A Journey from Apple Watches to Timeless Horological Artistry: Henry Chu’s Collection

by Barbara Wilson

Henry Chu, the artist turned watch enthusiast, has evolved his passion for Apple Watches into a profound appreciation for vintage and luxurious Swiss timepieces. Join us as he shares his captivating voyage into the world of fine watchmaking and the intricacies of horology that have captured his heart.


Henry Chu’s workspace is a testament to his boundless creativity. Some days find him lounging by the pool, seeking inspiration for his next AI creation, while on others, he immerses himself in the captivating art adorning his walls—pieces crafted by Japanese, Hong Kong, and other Asian artists that ignite his imagination. An expansive AI screen dominates one wall of his studio, reflecting his unwavering devotion to cutting-edge technology.


However, there is another facet of Chu’s life that equally ignites his passion: the mechanical wonders adorning his wrists, luxury Swiss timepieces. What initially piqued his interest in this realm was his fascination with Apple Watches five years ago. But as the saying goes, “One thing leads to another,” and for Chu, it led to a deep dive into the mysteries of mechanical timepieces.


“It all began when my Apple Watch malfunctioned, and I started contemplating how to elevate my timepiece experience,” Chu recalls. That contemplation led him to his first mechanical treasure, a vintage Rolex Air King from the 1950s. “As I delved into the Rolex Air King, I began to appreciate its craftsmanship just by gazing at it. What struck me as truly astonishing was its ability to continue ticking after nearly seven decades. The complexity hidden within this compact package fascinated me,” he shares. This marked the genesis of his vintage watch collection, which now includes exceptional pieces from both independent brands and revered houses like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet.


To Chu, watches transcend mere timekeeping; they are miniature masterpieces and gateways to the world of horological craftsmanship. One of his cherished timepieces is an Audemars Piguet AP Royal Oak 5402ST A-series, dating back to 1973 and designed by Gérald Genta, a legend in watch case design.

Chu also has an eye for unique vintage models equipped with quartz movements, often overlooked by collectors. “I hold the belief that quartz watches are underrated,” he asserts. His collection includes three gold Audemars Piguet pieces featuring quartz movements, each acquired for approximately HK$100,000—merely a fraction of the cost of their mechanical counterparts.

Beyond the renowned brands, Chu finds joy in exploring exceptional designs from watchmakers like Daniel Roth and Roger Dubuis. Among his favorites is a monopusher watch by Daniel Roth. “This particular timepiece hails from the early days when Daniel Roth still helmed his company before its acquisition by Hourglass in 2000,” Chu explains. The watch’s movement is a modified version of the Lemania 2220, a manual-winding movement popular in the 1930s.

Chu’s fondness for this watch stems from its unique provenance. He obtained it from a former employee of Daniel Roth himself. The market for Daniel Roth watches is hot, with collectors eagerly seeking the early models. Chu initially hesitated when he first saw a post about the watch on Instagram, fearing it might be a scam. However, a conversation with the seller, who shared intimate details about his experience working with Daniel Roth, reassured Chu of the watch’s authenticity.

Buying luxury watches online, as Chu attests, demands meticulous research. He thoroughly evaluates a watch’s condition, movement accuracy, and originality before making a purchase. “I start with basic questions and delve deeper based on the seller’s responses,” he explains. Only when he is entirely convinced of a watch’s authenticity, validated through photos, documents, and insights from previous owners, will he proceed with the transaction. Chu emphasizes the importance of gauging a seller’s knowledge about the watch brand and its history, as this often reveals critical information not found in online forums.

Another fascinating aspect of Chu’s journey is his connection with Roger Dubuis, another independent watchmaker close to his heart. Roger Dubuis, co-founded by Roger Dubuis and Carlos Dias in 1995, experienced shifts in ownership and creative direction over the years. Chu appreciates both the early and later models. His collection includes a TV-shaped case watch with a micro-painted enameled dial, a distinct departure from the Excalibur series that the brand is known for today.

Chu’s watch collection comprises around 50 timepieces, each of which serves as a valuable lesson in artistic techniques, ranging from enameling to intricate chronograph complications. “Watches are a part of my ongoing education,” he shares. “I consider myself a perpetual student, continually learning about different techniques and materials.” While he has parted with some watches, many hold a special place in his heart. “Every piece has taught me something valuable, and I learn from both wearing and studying them,” he adds.

As our conversation turns to his next acquisition, Chu glances at the array of timepieces in his Louis Vuitton suitcase. “I rarely get the opportunity to wear all these,” he muses. He concludes our discussion with a self-promise to “trim down his collection.” Nevertheless, we understand that this vow may prove challenging to uphold.


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