One of Singapore’s most prominent watch collectors, Tom Chng also shoots his own timepieces.
As the founder of the Singapore Watch Club, Tom Chng commands a presence within the local horology scene. As with most watch collectors, the desire to express each timepiece in its best form visually has pushed Tom to perfect his craft in watch photography. And it is this desire for visual perfection that led Tom to being commissioned by some of the most well-known watch brands to craft images for their local campaigns and/or editorial use.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Tom. To get things started, maybe you can share with us what is it about watches that you find intriguing?
A: EVERYTHING about watches I find intriguing! The way they look, the way they wear, the way they’re made, the stories they tell, and the people who collect them. Watches are very personal items, and one of the few things in our everyday life that’s quite literally made to last forever. Every watch has a story to tell, it is very likely that our watches will outlive us, and carry along with them our story to be retold.
Q: What are some of the typical challenges you face when you photograph a timepiece and how do you overcome them?
A: Well from a technical perspective, lighting a watch can be quite challenging and requires very specific lighting equipment to accomplish well. Many polished surfaces of the watch can present undesirable reflections, and to control that is a skill that needs to be honed and mastered.
From a creative perspective however, it is very challenging to present a timepiece in its fullest glory. As a watch lover, I look out for the spirit, craftsmanship, and character of each timepiece, and seek to represent all of that magic as much as possible, encapsulating them all in a single frame.
Q: Which is the most challenging watch you have ever shot?
A: It’s hard to point to an absolute watch that most challenging per se, but from time to time I get to witness some legendary timepieces that historically important or attached with exceptional provenance. Trying to capture their beauty comes with a little bit of added pressure for sure! You don’t wanna let down an important watch like this!
Q: Is there a particular timepiece that you want to photograph but haven’t had the chance to?
A: I’m big into macro photography, especially fond of seeking out tiny hand decoration techniques that often go overlooked. The Philippe Dufour Simplicity is widely considered to be the finest finished time-only watch, with a gorgeous manual winding movement. It’d be an amazing opportunity to capture its intricate details up close. I had the delightful experience of having lunch with Mr. Dufour a couple of years ago, but sadly the chance did not arise for me to shoot his personal piece then.
Q: Recently you’ve been using the C1 Plus along with the B10. Can you share with us how did you use these 2 lights to set up your shot?
A: The B10 Plus has been my main light for a couple of years now and it’s just been an absolute joy to use. The portability is off the charts, and battery life is impressive. Overall a major upgrade over what I’ve been used to before. I most often use it with a soft strip box that comes in from the side of the frame.
The C1 Plus is a new handy gadget I got acquainted with only recently. I mainly use it as a back light to create dramatic shadows and highlights for that added pop. The C1 Plus is fun and easy to use. It allows for easy tweaking all within the Profoto app, you have the temperature, intensity, and battery status all at your fingertips. I think it is mainly marketed as a mobile portraiture light, but it works well for my kind of watch photograph as the compact C1 Plus is more than capable of lighting my modestly sized sets.
Q: For someone who is getting into watch photography, what is one piece of advice you would give them?
A: Light your subject right before working on styling! Watches can be very fragile, and you want to minimise moving them unnecessarily. Personally, I prefer to set the subject in the desired position and work out the lighting and reflection control before any props are introduced into the narrative. Don’t be afraid to use carefully controlled reflections and shadows for dramatic effect, especially if you’re trying to convey a specific mood.
Tom is an experienced watch expert, and the founder of the Singapore Watch Club (SWC). SWC was founded in 2015, and is today the leading global watch community, having collaborated with established brands like Ulysse Nardin, and Hublot, amongst others.
He also create content revolving around the world of watches, sharing the intricacies of the subject with quality visuals as an impactful medium. Through his works, he wish to educate, share, and elevate my audience’s appreciation of watches. Conveying to them the romance and magic of traditional artisanal watchmaking, through a cultured, narrative approach. He had the pleasure of shooting for a plethora of brand partners, including Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Söhne, Cartier, G-Shock, and many more. His works are widely published in magazines, and global digital platforms.
All images featured in this article are copyrighted to Tom Chng.