Meet the Collector: Jenssen Yu on the Ethos of His Watch Collection

Meet the Collector: Jenssen Yu on the Ethos of His Watch Collection

The Singapore-based collector and entrepreneur shares the most treasured timepieces in his collection, his outlook on the luxury watch market and reveals his affinity for KAWS sculptures, Bearbricks, and other collectibles.
The Singapore-based collector and entrepreneur shares the most treasured timepieces in his collection, his outlook on the luxury watch market and reveals his affinity for KAWS sculptures, Bearbricks, and other collectibles.

A s 2024 gets underway, we spoke to entrepreneur and collector Jenssen Yu (@epochwrist) about his art collection and his love of watches. Since 2015 Yu has led Asia Focus Group, headquartered in Singapore, which aims to support innovative ventures and revitalise established businesses. His fervour for horology was ignited and his knowledge enriched through his time working for Franck Muller and Richard Mille early in his career. The ongoing passion for watches reflects his dedication to precision, innovation, and artistry in both his professional and personal life.


The Richard Mille RM 001 Tourbillion in Rose Gold.

You have a passion for watches. How did your interest in watches begin?

My passion for watches began early, captivated by their beauty and elegance. This fascination deepened significantly during my younger days when I worked for Franck Muller and Richard Mille. My tenure might have been brief, but it left an indelible mark on me. The experience of being up close with these luxury timepieces, understanding their mechanics, and learning the stories behind each model, was enriching.

Years later, when I returned to these brands as a customer, the reception I received was incredibly heartwarming. The owners treated me not just as a former employee but as a part of their extended family. This sense of belonging and recognition was deeply touching and signified the strength of the relationships I had built during my time in retail. It's a testament to the personal connections that form in the world of luxury watches, transcending professional boundaries.

This enduring relationship has not only solidified my love for these two brands, but also reinforced my commitment to the world of horology. It's a full-circle moment that connects my early career experiences to my current status as a collector and a consultant, underscoring the personal and emotional dimensions of collecting luxury watches.

Is your watch collecting best described as a passion or an obsession?

My relationship with watch collecting is a blend of passion and obsession. This journey is about capturing a piece of time, both literally and metaphorically. Each timepiece I collect is a chapter in the broader narrative of horological excellence. It's this intertwining of passion and obsession that fuels my continuous quest in the world of luxury watches.

What are some of your most treasured watches?

In my collection, each watch is a masterpiece, blending cutting-edge horological innovation with personal significance and artistic finesse. The centerpiece of my collection, the Richard Mille RM 001 Tourbillion in Rose Gold, which I acquired in October 2023, embodies a journey that spans many years. This watch is the inaugural model from Richard Mille, a brand with which I share a personal and professional history. In pursuing this watch, I was once outbid at an auction, where it fetched more than CHF 2 million. When I finally acquired it through a close friend in London, it marked the end of a long and arduous journey, filled with anticipation and perseverance. This watch is a personal triumph, a culmination of years of relentless pursuit and a deep-rooted desire to own a piece of Richard Mille's history. Each glance at the RM 001 is a reminder of where I've been in my horological journey, the progress I've made, and the enduring appeal of these exquisite timepieces. It stands as a beacon of my passion for watchmaking, a symbol of my journey, and a treasured milestone in my collection.

The Richard Mille RM008 V1, also a highlight of my collection, was acquired from a Sotheby’s auction. It's much more than a watch; it's a legacy piece of Richard Mille, so iconic that its silhouette graces every Richard Mille boutique.

Yu wearing the Richard Mille RM008 V1.

My Audemars Piguet AP25902OR.OO.1110OR.01 is another standout, a rare skeleton watch that is a true testament to Audemars Piguet's mastery. Its scarcity is so profound that it's almost a myth online, with very little information available. Believed to be one of only five ever made, it is a true jewel in my collection.

The MB&F Horological Machine, especially the HM6 Sapphire, takes watchmaking to a new realm, merging timekeeping with wearable art. Its innovative design breaks away from traditional watchmaking norms, admired for its uniqueness and ability to spark intriguing conversations.

Yu wearing the MB&F Horological Machine HM6 Sapphire.

The crown of my watch collection is the possibly unique Patek Philippe Ref. 5970. It represents a significant chapter in the annals of Patek Philippe, namely the handover of leadership from Philippe Stern to Thierry Stern. This watch isn't just Thierry Stern's first project as the leader of one of the world's most revered watchmaking brands; it's a testament to the legacy of horological heritage and craftsmanship. The Ref. 5970 is more than a watch for me. Currently in a double-sealed state, I eagerly anticipate a special occasion to unveil and wear this magnificent timepiece.

How do you choose a watch to add to your collection?

In my journey as a watch collector, I've cultivated an approach that marries intuition with a deep-rooted appreciation for horology. As I've grown older, my approach to collecting has evolved. I find myself less influenced by fleeting trends or the hype surrounding certain models. Selecting a watch for my collection is not merely about technical prowess or brand recognition; it's an intricate blend of historical significance, exceptional craftsmanship, and a profound personal connection. Each timepiece I consider must tell a compelling story, whether it's through marking a milestone in watchmaking or representing a significant technological leap.

This evolution in my collecting ethos has led me to seek out watches that are not just popular but are historically significant: pieces that have shaped the course of horological history and resonate with me on a personal level. It's no longer solely about owning a status symbol but about a genuine appreciation for the artistry, innovation, and historical context that render a watch truly significant.

Yu wearing the Audemars Piguet AP25902OR.OO.1110OR.01.

How do you see the luxury watch market developing in the future?

The future of the luxury watch market is shaping up to be incredibly exciting. We can look forward to witnessing even more stunning innovations in watchmaking as brands continue to push the boundaries of what's possible, incorporating cutting-edge materials and technologies to create truly exceptional timepieces. Digital integration will play a significant role, with watches becoming more than just timekeepers, offering smart features and connectivity to our modern lives. Sustainability will be a key focus, reflecting the growing awareness of eco-friendly practices, and customisation options will allow collectors to create watches that truly reflect their unique tastes. Collaborations between watchmakers and artists will continue to captivate us with their creativity. Vintage and rare watches will remain highly sought after, and online platforms will make it easier for enthusiasts to explore and acquire these treasures. Brands will share their captivating histories and stories, forging deeper emotional connections with collectors. Lastly, the expanding interest in luxury watches in emerging markets will add to the global appeal of these remarkable timepieces, solidifying their status not only as exquisite accessories but also as valuable investments.

Variety is the spice of life. Are watches the sole focus of your collection?

My collection reaches beyond the world of horology and encompasses significant contemporary art pieces and rare collectibles as well. This includes my affinity for KAWS sculptures and Bearbricks, as well as distinctive items such as the Supreme Louis Vuitton trunk. From the bold and avant-garde designs of KAWS, which represent a blend of street art and high culture, to the sophistication and complexity of luxury timepieces, each item in my collection marks a specific point in my personal and professional journey.

Jenssen Yu with his vast collection of Bearbricks, KAWS artworks and more.

What is it about KAWS’ work that most interests you?

Firstly, KAWS' democratisation of art aligns with my belief that art should be accessible and relatable. This inclusivity challenges the elitist barriers often found in the art world and aligns with my vision of a more accessible and diverse art ecosystem.

Secondly, KAWS takes familiar imagery and imbues it with a new context. I'm drawn to pieces that not only have aesthetic appeal but also provoke conversation and thought, qualities that KAWS' work embodies perfectly.

Furthermore, KAWS’ seamless integration of art with commercial success illustrates that artistic integrity and commercial viability are not mutually exclusive. His collaborations and ventures into consumer products have revolutionised how art is perceived and consumed.

Is your collection emblematic of your life?

My collection mirrors my personal evolution. At each stage of my life, these pieces have not only reflected my growing interests and tastes but also my maturing mentality. I hope my collection is seen as a reflection of this growth – a tangible narrative of where I've been, the changes in my perspective, and the maturation of my appreciation for art and horology.


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