have to go with Rolex. They simply make faultless products.
JM: Let's switch gear and spend some time talking about your whisky business. Does watch collecting help you with your business dealings in any way?
KD: I think so. The thing about the watch community is that people tend to enjoy similar things, and to be honest, they are usually of a certain affluence. So chances are those who sit around you in, say, an auction, are the kind of people who appreciate good wines or whiskies, too. Once you started talking to them, it'd be a matter of time before somebody mentions Japanese whiskies, which might just lead to business opportunities.
JM: Where can we find you?
KD: Apart from the Dram Good Stuff Facebook page, you could also follow us on Instagram (@dramgoodstuff). We are also partnering with another high end suiting company who provides us a space in their Sheung Wan store to show case our whiskies, both mainstream and extraordinary.
JM: Last but not least, can you recommend some whisky brands or types for beginners?
KD: Sure thing. For Scotch, stick with the 18 years. I think the Glenfiddich 18 is super bang for your buck. If you want to go a little upmarket, you can always try the different Macallan. 18, 21, or 25 if you can stretch your budget. Dalmore is another great choice you could never go wrong with. For Japanese I'd suggest either the Hibiki 17 or Taketsuru 17 or 21. They are very good, accessible and generally suit everyone's palate.