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Robb Report


22 Letter from the Editor 24 Agenda 26 Frontrunners 30 Portfolio 34 Robb Collections 37 Auctions 40 Grand Openings 142 Robb Reader 146 The Last Word 30



44 Global Luxury A compilation of stories which enables you to live through the senses and imagination of the world’s premier exponents of the high life. 37




Robb Report



with a top-of-the line perpetual calendar as its crowning glory.

98 Framed For Life The limited edition eyewear from Algha achieves its legendary precision from pre-war machinery and processes.

112 Bronze Complements An ancient material provides vintage accents to Montblanc’s 1858 collection.


Art & Design

108 Technical Artistry The missing piece of the puzzle to IWC’s portfolio has been found,

118 Great Leap Forward Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam’s posthumous

show examines the complicated tapestry of Malaysia through social conscience.

Travel & Leisure 122 Water to Wine A journey along one of the Iberian Peninsula’s most signifant waterways reveals beauty in both the natural and built-up heritage of the Douro Valley.



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Savour 128 Food For Thought Define: food’s private dining and bespoke menus become the culinary playground for the imaginative chef Malcolm Goh, who merges ingredients with panache for memorable meals. 140


134 An Epicurean Odyssey A rich melange of aromas in the complex Hennessy XO is twinned with the creative genii of chefs James Won and Nurdin Topham in a flamboyant degustation menu of seven exquisite courses.





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Editorial Director Kenneth Tan ( Editor-in-Chief Shamilee Vellu ( Project Editor Aaron de Silva ( Online Editor Sam Yen ( Fashion Editor Jason Lim ( Watches & Jewellery Editor Ho Yun Kuan ( Motoring & Technology Editor Daryl Lee ( Senior Writer Vishal Bhaskaran ( Chief Sub-Editor Jacqueline Danam Editorial Assistant Allisa Noraini


Group Creative Director IMV Shabir Mahmood ( Designer Le Thu Trang Designer Thao Truong Picture Editor Kenny Nguyen

Contributing Experts Wheels Wolfgang Stegers Wines & Spirits Zephyr Tan Savour Clement Lim

Production Group Production Director IMV Anna Tsirelnikova

Contributors Alywin Chew, Charmaine Tai, Elaine Lau, Jeri Chua, Josh Sims, Mark Lean, Nick Walton, Renyi Lim, Sasha Gonzales, Sharon Lim, Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, Winnie Yong

Production Design Concept Dmitry Barbanel Typefaces Alexey Chekulaev, Yuri Gordon, Eugeny Yukechev Prepress Next Level Publishing mediaintegrale s.l. Printer Percetakan Zanders Sdn Bhd (205766A), No 16, Jalan BK 1/11, Bandar Kinrara, 47180 Puchong Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia


The one unmissable trendsetting show for the entire watch and jewellery industry, where all key players unite to unveil their latest creations and innovations. Be a part of this premier event and experience passion, precision and perfection in action.

MARCH 23 – 30, 2017



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Advertising Sales and Marketing Director Regional Sales IMV Perlyn de Rouvray ( Malaysia Director of Sales Venis Loo ( Sales Manager Xana Lai ( Administrative Manager Jaclyn Teh ( Marketing Executive Manshuk Bekenova ( Singapore Marketing Director Singapore & Malaysia Lana Nyfeler ( Sales & Marketing Assistant Allisa Noraini ( For sales and marketing enquiries, please call +603 6211 4288

PR & Event and Marketing Consultants R.S.V.P.-Lifestyle Communications Agency, Singapore




Chief Accountant Jessica Tan Finance Controller Vladislav Chernov

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COO Anna Tsirelnikova


Michael von Schlippe Published by Indochine Media Ventures Sdn Bhd B-7-13A, Gateway Kiaramas, No. 1, Jalan Desa Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Tel: +603 6211 4288 under the licence of CurtCo Robb Media LLC, 29160 Heathercliff Road, Suite 200, Malibu, CA 90265, USA

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Witness the

DAWN OF TRENDS Baselworld is the single-most important trendsetting

market and witness the start of a new trendsetting cycle

show for the world’s watch and jewellery industry.

for the year.

What makes it unmissable is the fact that only here will you find all the key players representing every sector

Seize the unique opportunity to experience the interplay

of the industry together under one roof. Baselworld is

of passion and precision to create perfection. We

where the most prestigious international brands

invite you to join us at Baselworld, where you will be

unveil their innovations, creations and new collections

awe-struck by the spectacular pavilions, amazed at the

in the presence of world-class buyers and the global

new collections, and be amongst those who are a part of

press, all of whom unite here to take the pulse of the

history in the making!

See you at Baselworld 2017




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CURTCO ROBB MEDIA, LLC Interim Chief Operating Officer Jeff Litvak Executive Assistant Codie McGuinn Vice Chairman and Co-Owner William J Curtis Executive Vice President, Publishing Director David Arnold Senior Vice President, Consumer Development Lauren Coniglio · Senior Vice President, Publishing Colette Alderson Senior Vice President, Mfg & Production Randall Ishimine Vice President, Human Resources Melinda Lyon Senior Vice President, Finance Todd Duca Senior Vice President, Publisher Matthew Carroll Senior Vice President/Controller Charles Gawartin

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She’s a fan.




Robb Report

Welcome 2017


s we move into a new year, we appreciate that many opportunities have yet to present themselves. In our first ode to 2017, we have scoured the world to unearth interesting stories of brands and maisons looking for authenticity in their narratives. From the Asian Art Fair in Paris to automotive trends, this issue encapsulates the staggering breadth of perfection in craft, service and artistic expression. The last of the trio was also achieved by the doyenne of Malaysia’s art scene: Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam. Her untimely demise just last month from ill health,

at the age of 75, left a deep and profound impact on the art community. For decades, her body of work had shone a light on the many injustices suffered by Malaysia as a nation and people, and of the world at large. As one of the most senior artists in Malaysia, her presence will be missed and it is hoped that the work she leaves behind continues to function in the spirit of their being; to be relevant, authentic and effective in reminding all of us that some things are worth living and even dying for. Kenneth Tan



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EVENT GUIDE What’s worth doing this month. By SASHA GONZALES

Australian Open 2017

16 to 29 Jan This tournament is the first of the four Grand Slam tennis events of the year. Held in Melbourne, it is attended by the world’s top-seeded tennis players, like Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. This year’s total prize money pool is expected to top last year’s amount of A$44 million (RM145 million).

David Bowie Is

2017 Sony Open Golf PGA Tour

8 Jan to 9 Apr Originally shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, David Bowie Is explores the career of the latesinger, songwriter and actor. More than 300 items will be on display, from costumes to handwritten lyric sheets. It’s held at Warehouse Terrada G1 in Tokyo.

9 to 15 Jan Every January, this event attracts 144 of the world’s greatest golf professionals. The largest charity golf event in Hawaii, it has raised over US$16 million (RM72 million) for non-profit organisations since 1999. This year’s total prize pool money is US$6 million. Australian Open photo BEN SOLOMON

McTear’s The Rare & Collectable Whisky Auction

13 Jan McTear’s is known for its dedicated auction of rare and collectable whisky every five weeks, so there’s never a long wait if you wish to sell or buy. Bidders hail from all across the globe. The auctions, which run concurrently live online, hold several world records in the sale of whisky.


January - 2017


ART CALENDAR Robb Report Malaysia presents this month’s most aesthetically pleasing picks for your viewing pleasure. By SASHA GONZALES

IMPRESSING THE CZAR This epic four-part performance by the Dresden Semperoper Ballet is one of choreographer William Forsythe’s best-known works. First performed in 1988, it spans the history of dance, from the Renaissance to the present day. This is Dresden Semperoper Ballet’s first visit to the Paris Opera. Comprised of some 60 dancers, the company is directed by Aaron S Watkin, a former dancer of the Frankfurt Ballet. Where: Palais


Garnier, Paris When: 4 - 8 Jan Tickets: From €50 (RM233)

In its second year, this is a key event of Singapore Art Week. The exhibition showcases accessible and collectable works by a range of artists represented by over 90 galleries. On display are original paintings, limited editions, sculptures and photographs. Exhibitors include Artredot, Maya Gallery and Utterly Art from Singapore, The Dragon Year Gallery and Ling Art from China, and Gallery Miz from South Korea. Where: Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre When: 19 - 22 Jan Tickets: From S$25 (RM77)



This flagship art fair of South-east Asia presents the diversity of contemporary art by artists in the region. This year, visitors can look forward to exhibitors like Art Porters and Gnani Arts from Singapore, Juliana Gallery from Seoul, Kodama Gallery from Tokyo, G13 Gallery from Kuala Lumpur, Blink Gallery from Hong Kong, and Galerie Ovo from Taipei. Where: Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre When: 12 - 15 Jan

This auction presents Western and Asian modern, contemporary and design artworks, photographs and rare artist-designed jewellery. Special guest, French designer Guy de Rougemont will present a selection of his signature design pieces. An untitled work by American artist and social activist Keith Haring is expected to fetch between HK$1.8 million (RM1.04 million) and HK$2.8 million. Where: Sotheby’s, Hong

Tickets: From S$26 (RM81)

Kong When: 19 Jan Tickets: Free Impressing the Czar photo IAN WHALEN



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January – 2017




ALPHA MALE Jaquet Droz commemorates the lunar year of the rooster with four new timepieces. By HO YUN KUAN


The Petite Heure Minute Relief Rooster has an 18-carat red gold rooster relief applique.

he rooster has an unbreakable connection with time. It is only apt then, that Swiss watchmaker Jaquet Droz commemorates the lunar year of the rooster with timepieces inspired by the animal. The four new timepieces are based on the iconic Petite Heure Minute. On two versions, one in 39mm and the other in 35mm with a diamond-set case, the animal is depicted in grand feu enamel, and accompanied by peonies. The grand feu enamel has been executed in a watercolour style that calls to mind the fluid lines of Chinese calligraphy. Each piece is painted by hand, and therefore, unique. The bird is sculpted in red gold in the remaining two versions. In one – the 28-piece edition – it gleams against a dial inlaid with hand-engraved mother-of-pearl and jadeite. In the most exclusive version, limited to eight pieces only, the gold-sculpted rooster is dressed up in a magnificent hand-painted plumage of vivid reds, oranges and blues, and framed by a diamond-set bezel. ≠



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The Big Cat Arrives

Jaguar’s F-Pace is launched for the local market.


he first SUV from Jaguar is now available in Malaysia in two versions: Prestige (RM598,800) and R-Sport (RM658,800). Both have a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol good for 338hp and 450Nm, and an on-demand four-wheeldrive system via an eight-speed automatic transmission. For the R-Sport, a new InControl Touch Pro infotainment unit with an 10.2-inch touchscreen to pump out tunes through a 380-watt, 11-speaker Meridian sound system.

Comb Over


Sort out your side parting with the Pantheon Collection by Tomas Veres.

lovakia-based Tomas Veres’ hedonistic take on male grooming tackles a very specific item in a gentleman’s accoutrement — the comb. Measuring 130mm by 35mm and available in rhodium-plated silver (€1,100, RM5,265) and 14-carat yellow or pink gold (€9,000), each comb comes with case choices of green, purple or red ostrich leather and is limited to 800 individually numbered pieces. The Pantheon Collection can be customised w it h engrav ings.

Youthful Iteration


Polo S adds a fresh twist to a Piaget classic.

nod to the classic Polo line, the new Polo S by Piaget retains the same name but is now reinterpreted as a self-winding proposition in steel, keeping its versatility to transition from office to evening. Polo S is presented in a 42mm case with a choice of chronograph (RM60,500) and non-chronograph (RM45,400) movements. Both are available in blue and silvered dials with the latter made available in an eyecatching slate-grey dial as well. Through the sapphire caseback, the Piaget-designed 1110P movement of the standard piece and 1160P of the chronograph piece are elegantly revealed.


January – 2017



Call of the Prairie

An American-made luxury bag for your hands only.


talian Brown Latigo leather from Horween tannery in Chicago, chrome-tanned for water resistance. A patented, ergonomically designed handle constructed by a fourth-generation harness-maker, burnished with beeswax. This is just a small sample of the incredible work that goes into creating Fischer Voyage’s Prairie Bag (price upon request), which is hand-stitched for greater longevity and strength.

Find True North

A hybrid gin with a Nordic lilt plants akvavit on the mixology map.


ou can’t get more classically Nordic than akvavit, a liquor produced in Scandinavia since the 15th century. Intrigued by the similarities in tasting notes between akvavit and gin, The Nordic Spirits Lab – a collaborative platform that aims to reinvent drinking experiences – has developed NSL Nordic x Gin (Skr329, RM159). Infused with key botanicals common to both spirits, such as juniper and angelica, the twist to this small-batch distilled gin comes in the form of its akvavit flavour elements, caraway and dill.

V is for Victory


Tengri’s yak fabric overcoat is just the thing for a spring fling.

aced with the prospect of this season’s unpredictable weather, it’s time to get yakking in Tengri’s Chevron Coat (£1,200, RM6,682). Despite this Mongolian yak fabric coat’s tough-wearing reputation – it’s hypoallergenic, thermalregulating, breathable and water-resistant – its undyed, hand-combed surface surprises with its softness. Cut in an oversized style and tailored for a loose fit, you’ll still cut a dashing figure amid a harsh winter backdrop or a chilly spring morning.

Prairie photo DOUGLAS HUMAN



FUN FOR THE FEET Dior Homme’s pumped-up kicks transform the art of sneaker-making. By JASON LIM


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January – 2017


neakers may lie closer to the casual end of the shoe spectrum but Dior Homme’s spring/ summer 2017 range is set to raise the bar in athleisure gear. In typical Dior fashion, creative director Kris Van Assche has elevated the humble sneaker to couture-level genius. “I always like to blur the lines and create contrasts: the idea here was to play with a classical shape and radical techniques,” says Van Assche.

A Prince of Wales check is embossed into the leather before each of the 34 pieces required to make the sneaker is cut out by hand. Every pair is then hand-painted in bright daubs of water-based paint, a tribute to Monsieur Dior’s own passion for painting. A single pair of sneakers takes four days to make – a lengthy process necessary to ensure that Dior’s high standards are met. ≠




REACH FOR THE SKY Mercedes-Maybach’s first cabriolet breaks cover. By VISHAL BHASKARAN

Robb Report

January – 2017



The MercedesMaybach S 650 is based on the opentop S-Class and has adopted the latter’s classic aesthetic proportions.


his first drophead to be designated a Mercedes-Maybach (€300,000, RM1,420,680) is limited to 300 units worldwide and is slated to hit markets this spring. Externally, it differs from the standard cabriolet with 20-inch bichromatic Maybach forged wheels, chrome highlights and Swarovski headlights — an option on nonMaybach cabriolets. The bulk of the attention to enhance the cabriolet is focused in its fully leather-lined cabin, the ambience of which is inspired in part by the Mercedes-Benz Style Arrow 460-Granturismo yacht. Various pairings with interior trim are available including nut-brown magnolia wood accents. Under the hood, one finds nothing less than a 6.0-litre biturbo V12 good for 630hp and an astonishing 1,000Nm of torque, with Airmatic suspension working beneath to whisk occupants along on a cloud of comfort. ≠



“MEN LOVE WOMEN, BUT EVEN MORE THAN THAT, MEN LOVE CARS.” Christian McKay as Lord Hesketh in Rush

Robb Report

January - 2017


IN STYLE Rolls-Royce Dawn Inspired by Fashion



fter the praise for the Rolls-Royce Wraith Inspired by Fashion model, the sequel has arrived: Rolls-Royce Dawn Inspired by Fashion. With three variations, this Dawn starts with a stark blank Andalucian white canvas, upon which is splashed bold colours on the folding roof, the three flavours being Mugello Red, Cobalt Blue or Mandarin. The same colours are replicated inside as vibrant accents on the headrests and seat piping against a perfectly white hue.

Design director Giles Taylor enlisted aid from the world of fashion and fine textiles, resulting in a range of fine silks and unexpected textures strewn across the interior. The piano-white dashboard, for example, incorporates embedded aluminium particles for a silky appearance that takes nine days to complete. If nothing else, it just proves the sheer versatility of Rolls-Royce, which can go from formal to fashionable in the blink of an eye. â‰




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INTO THE WILD Jo Malone Myrrh and Tonka Cologne Intense By JASON LIM


or Jo Malone Cologne Intense fragrances, none but the richest and rarest ingredients will do. The latest combines precious myrrh with tonka bean, resulting in a warm and sensual fragrance. Fragrance director of the British perfume house, Celine Roux, travelled deep into the mountains of Namibia to help harvest the resinous sap — a product of the Omumbiri trees used to help ward off bacteria and decay. Jo Malone’s Myrrh and Tonka Cologne Intense retails for RM635 for 100ml and is now available at Jo Malone boutiques. ≠


January – 2017


OFF THE BLOCK We keep you up to date with the hottest lots under the hammer. By RENYI LIM

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater

Auctioned by Antiquorum in Geneva for SFr170,000 (RM747,143). his limited-edition platinum wristwatch comes with an intricately crafted skeletonised dial and applied pink gold baton numerals to match its baton hands. A 30-jewel movement with finely engraved bridges and plates, a monometallic balance and repeating gongs are complemented by a Maltese Cross on the spring barrel and in the centre wheel for hour and minute hands.


Meule by Claude Monet

Auctioned by Christie’s in New York for US$81.4 million (RM363.4 million). his painting is considered an outstanding e x a m p l e of Monet’s challenging and revolutionar y Grainstack series. Completed over the winter of 1890 to 1891, Monet’s 25 interpretations of grainstacks sitting on the field of Clos Morin in Giverny vary intriguingly in colour, touch and atmospheric effect. This 72.7 by 92.1cm canvas is viewed as one of the most formally adventurous of the series.


Air Power by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Auctioned by Sotheby’s in London for £7.093 million (RM39.5 million). significant piece from the late David Bowie’s art collection, Air Power was Sotheby’s highest-earning lot from its Bowie/Collector auction, earning £3.5 million over its pre-auction estimate. Created from acrylic and oilstick on canvas in 1984, the 167.5 by 153cm painting comes charged with Basquiat’s raw energy. The artist’s neo-expressionist style draws on ancient and modern arts, including cave art, African reliquary masks, Dutch vanitas paintings and Ne w York subway graffiti.




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DRINK, WATCH AND DRIVE A constellation of luxury standards, both old and new, came together in spectacular fashion at Robb Report Malaysia’s Gentlemen’s Evening. By KENNETH TAN


January – 2017








1) The opulent bar of the speakeasy-inspired Ikki. 2) Aston Martin’s Rapide S. 3) The night began with crisp Louis Roederer champagnes. 4) HYT’s innovative timekeeping devices utilising Swiss luxury fluidics. 5) The superlative DB11 grand tourer coupe from Aston Martin. 6) From left: Tan Sri Teo Chiang Hong, Puan Sri Lisa Teo, Shawna Yap and TS Yap.


uests of Robb Report Malaysia and OCBC Premier private clients were treated to a rare sight of Aston Martin’s DB11. The 2016 grand tourer coupe was presented alongside the Rapide S at TREC. As guests made their way to the speakeasy joint of Ikki, they were feted with the champagnes of Louis Roederer and similarly blown away by the innovative timepieces from HYT’s H1 to

H3 and Skull collections. In the sophisticated ambience of Ikki, guests enjoyed the inventive Asian-fusion canapes such as juicy Wagyu sliders, smoked duck breast yakitori and California maki. These were paired by Mortlach Rare Old and 18 Years Old presented by whisky ambassador Jeremy Lee, as well as the aromatic delights of Cohiba Magicos, Rafael Gonzales Perlas and Partagas Serie E No. 2. ≠




ROCK ‘N’ ROLLA Shop Saint Laurent’s rock star vibes at its beautiful new boutique in Kuala Lumpur.



o inject a dose of rebellion and attitude into your wardrobe, it would be remiss not to swing by Saint Laurent’s new duplex in Pavilion KL. Inspired by the French modernist movement of the early 20th century, the sleek marble interior is accented with polished brass, providing a sophisticated backdrop for the large selection of pret-a-porter, shoes, bags, jewellery and accessories for men and women. Saint Laurent Lot 2.14 & 3.16, Pavilion KL, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur Tel: +603 2113 0177 ≠ Photo JONATHAN LEIJONHUFVUD

Robb Report

January – 2017






Over afternoon tea at The Ritz-Carlton, a select group of RHB Private Banking clients were given a detailed introduction to the icons of Loewe.


Robb Report


January – 2017


1) The private room of The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur, transformed for a high-tea reception for RHB Premier’s high tea. 2) Loewe’s latest collections. 3) David Chong, head of RHB Bank’s affluent segment, consumer finance and payment. 4) A closer look at Spain’s finest leather bags. 5) Guests applauding the model show. 6) Robb Report Malaysia’s fashion editor Jason Lim explains the finer points of Loewe’s collection.






To invoke festive cheer, every guest went home with a Christmas candle from Diptyque as well as a special gift from Loewe.



oewe’s leather goods have been the talk of the town. Despite poor weather and traffic conditions, guests of Robb Report Malaysia and RHB arrived punctually at The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, eager to learn more about the Spanish fashion house’s famed bags. An intimate group of 35 was introduced to Loewe’s iconic bags: from the

Puzzle to the Elephant bags. Guests enjoyed little treats with a Spanish twist, fresh from the Ritz-Carlton’s kitchens, all while imbibing specially curated cocktails made with the Botanist Gin and Bruichladdich whiskys. To invoke festive cheer, every guest went home with a Christmas candle from Diptyque as well as a special gift from Loewe. ≠


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January – 2017



Robb Report



January – 2017

IRAN CALLING Breathtaking architecture, exotic desert landscapes and centuries-old culture wherever you look — Iran stands on the cusp between its glorious past and the 21st century. By SHARON LIM


he Iran of popular imagination — a country torn apart by civil strife and the fallout from an eight-year invasion by its neighbour, Iraq in 1980 — does little to reassure would-be visitors to this tract of land formerly known as Persia. “Iranian people believe guests are a gift from God,” says my guide, Tiam Nikseresht, who has degrees

in psychology and archaeology. Yes, all women are required to don a headscarf and dress modestly in this deeply Islamic country, but both women and men are put through the same education system. This is a legacy of Persian culture, which has influenced civilisations from Italy to Russia and more. Nikseresht tells me that it’s okay to take photos of the locals, as long as I ask first. Photo SHARON LIM

What I didn’t expect was meeting Iranians who wanted to take photos of me — often together with their families! In this stillcloistered country, tourists from Asia are rare. But thanks to the popularity of K-drama, I seemed as exotic as the Iranians seemed to me. “Exotic” came up again and again during our quick journey through Tehran, Esfahan — the old capital of Persia — and Kashan.



Robb Report


he first thing you notice when you arrive in Tehran is the traffic. The sprawling capital on the lower slopes of the Alborz Mountains is teeming with cars almost any time of the day. With 14 million people, it’s not surprising. You know you’re out of Tehran when you pass the Imam Khomeini shrine — the edifice to Iran’s first supreme leader who came to power following the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The shrine isn’t finished yet, but even from the highway you can see the huge dome and four golden minarets surrounded by scaffolding. But Tehran is also Iran’s most liberal city, though thankfully you won’t find the slew of global brands familiar in major cities here. Instead, the city’s murals and public art commemorate its recent past, depicting revolutionary leaders and, more poignantly, heroes of Iran’s eight-year

war with Iraq. Almost every street is named after someone lost in that war. The American Embassy, where 66 Americans were held hostage by Islamist militants and students in 1979, is referred to as “the nest of spies” and “the Argo building”, after the 2012 movie based on the event.

The 400-year-old Golestan Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of old Tehran, offers a step back in time. The five-hectare summer complex of Nassereddin Shah, the 19thcentury Qajar king, is famous for its graceful architecture, ceremonial marble throne that was used for special occasions 200 years ago and for its archive of Iranian photography. King Nassereddin introduced photography to Iran and practised by taking photographs of his harem. For a glimpse into the truly decadent history of Iran, pop by the National Jewelry Museum in the Central Bank of Iran. Surrender all your belongings, including your smartphone, and go on a guided tour of the vault’s priceless archives in numbered glass showcases. Highlights are the Crown Jewels of Iran, rafts of uncut gemstones, an ornate bejewelled throne and royal headpieces.

The city’s murals and public art commemorate its recent past.


January – 2017


bout six hours’ drive from Tehran along the Persian Gulf Highway is Esfehan. Also known as Isfahan, most of the city was built during the reign of Shah Abbas in the 17th century. Shah Abbas received guests in the scenic Chehelsotun Palace, whose name in Parsi means “40 columns”, for the 20 wooden columns supporting the entrance to the main hall, which would double in number when reflected in the waters of the fountain in front of it. In contrast, Niavaran Palace in northern Tehran was completed in 1968 and was the primary residence of the last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the imperial family until the Iranian Revolution in 1978. The main palace, designed in 1958 by Iranian architect Mohsen Foroughi, is a time warp of how the

ESFAHAN shah, his wife Queen Farah Pahvali and their four children lived. Esfahan is more than 2,500 years old, and historical buildings and spaces abound in the city. Naqsh-e Jahan Square, commonly known as Imam Square, was From above: Abbasi Hotel; Masjed-e Jame.


constructed between 1598 and 1629 and is the central point in town. One of the largest public spaces in the world, this UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses several buildings: the famed Grand Bazaar, Alighapou Palace and the distinctive blue mosaic-encrusted Imam Mosque. Iranians live and work in the surrounding neighbourhood. Locals come here to buy spices and jewellery in the old Gheisariyeh bazaar, while the surrounding passageways teem with artisans making handicrafts. Venture a little further to a street of shops showcasing Esfahan’s best artisanal crafts, including miniatures painted by 68-year-old Hossein Falahi, who deftly works freehand with a brush made of cat’s hair, using paint made from fishbone ashes.



n route back to Tehran, I stop by the desert town of Kashan, the gateway to Iran’s central desert region. Traditional desert architecture dating back 5,000 years still stands here but it’s the 19th-century Borujerdi House, built for the wife of the wealthy merchant Haji Mehdi Borujerdi, that’s worth a closer look. It’s built into the ground with courtyards and rooms accessible by stone staircases, while vents in the roof circulate the air and keep the buildings cool. One of the most beautiful places

Robb Report


Traditional desert architecture dating back 5,000 years still stands here. Built in the 16th century, Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse is decorated with amazing ornamental tiles. Facing page: Fin Garden. Photo GILLES BARBIER

in Kashan is Fin Garden. Built during the reign of Abbas I of Persia between 1588 and 1629, this cool green spot in the desert, with canals and fountains running through the grounds, has a bloody past. Exiled statesman Amir Kabir, who opened the first modern school in Iran, was murdered in the bathhouse in 1851. Murder, intrigue and politics are inevitably the first impressions we have of Iran. But that would be doing it a disservice. Its architecture, art, gardens and more are reasons to visit — again and again. ≠


January – 2017

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS: IRAN GETTING THERE: Thai Airways flies to Tehran from Bangkok every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. On board, experience Royal Silk Class with fully reclining seats, food featuring ingredients sourced from northern Thailand, and over 100 movies. VISAS: A valid visa is required for all foreign nationals entering Iran. Apply online at iran-visa. com/iran-visa-application-form at least two months before your departure date. MOBILE: Singapore data

roaming charges are prohibitive in Iran and Wi-Fi is limited. Your best bet is to get a local SIM card and connect to Wi-Fi in your hotel. FARSI 101 Hello - Salaam Goodbye - Hurhh da hafez Thank you - Merci How are you? - Haleh shoma chetor ast? What? Where? - Chi? Koja? Sorry – Bebakhshid Where’s the toilet? – Dasht shuee ko jast? DRESS CODE: All women


must wear a headscarf from the moment they exit their plane and in public, as well as loose clothing that covers the body. In major cities like Tehran and Esfahan, it’s considered tres jolie for women to drape their headscarves so that the front of their hair is exposed. ALCOHOL: Alcohol is prohibited in Iran, a Muslim country. Non-alcoholic beer such as Istak is available in a variety of flavours including malt, lemon and pomegranate.


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The freshness of the orange flavour mingles with the velvety smooth caress of cognac in Cointreau Noir.


Alfred Cointreau, the 30-year-old scion of the Cointreau empire, is part of a wave of youthful head honchos charged with engaging a new generation of tipplers who are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their tastes. By JOSH SIMS


January - 2017


lfred Cointreau is the sixth generation to work for the famed triple sec drink of the same name charged with expressing and building on the long heritage of the family-run brand that is more than 160 years old. Being the sixth-generation Cointreau must be challenging? When I joined the company five years ago, a lot of people wondered if the pressure of being a Cointreau would be too much, but I’ve come to know the business from the ground up, including working on the bottling

“The Cointreau bottle shape was radical for its time.” line. Of course, it’s still my name on those bottles, so there’s an incentive to not do anything stupid. That said, every generation wants to represent itself differently. In fact, the Cointreau bottle shape was radical for its time and that was designed by Edouard Cointreau, the second generation, when he was still young too. How does your generation view your product? A drink like Cointreau is much more than the drink now - it’s the history, the presentation, the chat with the bartender. Generally, people want to know what they’re buying.


The drinks industry is more focused on the small scale now. Is that a problem for a global brand? We’re part of an industry that is seeing a boom in micro brewers and craft distillers, that celebrates the local and the special rather than just the big international brands, so we have to keep that in mind. We launched Cointreau Noir on that basis. It’s from a 1903 recipe and is more a connoisseur’s drink, appealing to those who enjoy a rum or whisky neat with ice. You’re always on the move, telling the Cointreau story. What have you learned? When you travel as much as I do, you realise just how different the attitudes to drink are between cultures and countries. The French, for example, still educate their children from a young age to drink with a meal. In the US, it’s more about cocktails. So it’s always a challenge to make Cointreau

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“I get offered a lot of drinks so I tend just to sip and not finish many of them.”

From top: Cointreau’s distillery in Angers; Alfred Cointreau.

relevant to different ways of drinking. We’re lucky in that it’s so versatile. You can use Cointreau in your cooking, have an aperitif while you cook, a digestif after and then a cocktail later. Inevitably you must drink a lot. How do you cope? When you have Cointreau in your blood you develop a resistance to alcohol. I get offered a lot of drinks so I tend just to sip and not finish many of them. When I started with the company I quickly learned to drink a lot of water - one glass for every glass of anything with alcohol in it. It works. I only have one or two hangovers a year. A good cocktail helps me get over those. Cointreau is one of those drinks that has claimed to be the product of a secret recipe. How often are you asked to reveal it? For me, looking after the heritage of the brand is based on an idea that came from my grandfather. When


January - 2017

I was 11 he decided it was time I knew the recipe for Cointreau. I was very excited at being let into this big secret. So, he told me all the ingredients and there was nothing unusual. He turned to me and said: ‘What did you expect - that we put flour in it or something?!’ I was a bit disappointed. But the lesson there was that it’s not about the ingredients. It’s about the art of distilling. That’s what’s important to maintain through the generations.

ENGAGING A YOUNGER AUDIENCE The Victoria’s Secret catwalk show is perhaps not the most obvious place to celebrate a drinks brand unless you’re targeting younger people. That’s the thinking at vodka company Ciroc (www., which launched its On Arrival campaign with a special-edition Victoria’s Secret bottle. But Ciroc is not alone in seeking to tap a younger demographic. Martell (www., for instance, created Martell NCF (Non Chill Filtered), specifically for millennials. It’s filtered at room temperature to create a cognac that is ideal as a mixer, notably

Martell NCF is characterised by its exceptionally fresh, lively style, with sensual hints of apricot jam and vanilla.

smooth and, as the company puts it, “deliciously easy”. Indeed, while the spirits industry is waking up to the idea that contemporary packaging and image matters to younger drinkers Martell teamed up with DJs and hiphop artists for its Singapore launch last November - it is also recognising that the drink itself sometimes has to appeal to, as it were, a lessdeveloped palate. Not that younger drinkers are necessarily unsophisticated. A Mintel report concludes that millennials are driving demand for craft beer. The same group is said to be behind the boom in craft bourbons, which are predicted to be the fastest growing spirits worldwide over the next five years. Certainly some brands are going all in to make sure they chime with this progressive consumer segment. Last January, Bacardi ( appointed a global millennials manager, tasked not only with targeting these consumers, but - crucial to future success, it argues - also getting more of them to work for it. ≠

Martell, for instance, created Martell NCF (Non Chill Filtered), specifically for millennials.


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ALL IN THE FAMILY For quality furniture, ‘made in Brianza’ is the label to look out for. By SONIA KOLESNIKOV-JESSOP

The majesticlooking Pavesi from Angelo Cappellini creates a romantic atmosphere.


January – 2017


Giorgio Collection offers a contemporary take on art deco furniture.

he region of Brianza, midway between Milan and Lake Como, is to Italian furniture making what the Vallee de Joux is to watchmaking or Bordeaux is to fine wines. “When it comes to highend quality furniture, no other area can compare to Brianza,” says Fabio Masolo, general manager of Giorgio Collection ( Established in the 18th century by farmers taking on carpentry during winter, furniture making in Brianza came into its own during the 20th century when Milan’s architects and designers sought to have their creations realised nearby. By the 1950s, nearly a third of all furniture made in Italy was produced in the region and while

globalisation and the rise of foreign competition took its toll in the 1980s and 1990s, it also encouraged Brianza’s artisans to offer custommade solutions. Located in Seregno, a small town 20km north of Milan, Giorgio Collection offers a contemporary take on art deco furniture characterised by exotic veneers and luscious fabrics. For example, the latest collection marries Tiger African sycamore with gunshot grey chrome and black mother-of -pearl detailing that enhances the handles and inlays of the pieces. “Our strength is not only in offering a wide range of products, but also in our ability to deliver quickly,” Masolo says.

While most of the furniture production is done in Brianza, the company also reaches out to Italian specialists for its extensive line of accessories, from Murano glass to Florentine crystal. From above: Asnaghi Interiors’ Manzoni Baudelaire bedroom line; Angelo Cappellini’s Lippi chest.


Fifteen minutes away from Seregno is Meda, another stronghold for furniture manufacturers both large and small. Among them, Asnaghi Interiors (www.asnaghi. com) stands out for the quality of its grand period furniture. Founded in 1916, the familyfirm has become internationally renowned for its handmade furniture with flamboyant finishes that reinterpret classical pieces. “We offer pieces that everyone likes, though we know it’s not for everyone,” admits art director Gianluca Asnaghi. In its 3,000sqm showroom, Asnaghi Interiors presents complete furnishing solutions. “Our goal is to create the whole environment for a room, and we can offer wallpaper, wood panelling, carpets,” Asnaghi says proudly.

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Asnaghi Interiors presents complete furnishing solutions. Living and dining room solutions in Giorgio Collection’s Alchemy line.

Meanwhile in the nearby town of Cabiate, Angelo Cappellini ( is a fifthgeneration family firm that has become a specialist in the faithful reproduction of classic European period furniture. The carefully selected pieces of wood are now precision-cut by machines, but all finishing details are completed by hand using traditional tools. “It takes several years of intense practice and great passion to become a wood carving master,” notes Silvio Cappellini, the firm’s president. “Brianza is the historical heart of Italian art furniture and from this land of industrious and creative people, we have inherited the attention to detail, the love for the highest quality, the inclination to innovate and internationalise.” ≠


January – 2017

BEYOND BRIANZA For the last 700 years, glassmakers on the island of Murano, near Venice, have had to adapt to changing technologies and consumer tastes. Yet, a private visit to the closed-door atelier of Barovier&Toso, the oldest glassmaking firm on the island, reveals that many of the methods used to create its famous chandeliers remain very traditional. Creating such beauty is a long process that starts in the furnaces from which the master craftsman will coax a glob of molten glass and work it into the desired shape using a blowpipe, either free-blowing it or inflating it in a wooden or metal mould, and then letting the piece rest on a slow-moving conveyor belt in a cooling tunnel. The series of finishing touches can only be done by hand, so using a mixture of sand and water on a turning table, a craftsman will first sand away any imperfections on the glass, then use a rubber wheel and later a fabric wheel on each piece for successively finer finishes. “Our goal is to project emotion as well as light,” enthuses Luigi Lucchetta, director general of the company. Such emotion is appreciated around the world with Barovier&Toso chandeliers adorning some of the grandest hotels and private residences. “One of the reasons we’re still here after 700 years is because we’re always looking forward, which means stylistic innovation as well,” says Lucchetta.

The blown-glass elements in Barovier&Toso’s Hanami form a dense cloud of reflections and refractions.

“One of the reasons we’re still here after 700 years is because we’re always looking forward.”


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THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL Ermenegildo Zegna’s new Bespoke Shoe Collection shows the many faces of the new Zegna man.

This and facing pages: all the shoes will be made at Gaziano & Girling’s factory in Northampton.


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ancer, bartender, illusionist, sommelier, art dealer, biker, guitarist, chef and editor. These are the diverse incarnations that the new Bespoke Shoe Collection from Ermenegildo Zegna is modelled on. Artistic director Alessandro Sartori’s first project with the Italian menswear stronghold steps out with the brand in a new direction, offering nine incredible examples of shoemaking craft for the first time. Exclusively available at Zegna’s New Bond Street Global Store in London, the collection is a celebration of skilled artisanry and modern design. For Sartori, each shoe is inspired by a close friend, resulting in a collection that showcases the multiple facets of the new Zegna man and celebrates the beauty of true craftmanship. In serendipitous agreement, the sole

choice of craftsmen from both Sartori and Group CEO Gildo Zegna was the renowned British shoemaker duo, Gaziano & Girling. The talented pair reflect Zegna’s heritage of innovation and versatility, turning Sartori’s creative dreams into handcrafted reality. Spoilt for choice between the Medallion Oxford, Double Monk, Jodhpur, Gusset Shoe, Laced Casual, Derby Style or Punched Casual, every pair is a triumph of modern creativity and skilled handiwork. Each will take up to six months to create from scratch, with an indulgent selection of trims, satin laces and other finishing details to make them truly your own. The bespoke process is a milestone of personalised style and luxury, which is exactly where the elegant journey of a sophisticated and worldly new Zegna man should begin. ≠


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January – 2017

Architect Daniel Libeskind discusses how luxury residences are becoming more about the quality of space rather than the iconicity of the facade, and how his experience as a Holocaust survivor has shaped his body of work. By AARON DE SILVA


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n Singapore, starchitect Daniel Libeskind is practically a household name thanks to his work on Reflections at Keppel Bay, its dramatic forest of twisting spires piercing the island’s southern coastal skyline. By contrast, his latest project – Corals at Keppel Bay – is more nuanced, with its 366 units organised in a series of organic, undulating buildings that range in height from four to 12 storeys. Globally, the 70-year-old principal of Studio Libeskind – who’s of Polish Jewish

about a community, not just an abstraction. Because of its low-rise massing, Corals is not as distinctive on the skyline as Reflections is. Are you concerned that it isn’t as iconic? I think it is iconic. There’s a subtlety and a delicacy to it. It’s not high-rise, but it takes only one glance to see how deliberate and delicate it is. It’s like a coral, which is very refined. It has a million facets that reflect light and nature. Not every icon says ‘look at me’, but if it’s a true icon, it radiates a certain energy and supports the life of people and families living there. It’s

“It’s a challenge to create views, spaces and intimacy.” descent – is best known for designing institutions such as the Jewish Museum in Berlin and Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen, and for crafting the master plan for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site in New York. It’s been more than a decade since residential properties designed by celebrated architects started coming onto the market. Do you think the needs of homeowners and investors have changed since those early years? I think people are very intelligent these days. They have access to information, such as how people in other parts of the world live. People don’t want repetition, transposing a bit of London or New York onto Singapore. They want uniqueness that’s connected to a place. And that’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to create views, spaces and intimacy. It’s

not about the facade, but about the pleasure and the joy of being here. Would you say that this marks a shift in the way luxury properties are perceived … to something more inwardlooking? Yes. (Here,) the site suggests that. It’s lower at the front and higher towards the east. (The layout is) like a large open garden, with shared views within. What emotions do you hope to stir in future residents of/ visitors to Corals? It’s evident that there’s a certain serenity here. The enjoyment of life. That’s what a home is for. To be able to celebrate the everyday. How have your childhood experiences as a Holocaust survivor influenced your personal philosophy as well as your professional sensibilities? It’s made me aware that the number one thing to cherish is liberty and freedom. (It’s made me consider) the ethics


January – 2017

Reflections at Keppel Bay (facing page) was architect Daniel Libeskind’s first residential development in Asia.

of space, the ethics of architecture, to see the world in a positive light and not to run with the crowds, necessarily. Many of your projects are memorials to humanity’s worst tragedies. Has working on them – especially the Jewish Museum in Berlin and Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen – been a form of catharsis for you? No. It’s just like working on everything else. It’s proof of the victory of life over tragic events. It’s (a way) to remember and heal the wounds. We look forward. We use that memory, not cover it up. We use it as a foothold for the future. While you have designed a myriad prosaic projects, your best-known works are memorials and museums of trauma. Is being typecast as the go-to architect for that

genre a concern for you? Well, people can call me whatever they want. I think we’re all affected by the trauma. Who has not been affected by the Holocaust or by the atomic bombs in Japan? And if you’re affected by it, you have to act positively towards a different future, a better future, a peaceful future. And use architecture to create that kind of space. Are you an optimistic person? Are you hopeful for the future of architecture and of humanity? I would never be an architect if I did not believe in it. On top of that, I think it’s the only qualification you need to be an architect. Architecture is always building forwards into the future. ≠



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January – 2017


To adults, playthings are more than just make-believe. By JOSH SIMS


hristmas can be a dispiriting time for parents: isn’t it a truism that within minutes of opening presents, children find the toys less interesting than the boxes they came in? The money-wise parent might be quick to gather up the discarded gifts because while they may not provide a life-changing windfall, toys are proving to be smart investments. Serious collectors have typically focused on pre-1970s ‘antique’ toys - typically those of European manufacture, when the UK and Germany in particular were recognised for their quality, and before licensing deals came to dominate the market. But even these have potential for the amateur: if you had all 20 original Star Wars figures, launched in 1977/78, on their backing cards and in their bubble wrap, they could now comfortably top

£20,000 (S$36,000) at auction. If, in the early 1970s, you had spent £1,000 on Matchbox toys and also kept them in mint condition, they would net you closer to £100,000. “People have seen that some vintage toys have increased significantly in value over the years and are therefore hoping to capitalise on the trend for pop culture items,” says John Baulch, publisher of leading industry journal Toy World ( “But the vast majority of toys bought by consumers are destined to be played with - rather than sitting in an attic for the next 20 years.” Yet some are prepared to, arguably, take the magic out of toys. Certainly original examples from any of the household-name toy manufacturers, especially those who created just such a classic, might prove a safe bet. Yet luck to some extent will play a part. Movie franchise toys would normally provide

Serious collectors have typically focused on pre-1970s ‘antique’ toys.


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the first time around are of an age where they’re not buying them again now. In fact, they’ve become sellers rather than collectors, encouraging prices to tail off.” Aston also advises avoiding any toys marketed as ‘collectible’ or ‘limited edition’ from the outset, as Steiff teddy bears now tend to be. For one, the editions still tend to be considerable and secondly, because they’re ‘collectible’ they tend to be kept in pristine condition. This would be a good thing - indeed, a

“It is better for an investor to buy one item in mint condition than several in less-than-mint condition.” a bigger return, but are also a bigger risk. Franchises that become longrunning, cultish brands in their own right are few and so established as to prove a sound if unadventurous investment; in contrast, many collectors bought heavily into Dick Tracy, only for their investment to bomb when the film did. Successful toy investment, says Chris Aston of Aston’s Auctioneers (, a leading specialist in toys, “is all about thinking out of the box and reading the market. Hornby, a big model train maker, has recently suffered a sizeable loss, which perhaps indicates that its market is in decline”. Similarly, investors need to be conscious of the 30 or so

Various robots from the 1970s and 1980s, including R2-D2 and C-3PO from the feature film Star Wars.

year cycle that brings a toy into peak collectibility: those toys that appeal to the men - and it is usually men who, now in their 40s, financially secure and perhaps with children of their own, are looking to find prime examples of the toys they once loved as kids. Indeed, the faster any new toy loses its popularity, the more easily it is forgotten. “Dinky toys from the 1950s, for example, were once a great investment but have probably passed their peak,” suggests Aston. “The people who appreciated them

crucial thing to the future value of most toys. But since it will go straight into storage, rarity is never likely to be an issue. “Condition is what it is all about, such that it is better for an investor to buy one item in mint condition than several in less-than-mint condition,” Aston advises. He cites the solitary Star Wars Boba Fett figure on a French backing card that broke records in 2016 by selling for £21,000. “Of course, if you’re starting to collect, you should really just enjoy the pleasure of collecting first, because returns like that are far from being guaranteed. But they do happen. Toys, like comics, do now offer serious investment opportunities.” ≠


January – 2017

Made in the US for almost 70 years, Slinky has been captivating children and adults all over the world.

ONES TO WATCH Star Wars: With the film franchise

the likes of Play-Doh, Etch-a-Sketch

now rebooted, demand for pristine

and Slinky have been voted best of

toys from the 1970s are running at

the last millennium, despite global

an all-time high. In large part for

film franchises and high-tech toys.

their appeal to middle-aged men,

Game consoles and games:

few auctioneers consider Star Wars

Technology has long surpassed

likely to be topped for some years.

them, but, like vinyl LPs, the desire

Lego: A toy that is typically used,

to own Nintendo’s greatest hits

unopened boxes become hard

rather than to play them is set to

to find; any themed Lego - Harry

be a strong one.

Potter, for example - is especially

Toy brands of the 1980s/early

notable as it appeals to two different

1990s: Following the theory that

kinds of collector.

those who were children then

Classics: Toy brands that have

have disposable income and a

successfully adapted over the

retrospective nature now, the likes

decades, the likes of Barbie, are

of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,

likely to retain their collectibility

Power Rangers and Thundercats

over years to come. Age-old toys

could all prove winners.


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Beijing-based Fabien Fryns Fine Art presented a selection of artworks by Li Wei, such as these two installations called A Little Boy and Pet. Facing page from left: Waterfowl by Xu Zhe of ifa Gallery; Two Ajummas by Hein-kuhn Oh of Choi&Lager Gallery.


Asia Now, the only art fair in Europe dedicated to Asian contemporary art, returned for its second edition last October during Paris Art Week.


January - 2017



lexandra Fain, director and cofounder of Asia Now, fell in love with Asian art in 2010 while travelling in China. When the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland erupted and all flights to Europe were cancelled, she was obliged to stay in Beijing for two weeks longer than planned. She spent her time visiting galleries and artist studios. Upon

Its boutique size encourages close communication among artists, galleries and collectors. Asia Now is a showcase of the diversity and vitality of the Asian art scene, from installation, video and photography to sculpture, painting and drawing. Taking place within the intimate setting of a Haussmann building in the eighth arrondissement that allowed over 13,000 visitors to wander

Asia Now is a showcase of the diversity and vitality of the Asian art scene. her return to France, she noticed that there was a major gap in the European market, especially considering the strong historic ties linking France and Asia. Thereafter, she started touring Asia, fostering relationships with local artists and curators. Through Asia Now, she aims to shed light on the vast range of artists and encourage audiences to rethink Asian contemporary art without the stereotypes usually associated with it.

from one room to another, the latest edition brought together over 150 well-known and young artists represented by 34 galleries (up from 18 in 2015) from more than 13 countries. Fain states: “We didn’t want to present blockbusters, but to push lesser-known young artists and to allow them to meet collectors, with affordable artworks, around €10,000 (S$15,000). In 2015, Li Wei created an installation with 1,000 chicks and


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“What is really interesting is that we have an outstanding selection of female artists.” visitors could buy one for only €200! What is really interesting this year (2016) is the outstanding selection of female artists, who make up almost 30 per cent of our exhibiting artists – something that is quite uncommon for the fair scene. I am particularly excited about our international performances from artists such as Singapore-based Teow Yue Han, Japanese artists Lei Saito and Tsuneko Taniuchi, River Lin from Taiwan and Chi Hongrui from China.” Two galleries with spaces in Singapore participated in the fair: Yeo Workshop presenting Santi

From above: Teaching Aid by Li Hongbo of Women’s Independence; Under Heaven by Xu Zhen of MadeIn Gallery.

Wangchuan’s works using various forms of textiles, and Sundaram Tagore Gallery featuring Hiroshi Senju, Kamolpan Chotvichai, Miya Ando, Kim Joon, Sohan Qadri and Tayeba Begum Lipi.

A2Z ART GALLERY Founded in 2009 by Ziwei and Anthony Phuong, A2Z Art Gallery, with spaces in Hong Kong and Paris, acts as a bridge connecting the European and Asian art scenes through its artists – mostly of Asian origin, born or living in France – who reveal the diversity and richness of a globalised


January - 2017

society. It exhibited four artists representing the current state of Chinese contemporary art – Chen Wei, Ji Jun, Jiang Zhuyun and Zhou Yilun – and its immensely popular 44-year-old French artist of Vietnamese origin, Hom Nguyen, with his monumental charcoal on canvas pieces entitled Inner Cry.

Aggregation comprises millions of small pieces composed by Korean artist SeonGhi Bahk to blur the boundary between the abstract and the concrete in terms of perception.

Always focusing on the human figure, he offers his reinterpretation of the celebrities of our time like Mick Jagger or Bruce Lee, or raises awareness of issues of immigration and identity through his portraits constructed of what appear to be disordered lines, but in reality are the result of skilled technical control and precision. Of particular note is his recent series of “masks” portraying the faces of Asian children devoid of mouths that represent the plight of Asian immigrants in France who are deprived of the right to speak, which he drew relying solely on his memory and the emotions



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of the moment. He says: “It’s not their beauty or reputation that interest me, but their expression. Their physiognomy, feelings and emotions are reflected.”

TANG CONTEMPORARY ART Established by Chinese artist and businessman Zheng Lin in 1997 in Bangkok, followed by spaces in Beijing and Hong Kong, the gallery aims to initiate dialogue between artists, curators, collectors and institutions locally and internationally. Known for its successful cultivation of young artists and collectors in China, it displayed a selection of recent and new works of sculpture, painting and mixed media installations by up-and-coming Chinese artists Zhao Zhao, Cai Lei and Xu Qu, who have gained worldwide attention for tackling China’s complex socioeconomic dynamics. An eyecatching piece was the Fragments brass installation resembling a cracked mirror by 34-year-old Zhao. He is considered a significant figure among the post-1980s generation of Chinese contemporary

artists thanks to his provocative multidisciplinary practice that displays anti-authoritarian or nonconformist tendencies.

URANO Participating for the first time at Asia Now, the Tokyo-based gallery – founded last September by Mutsumi Urano – exhibited Toshiyuki Konishi, Ishu Han and Takahiro Iwasaki. A leading figure of the Japanese contemporary art scene and recently nominated to represent Japan at Venice Biennale 2017, Iwasaki transforms everyday items such as toothbrushes, towels and books into miniature sculptures. Born in Hiroshima in 1975, his fantastical, detailed and delicate landscapes stem from his concern for the fragility of cities. His Tectonic Model depicts a crane made of glued thread attached to a copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince – it’s so minuscule in size, you wonder how it was created.

WOMEN’S INDEPENDENCE Curated by Magda Danysz and commissioned by iconic French

An eye-catching piece was the Fragments brass installation resembling a cracked mirror.


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lingerie brand Etam to celebrate its centenary – 100 years during which it has supported women’s emancipation – the exhibition uniting art and philanthropy featured works based on the theme of women’s independence in a wide range of media by 13 male and female artists, which were subsequently sold at a charity auction for the Naked Heart Foundation founded by supermodel Natalia Vodianova. Reflecting Etam’s international dimension, participants ranged from Chinese multimedia artist Yi Zhou and Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf to American duo Faile and Colombian rising talent Daniel Otero Torres. Beijing-based artist Li Hongbo’s piece appeared to be a classical marble sculpture, but is actually formed from thousands

of sheets of paper glued together in a honeycomb structure, then sculpted in the shape of a human bust from ancient Greece, which can be lifted up and stretched like a Slinky. Known for his Invisible Man photo-performance where he paints himself into the backdrop so that he practically disappears in an optical illusion, Liu Bolin gathered testimonies and objects from 100 women that he then used to create an installation, posed in front of it, blended in and vanished.

PREVIEW OF DSLCOLLECTION IN VIRTUAL REALITY An advocate for the use of innovative technologies in art with the first virtual museum created in 2007 on the Web, DSLcollection by Sylvain and Dominique Levy, collectors of Chinese contemporary art for the

Shang Xia and Christie’s jointly showed 12 of the design firm’s pieces that had not been seen before. Facing page: another work in the Aggregation series.


past 30 years, unveiled its latest project developed in collaboration with Ikonospace: a world-first sneak peek of its collection in virtual reality. The arrival of virtual reality in addition to the growing efficiency of 3D graphics and mobile technology has profoundly changed the way the art world and market can interact with the public online. The project marked the introduction of Ikonospace’s flagship product, Ikono Pro, a digital art exhibition software that offers the tools necessary for designing, curating and marketing exhibitions in a 3D virtual universe that closely mirrors actual physical art gallery spaces. It proved to be an exclusive preview of what the future of the art world holds in the digital age. ≠


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PROFITING FROM A HOBBY The leisure pursuits of the rich are no longer just extravagant indulgences – they can now officially be seen as investments. By ALYWIN CHEW


January - 2017


assion investing has been growing over the past few years, with an index by Coutts showing that such investments have generated a 77 per cent increase in returns since 2005. “Since the financial crisis in 2009, there has been a considerable erosion of trust in non-tangible investment classes. Additionally, the poor performance of so-called absolute return hedge funds and the age of low interest rates have meant that traditional investment categories haven’t been working for investors,” says Wealth-X research director Winston Chesterfield.

In 2014, a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO set a world record in car auctions. The 2016 Passion Investing Report by financial firm Edge found that the value of Ferraris made in the mid-1960s has grown by some 270 per cent since the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. In 2014, a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO set a world record in car auctions when it fetched a price of US$38

million at a Bonhams’ auction. Thanks to the craze, the coffers of classic Ferrari broker Talacrest ( have been expanding exponentially. According to Talacrest chairman John Collins, the company’s overseas earnings had mushroomed from a mere £433,000 in 2010 to £59.3 million in the year to March 2015. While automotive collectors have little to lose should they decide to take their classic cars out for a spin, the same can’t be said for wine collectors. Bottles of rare wine have been flying off the auction blocks, particularly in Hong Kong, at a

The Ferrari 250 GTO is one of the world’s most sought-after classic cars.


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phenomenal rate, with Simon Yam, head of wine for Christie’s Asia (www.christies. com), describing the city as the “wine epicentre of the world”. Last year, the auction house’s Finest and Rarest Wines: Direct from Great Estates auction in May made HK$7.9 million (S$1.5 million) in sales. Another auction in November, which included a selection of Classed Growth Bordeaux and Mouton Rothschild, generated HK$25.2 million. But the wealthy aren’t just looking to buy bottles. Having identified burgeoning interest in vineyards in recent times, Christie’s International Real Estate in 2013 launched an advisory service for people seeking to own vineyards.

Auction houses saw a flurry of art transactions last year. Pablo Picasso’s Femme Assise became the most expensive cubist painting to be sold when the hammer fell at a whopping US$63.4 million (S$90.3 million) in June. And in November, Sotheby’s sold Edvard Munch’s Girls on the Bridge for US$54.5 million. In Asia-Pacific, the most fervent investors in art and vineyards are the high-net-worth mainland Chinese. “Investing in art or wine vineyards satisfies two important drivers for China’s rich - a desire to reflect an evolved understanding of luxury, as well as the potential, albeit a small one, of investing in an income-producing asset,” says Angelito Tan Jr, CEO

The most fervent investors in art and vineyards are the highnet-worth mainland Chinese. From left: Pablo Picasso’s Femme Assise; Edward Munch’s Girls on the Bridge. Facing page: Christie’s Finest and Rarest Wines sale.

Despite passion investments in art not being as lucrative as cars and wine, there is a growing number of wealthy individuals who are seeking them out. According to a report by Deloitte last year, 15 per cent more wealth managers as compared to 2015 said that their clients were looking to include art in their investment portfolios.


January - 2017

of luxury consultancy RTG (www. “Another driver of passion investment is a renewed focus on a ‘slow luxe’ lifestyle. This is essentially a philosophy towards living that reflects a relaxed and unhurried lifestyle, allowing one space to revitalise.” The advice that experts have for aspiring passion investors is unanimous – follow the heart and not the mind. “Passion investments are highrisk investments that do not return a high amount of investment, if any at all,” says Tan. “There is a saying among vineyard owners: if you want to become a millionaire as a vineyard owner, start out as a billionaire.” ≠

INVESTING TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE Driven by a shift in investor attitudes

estimates that an astounding US$21.4

toward environmental and social

trillion is being invested in ethical

issues around the globe, sustainable,

strategies worldwide.

responsible and impact (SRI) investing

But does SRI investing make

is getting increasingly popular around

financial sense? According to Morgan

the world, especially in the US

Stanley, it does. The firm’s Sustainable

and Europe.

Reality Report, which took into

According to The Forum

account more than 10,000 mutual

for Sustainable and Responsible

funds, discovered that “sustainable

Investment, SRI investing in the US

equity funds met or exceeded

grew more than 33 per cent between

median returns of traditional equity

2014 and 2016, while The Responsible

funds during 64 per cent of the time

Investment Association of Australia

periods examined”.

“If you want to become a millionaire as a vineyard owner, start out as a billionaire.”


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George Orwell once said: “A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into.” If only he could see what a complex, insatiable and intelligent pouch we’ve become.

Rene Redzepi (facing page) and his team will be in Tulum, Mexico from 12 April to 28 May offering a menu and beverage pairing based on Mexican ingredients and traditions. Photos LAURA LP


January – 2017



ver the centuries, the complexities of our eating habits have been studied and novelised greatly - from the advent of agriculture to our current neoteric culinary sensibilities. We take a look at some recent food patterns and peek into the foreseeable future of where the phenomenon of food is taking us.

THE MODERN CHEF AND THE RESTAURANT Chefs have gone from being uncelebrated individuals to bona fide stars. Their unassailable influence is fuelled by luscious media coverage and unconfined by physical geography. Take for example, Noma (, Rene Redzepi’s restaurant in Copenhagen. The two-Michelin-starred establishment has inspired food enthusiasts from even thousands of kilometres away. True to the varied nature of the modern restaurant, Noma held a series of residencies in various parts of the world. Ranging from a few weeks to months at a time, Noma’s pop-up series proves that a restaurant no longer needs to be contained within four walls. No longer just purveyors of tasty meals, celebrity chefs are gaining a foothold in the arenas of science, technology, business,

education and social activism. And while the glamorisation of this role wields a doubleedged sword, its social virtue ultimately overlaps all - offering greater awareness about food and its binding role in society. Not only have professional cooking methods such as sous vide permeated home kitchens, many can confidently proclaim the winsome attributes of kale, chia seeds and coconut oil as assuredly as the words to their favourite song. Leading the pack in this modernday blitzkrieg is David Chang of Momofuku (momofuku. com) fame. The chef and entrepreneur has constructed a multihyphenate food empire, with his name attached to a bevy of restaurants and books, as well a magazine and his own television series. Covering a wide range of food-related topics, Chang documents some of the most obscure food cultures and brazen culinary adventures in full print and celluloid glory. On the other side of the pond, Jamie Oliver (www.jamieoliver. com) has famously championed better dietary habits for years, with a focus on feeding children right. Closer to home, Singaporean chef, Benny Se Teo (, having emerged from prison to work at Jamie Oliver’s London restaurant, Fifteen, has set

Chefs have gone from being uncelebrated individuals to bona fide stars.


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up his chain of restaurants that offers ex-convicts jobs.


and most elaborate of progressive gastronomy. Dining at his restaurant is akin to walking through a food phantasmagoria, where the unexpected is convention. Aside from changing the terrain of cooking, food technology has also reached new heights of gourmet convenience for the consumer. With apps such as Food Panda, Deliveroo and UberEats, consumers are privy to the wide offerings of restaurants available right in the comfort of home.

Food technology has crafted new depths for eating and dining.

One of the largest game changers in this modern era of food has been brought about by technological advances both in and out of the kitchen. From slicing down manpower needs to exploring scientific ways of cooking, food technology has crafted new depths for eating and dining. Within kitchens and food labs, food scientists such as Harold McGee have long extolled the creative romance between science and food. Manipulating the structure of food using physics and chemistry has brought about not just changes in tastes, but also in texture, giving more complexity to what we eat. Chicago-based chef Grant Achatz (www.alinearestaurant. com) has experimented with the wildest

From above: seven spice beef brisket ssam from Momofuku Ssam Bar; David Chang.

VEGETABLES - THE NEW FRONTIER As we move away from factoryfarmed meat, chefs are bringing us on a journey of recreating the flavour intensity of meat using vegetables. Alain Passard ( was one of the pioneers, having denounced cooking meat in 2001. Top photo ANDREW BEZEK


January – 2017

Passard eventually brought small doses of meat and fish back into the restaurant, but has retained vegetables as the main components of his creations. With an increasing amount of research and development dedicated to this burgeoning trend of vegetablebased meals, companies are finally discovering the trick to recreating the flavour of meat. Impossible Foods (www.impossiblefoods. com), based in Silicon Valley, has created the Impossible Burger. Made out of plants, the composition of the patty is so similar to that of the real McCoy that it even bleeds when you cut into it.


Alain Passard (inset) brings the textures, flavours and colours of summer together in this Carpaccio de Legumes.


With less time to cook, coupled with the increasing demand for healthier food, fast and healthy concepts have been appearing like wildfire. Establishments like Aloha Poke ( and The Daily Cut ( in Singapore offer fulfilling meals for the busy individual. Waste-based cooking is also on the rise with companies utilising byproducts to create newfangled edible items. And as we watch the food industry race into the future, we can only observe this more educated yet increasingly isolated prospect we are headed towards. â‰


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SEVENTH HEAVEN A sneak peek at the cars to look out for this year. By DARYL LEE



ow in its second generation, the A5 is a completely different car from the ground up, though it’s not apparent from merely looking at it. Sharpened lines, added creases and chrome embellishments just above the front wings aside, the casual observer might be fooled into thinking the new A5 is merely a facelifted model. So far, the regular A5 and

hotter S5, the latter equipped with a new turbocharged threelitre V6 (the preceding model used a supercharged three-litre V6) have been revealed. The RS5 is unannounced as yet, but it’s a fairly safe bet it will be equipped with the twin-turbo V6 that also sees service in the Porsche Panamera S. Expect this to land in South-east Asia in the first half of 2017.


January – 2017



he outgoing F10-generation BMW 5 Series is the most commercially successful of all time – selling over two million units in its six years of production, which represents a whopping 42 per cent increase over the E60 model. On paper, at least, the new 5 Series is set to deliver the goods. Taking many cues from the stellar 7 Series, it has a lightweight chassis that features exotic metals such as magnesium and titanium, a slew of more powerful, more efficient

engines and an updated iDrive infotainment system. It also gets a host of autonomous driving functions, allowing for lane-keeping, lane-changing and a hands-off traffic following function.

On paper, at least, the new 5 Series is set to deliver the goods.



he LC is nominally the successor to the stately SC, but it’s closer to the LFA supercar in spirit. Lexus says the LC was built with driver engagement in mind, with a lower seating position, a stiffer, lighter modular chassis and, in the interest of better weight

distribution, the battery is now in the boot. Even more interesting is the inclusion of a 10-speed automatic gearbox, which Lexus says offers comparable shift times to dual-clutch transmission, but with the smoothness a conventional automatic provides.


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he Alfa Romeo Giulia has been a bit of a long time in coming (it was first launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2015), but that wait will soon end. Scheduled for a South-east Asian debut before the second quarter of 2017 is out, the saloon will arrive in a

few variants, including the hot Quadrifoglio model. The Giulia is shapely, as you would expect an Alfa Romeo to be, but it’s also packed with a host of new tech, which goes to show how invested the carmaker is. There’s a new chassis which features plenty of high-strength steel and aluminium, plus a carbon fibre bonnet and boot lid.

The Giulia is shapely, as you would expect an Alfa Romeo to be.



he styling of Porsche’s first four-door saloon proved to be deeply divisive when it made its debut in 2009, but the secondgeneration model seems to strike a far more conciliatory note. The new Panamera certainly looks far more elegant than the model it replaces, the four-door 911. The first car to be built on the VW Group’s new MSB modular platform, the secondgeneration Panamera looks to be a class act – restrained, but still instantly recognisable as a Porsche. Serious though it may be,

Porsche still did manage to inject a bit of cheekiness with the way its new split rear wing deploys. That said, it’s the interior that steals the show. Leather, metal and beautifully moulded plastics come together to make for a cockpit that’s equally sporty and luxurious. www.


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Loh Lik Peng

Eddie Teh

Sonu Shivdasani

Melissa Ow

Amrita Banta

Beth Moses


In December, The New York Times’ Luxury Travel Conference in Singapore brought together the industry’s leading lights to discuss its future. Here are key insights gleaned from the powwow.


January – 2017


“The top three things millennials spend on are travel experiences, hotels and airline tickets. And 61 per cent of them want customised tours. Cost is just a small factor. They want a local experience that’s premium and unique, and they’re willing to pay.” – Amrita Banta, managing director and co-founder, Agility Research & Strategy

“Just 558 (government employees) have visited space, and around a dozen private citizens have visited the International Space Station with Space Adventures. We’re hoping that (when our flights launch), people can hop on a flight to space.” – Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor, Virgin Galactic

“It is estimated that Asian outbound tourism spending will rise to approximately US$650 billion (S$927 billion). Fuelling this growth are China, India and Indonesia, where affluent travellers are expected to spend close to US$300 billion on travel by 2020.” – Melissa Ow, deputy chief executive, Singapore Tourism Board “We have to be accountable to the citizens. We get to this danger of ‘poverty ponds’, where you’re touring villages to ‘authenticate the experience’, which will never be authentic. You spend half a day planting crops with the villagers, then disappear to your luxury suite (at night). Is that authentic? I don’t think so. We shouldn’t try to kid ourselves.” – Loh Lik Peng, founder and director, Unlisted Collection

“Luxury is something that’s rare. You need to offer something that allows people to have a contrast with their daily lives. You need to allow them to disconnect. I’ve found that the higher number of repeat customers you have is related to how much people can disconnect when they’re with you (in the hotel or resort).” – Sonu Shivdasani, founder and CEO, Soneva

“It’s daunting for villagers to see a large ship passing by their homes. We have to be responsible. We tell all the villages in advance about what we do. Our cruise is not only for our guests either. We load equipment and materials to help villages build wells and schools. When we dock, our doctor on board also goes to the villages to offer medical services for free.” – Eddie Teh, general manager, Belmond Hotels and Cruises


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Daryl Lee quizzes Embraer Executive Jets’ regional sales vice president, Claudio Camelier, about his thoughts on the manufacturer’s relative newness in the sector and private aviation in the region.


January – 2017

The Brazilian manufacturer only entered the private jet market at the turn of the millennium.


mbraer is nearly 50 years old and has a reputation for making military and commercial aircraft, but the Brazilian manufacturer only entered the private jet market at the turn of the millennium, with a repurposed version of its ERJ regional jet. Despite Embraer’s experience in building aircraft, private jets are completely different from

commercial airliners, particularly in the aircraft’s interior. Embraer’s vice president of sales for the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, Claudio Camelier would know – he’s been with Embraer for nearly 20 years. In that time, he’s shuttled back and forth between commercial and executive aviation, working in a variety of roles from customer support, sales engineering and product strategy.

According to Embraer, the Legacy 500 is the only midsized jet that can carry eight travellers.


According to Camelier: “The level of finishing expected (in a business jet) is completely different and it’s a very important aspect. In the early years, we partnered BMW Designworks for cabin design in the Phenom 100 and 300, and for the Legacy 450 and 500. This allowed us to quickly learn customer requirements. Today, we develop in-house design capabilities with our facility in Florida, and we’re really at the top in that regard.” However, the fact remains that despite its success in commercial and defence aviation, Embraer remains a new name in executive aviation and raising brand awareness is a challenge, Camelier says. However, he also sees it as an opportunity. “If you look at mobile phones, once big names like Motorola

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From top: at 1.83m tall and 7.32m long, with a flat floor, the Legacy 450’s cabin is the largest in its class; Claudio Camelier.

are no longer in the industry in a significant way, but names like Apple and Samsung are. Being new in the market allows us to be innovative in our products,” he says. To be sure, Embraer is no stranger to challenging environments. Its last major product expansion, entailing millions of

dollars invested in R&D, occurred in 2008, around the time of the last major global economic downturn. Camelier is keen to stress that that was money well spent. “We’ve invested millions in state-of-the-art airplanes that are more efficient, more comfortable and even betterlooking than our competitors. Since customers are now more discerning about what they’re buying, this extremely competitive market is an advantage for Embraer.” On the topic of challenging markets, the Asia-Pacific appetite for private jets is growing, but “at a slower rate now”, says Camelier, though the bigger hurdle is that there isn’t a strong culture of private aviation in this region. As for why exactly, Camelier suggests that a private jet is viewed as a bit of a toy here.


January – 2017

“Let’s say someone becomes very rich, and the first thing they do is buy a yacht and a jet to show off. But the majority of business jet users – and that’s why they’re called business jets – use them to be more efficient. They don’t have to be restricted to airline schedules, they can fly directly to where they want to go and they only need to be at the airport 15 minutes before departure. “Time is money, so a business jet is a money maker,” quips Camelier. He does, however, admit that a private jet isn’t

Last month, Embraer delivered two Phenom 300s to Colorful Yunnan General Aviation for use in missions, such as medical rescues, and customised leisure and business travel in the Chinese province.

for everybody. He says it must make sense for a potential buyer – they must travel frequently, and even then, to destinations not well served by commercial airlines. Whether busy, time-strapped executives in the region will see the light, as it were, is something that won’t happen overnight, says Camelier.

“Time is money, so a business jet is a money maker.”

And that constant striving might very well be an apt metaphor for Embraer. That’s helped along by what Camelier says is the biggest lessons he’s taken away from his two decades at the Brazilian manufacturer. “Listen to your customers. They have a lot of important things to tell you. When you start ignoring them and you do things that you believe are right when your customers are telling you otherwise, that’s not a clever idea.” w w w. e m b r a e r e x e c u t i v e ≠

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SilkAir’s thrice-weekly flights to the former Laotian capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang offers direct access to the hermit kingdom.

Amantaka lies at the heart of the Luang Prabang peninsula, tucked between the banks of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers. Facing page: Wat Ho Siang.


January – 2017


“ O

n the 25th of July I reached Louang Prabang, a delightful little town ... containing a population, not, as Mgr Pallegoix says in his work on Siam, of 80,000, but 7,000 or 8,000 only. The situation is very pleasant ... Were it not for the constant blaze of a tropical sun, or if the mid-day heat were tempered by a gentle breeze, the place would be a little paradise.” So wrote the French explorer Henri Mouhot in his diary, Travels in Siam, Cambodia and Laos, 1859–1862. Mouhot is best remembered

for popularising Angkor Wat in the West. If he had paid a visit to the town during the cool season (November to February) as I did, his opinion of its paradisiacal status might have been somewhat different. Perched at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, and surrounded by ridges shaped like dragon backs, the town wakes to cool, crisp mornings and is lulled to sleep by a pleasant chill. The population might have swelled to 56,000 now, but the

situation, as Mouhot wrote, is no less pleasant: the touristic hordes have yet to discover the charms of this Indochinese gem. In any case, Luang Prabang’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status, conferred in 1995, serves to regulate the pace of development. So for now at least, the vibe is luxuriously laid-back, the perfect antidote to urban hustle. I’m a guest of SilkAir (www. – which began its thriceweekly flight to Luang Prabang in late October – and of Amantaka (w w w.aman. com), the town’s premier digs with 24 suites set in a series of low-slung French colonial

The town wakes to cool, crisp mornings and is lulled to sleep by a pleasant chill. Photo PAUL SPIERENBURG


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“With Singapore being a hub, it’s easier for people from Europe or America to come here directly.” buildings. “It’s fantastic that SilkAir is flying here,” says Donald Wong, the property’s general manager. “It’s opening up to new markets, because (previously) it was difficult to get to Luang Prabang. And with Singapore being a hub, it’s easier for people from Europe or America to come here directly.” The luxury market in Luang Prabang is tiny, with only a handful of big-name operators (Aman, Belmond and Sofitel) and small boutique hotels catering to the well-heeled. But there is so much on offer for the intrepid luxury traveller: culture in spades; exclusivity and

The 150m-tall Mount Phousi offers sweeping views of Luang Prabang and surrounds. Facing page: the Mekong River is the lifeblood of Laos.

privacy (Amantaka does not list its address; Google Maps will indicate an incorrect location, a deliberate ruse to thwart prying eyes); a refined cuisine that borrows elements from the Thai and Vietnamese culinary vocabulary; and a vibrant artistic scene centred on textile weaving. Amantaka, though seven years old, feels like it has been there forever. And therein lies the beauty. The Aman brand is known for Photos PAUL SPIERENBURG

meshing unobtrusively into the vernacular; perhaps nowhere else is this synergy more harmonious than here. Laotian culture is all about understatement: its Buddhist temples, though impressive in their own right, lack the pomp and circumstance of their Thai counterparts, or the sheer age and patina of their Cambodian and Burmese neighbours. In this respect, the Aman ethos of simplicity and restrained elegance makes for a perfect fit. The resort is the only Aman to boast of a permanent cultural adviser on staff: no less


January – 2017

than Nithakhong Somsanith, a descendant of the Lao royal family and a UNESCO World Heritage Committee member. Nit, as he is affectionately known, acts as my guide for my four days in Luang Prabang. Nit is a veritable font of information, a walking Wikipedia of Lao culture. He guides me through the Baci blessing ceremony, a calming ritual meant to acclimatise one’s arrival or departure to a new environment. He accompanies me to a morning alms offering, explaining the

significance of the practice where local townsfolk offer sticky rice and other edibles to passing contingents of monks and novices. It is, for many travellers, a highlight of the Luang Prabang experience, and certainly one of mine. Finally, he takes me to Wat That Luang – the Monastery of the Royal Stupa, a sanctuary associated with the royalty of Luang Prabang – where I observe an evening session of chanting and meditation. It is a calming, spiritual experience that is sought after

by many Aman guests – Nit reveals that three years ago, he accompanied Antonio Banderas on a morning chant, after which the actor helped to clean the temple grounds. The French have a saying: ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’. For hundreds of years, the same Buddhist chants have reverberated across the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. I suspect that if Mouhot were alive today, he would find familiar comfort in Luang Prabang. ≠

If Mouhot were alive today, he would find familiar comfort in Luang Prabang.



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FRAMED FOR LIFE Algha produces only 25 eye shapes, but the individualisation of each part makes for some 18,000 possible variants.



t has, says Algha Works’ international sales director Ben Kogan, been a record year for the company. But, he adds cautiously, that is compared with the eyewear manufacturer having hit “rock bottom” a few years ago. This was until the more sizeable eyewear design company Inspecs - which had quietly been keeping Algha afloat - finally bought it outright in 2014. “There’s a sense that that was a sentimental decision, that Inspecs’

owner couldn’t stand the idea of all our history and heritage being lost,” says Kogan. Although few may have heard of Algha - its glasses have more recently been sold under the Savile Row Eyewear brand name - it was established in 1932 and operates out of east London. It makes its glasses on machinery that largely dates from that era, giving Algha’s products a precision that modern equivalent machinery cannot seem to match. And it is one of the last

manufacturers to make its frames by a process known as ‘gold-filling’ - five slender threads of 18-carat gold coiled around a nickel core, itself the product of six intertwined wires. This gives them a lightness, durability and flexibility rarely found in modern spectacles. “We’re fortunate in that current trends are towards metal frames and retro styles. We were doing retro before retro existed,” jokes Kogan. And certainly, Algha’s frames have barely been updated since


January – 2017

the 1940s. In fact, after the Second World War, Algha’s founder, Max Wiseman, found himself with one of just two government contracts for the manufacture of spectacles then available on Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) - that meant the provision of some 1.5 million pairs of frames a year. But that retro styling - Algha is one of the few that continues to shape arms in the ‘fish-hook’ way, wrapping around the rear of the ear - would also go on to win it a number of high-profile customers. John Lennon’s famed round glasses were from Algha, “although why he chose them is lost to history,” says Kogan. “Algha was much better known then or perhaps he was introduced to them through the NHS, but certainly they helped to make his image iconic.” And the company has long been the go-to specs maker for the period film industry. Ben Kingsley’s Gandhi wore them, as did Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones and, more recently, Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter. “Inevitably we get a lot of people calling and asking to buy a pair of the Indiana Jones or the Harry Potter.”


“We’re fortunate in that current trends are towards metal frames and retro styles.”

From top: The Executive is a style favoured by Queen Elizabeth II; John Lennon; Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Facing page: optical frame maker Matt Havercroft creates a pair of spectacles in Algha’s factory.


But Algha frames are much more than their attendant famous names. Each pair is entirely made by hand - on a series of small, personal, hand-cranked machines, each responsible for one of the multiple tiny steps required to make, say, just a bridge. They are also only made to order, which means each part of each style can be selected in anywhere between four and eight sizes. One pair could cost between £300 (S$543) and £400, with delivery in around eight days. Unfortunately, while Algha’s star looks to be in the ascendant again, the company is not entirely out of the woods yet. The landlords of the building from which the company has long operated - which it sold during harder times - is now looking to cash in on the current east London property boom and redevelop it as apartments. “It’s upsetting because the building is so central to our story,” Kogan admits - adding that it seems likely Algha will need to relocate some time this year. One can only hope that this does not spell the end of this eyewear institution, so much as affords it a fresh start. ≠



CURATING MEN’S WARE LC Via transforms a tailor’s shop into a trove of artisanal treasures. By BEN CHIN

The range of products includes tailored suits, shoes, leather bags, furniture and accessories, all finely crafted by hand. Photos NATHAN LIUSVIA

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January - 2017



Trunk shows organised by the boutique connect clients directly with the tailors and artisans.

ntering LC Via’s showroom from the bustle of the CBD is transportive. The 60sqm space is a quiet sanctum of luxury menswear and fine goods. The business, which started 40 years ago as Leong Tailors, is now revitalised as Singapore’s first and only artisanal menswear emporium. Sharing an entrance with its neighbour, Sultans of Shave, the elegantly masculine space is the result of a collaboration between business partners Jonathan Chiang and Nathan Luisvia. The revamp also saw the atelier expand from its former 10sqm to a significantly larger floor space, allowing the incorporation of a luxurious seating area for customers. Lining the walls are shelves and display cases, holding an impressive array of bespoke suits, handmade leather shoes, eyewear and accessories, all carefully curated by Chiang. Several of the brands stocked are exclusive

Prices range from S$230 for an untipped, handrolled cotton tie from Seven Fold Firenze to S$4,880 for B&Tailor’s full bespoke services.

to South-east Asia, such as top South Korean suit maker B&Tailor, Viennese customised shoe label Saint Crispin’s and handmade ties from Seven Fold Firenze by Japanese style icon Kenji Kaga. Trunk shows organised by the boutique connect clients directly with the tailors and artisans, allowing them to tailor the products to their specific needs. Chiang’s great regard for craftsmen and artisans is not surprising. Before he took over the company from his grand-uncle Chow Leong Choy in 2013, Leong Tailors was well-known as a top bespoke tailoring house, employing three master cutters and four suitmakers, and distributing premium fabrics from Loro Piana and Dormeuil. The latest iteration of the company continues the spirit of that legacy championing well-crafted, high-quality handmade goods and honouring the traditions of their makers. ≠



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OF SUPERLATIVES Expensive, ostentatious and a mechanical snob – Roger Dubuis certainly isn’t a brand to do things by halves, as Ho Yun Kuan finds out from its CEO Jean-Marc Pontroue.


oger Dubuis is a brand of statement, so when we do something, we like to do it with a strong focus and realisation. At the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) every year, we like to send one strong message that will set the tone for the rest of the year. The brand has been in the women’s market since its very first days, but it was never the focus. However, last year, we finally gave women’s products the spotlight at SIHH – even though in terms of the number of new innovations, it was shared 50:50 between men and women. The impression given was that 2016 was the Year of the Velvet Diva. We believe that there is room in the market for mechanical ladies’ timepieces. For many years, our industry has focused purely on design for ladies and limited the movements to quartz. Roger Dubuis is one of the few brands – if not the only one – that makes no exceptions in the treatment of its customers. We don’t have any quartz movements in our assortment and

we don’t want any. Women who already own a certain number of timepieces will want mechanical movements in their watches. We have never had a customer, as far as I can remember, who had said: ‘I don’t want your watches because you don’t have quartz.’ In fact, I think if we start making quartz, people will say: ‘I won’t buy your watches because you do quartz.’ The biggest challenge the brand faces is not creativity – I think we have enough ideas in the pipeline for the next 1,000 years. The biggest challenge is deciding which ideas to keep; to make the call during editing to drop a certain idea. Creativity is, in a way, the simplest part of the process because we have the people for that. All our teams are internal – we do not use any agencies. Our publicity videos and pictures are made in-house. Nothing is more exciting for people in the creative team than to go to SIHH and see the fruits of their labour, to see the reaction of the media on the opening day when we unveil the Roger Dubuis world that will set the tone for the next five days of

January – 2017



“We are definitely in a different dimension when it comes to creativity.”

the fair. We may not be the biggest brand in the market, but we are definitely in a different dimension when it comes to creativity. If you want to buy a cheap watch, don’t come to Roger Dubuis. We know what our customers expect from a high-end luxury timepiece brand. In the watchmaking industry, it’s common to have people tell you that something is technically impossible, but Roger Dubuis is a brand where nothing is impossible. Our best customers are our best ambassadors. They are the ones who influence their friends to get started buying Roger Dubuis watches. We are not producing many watches and we don’t want to. We want to keep it to a small club of people who like the mechanical dimensions of watches in addition to the aesthetic aspect of them. ≠

Jean-Marc Pontroue has been at the helm of the Roger Dubuis brand since 2011. Facing page from top: Velvet Secret Heart; Blossom Velvet; Velvet by Massaro.



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The Excalibur Spider Full Carbon introduces the world’s first movement plate, bridges and tourbillon upper cage entirely made in carbon. Facing page: Jean-Marc Pontroue.

Roger Dubuis’ watchmakers have also skeletonised the movement.


January - 2017


CARBONATED Roger Dubuis is set to wow again at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie with yet another unusual debut.


ince its debut in 2005, Roger Dubuis’ Excalibur has been the poster child of the brand, representing, with its bold designs, unusual use of materials and avant-garde complications, the aesthetic and technical innovations that the brand is renowned for. From extreme skeletonisation to carrying double flying tourbillons and four sprung balances, the collection is the hotbed of experimentation for Roger Dubuis’ imaginative watchmakers. The timepiece is set to steal the spotlight once again at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). The Excalibur Spider Full Carbon will be the first watch to carry a calibre – the Astral Skeleton flying tourbillon movement RD509SQ – with a carbon plate, bridges and tourbillon upper cage. And as if carving components out of carbon wasn’t challenging enough, Roger Dubuis’ watchmakers have also skeletonised the movement, giving it the recognisable star motif that


“We challenge ourselves to unveil a world premiere at every SIHH.” has become a signature of the Spider series. The movement is shown off on a honeycombed background, which was inspired by the pattern of radiator grilles on automobiles. Protecting the unusual movement is a DLC-treated titanium crown, caseback rim and ‘container’, combined with a case of multi-layered carbon. The

container is what Roger Dubuis calls the sealed portion of the case that protects the movement from dust and water, required because the rest of the case is skeletonised and not equipped to do so. The carbon used in this timepiece is T700 carbon, a type of carbon fibre by American manufacturer Toray known for its high tensile strength. Thinner and lighter, yet eight per cent less porous than other types of carbon, it reduces overall weight by about 30 per cent, and lowers vibrations from the mechanism, therefore enhancing precision. As a 100 per cent Poincon de Genevecertified brand, Roger Dubuis’ movements are always beautifully fnished; this carbon one is no exception, and flaunts perfectly bevelled edges on the calibre plate and bridges. Says Roger Dubuis’ CEO JeanMarc Pontroue: “We challenge ourselves to unveil a world premiere at every SIHH, be it a new material or innovation in watchmaking. The Excalibur Spider Full Carbon is part of our philosophy of always


Geneva-based Roger Dubuis is well-known as an avant-garde brand that realises some of the more daring concepts under the aegis of the Richemont group.


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This 45mm timepiece has a 60-hour power reserve and comes with a strap with a rubber base and striking red corduroy inlay.


seeking for what’s next and pushing the boundaries of what can be done.” This 45mm timepiece has a 60-hour power reserve and comes with a strap with a rubber base and striking red corduroy inlay. Only 28 pieces are available in Roger Dubuis boutiques worldwide.≠



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“The Da Vinci is more for collectors and watch lovers because of the movements and complications.�

Georges Kern counts active climate protection among his corporate responsibilities. Upon his initiative, IWC was certified as a carbon-neutral company.


January – 2017


TECHNICAL ARTISTRY IWC CEO Georges Kern explains why the new Da Vinci collection is so perfect for the brand. By CELINE YAP


n the new Da Vinci, IWC CEO Georges Kern has found the missing puzzle piece to his suite of watch collections. Joining the Pilot’s Watches, Portugieser, Aquatimer, Portofino and Ingenieur collections, the Da Vinci started out as a digital product. In 1969, it was the first wristwatch to feature the famous Beta 21 Swiss quartz movement. But the most important milestone of the collection was the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Ref 3750, which featured a singlecrown control perpetual calendar movement made by IWC master watchmaker, Kurt Klaus. It is this exact reference, and not the inaugural model, that Kern has used to modernise the collection, as he explained during this exclusive one-on-one interview. This new Da Vinci collection took IWC

Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar IW3750 in light yellow gold with a dull fawn brown alligator leather strap.

10 years to make. What went on behind the scenes? We want to extend our female offer. A couple of years back, we launched the Portofino Midsize, which has been doing extremely well. We believe that we need to complete the offer with a product like the Da Vinci, which is a more dressed-up product. We launched the midsized Pilot in 2016, so now we have three midsized product groups. We’re going to launch another one soon, fulfilling different segments in the market. What do you want the new collection to express? The Da Vinci is more for collectors and watch lovers because of the movements and complications. It’s a very recognisable design, round but with specific lugs. This is why it fits so well in our current collection. It’s a more traditional product for



sure and I’m totally convinced it complements what we have today in our offer. The previous Da Vinci was a tonneaushaped watch. Why change to a round case? Round watches comprise 70 per cent of the market. At the size that IWC is today, with our reach, you need to be round because that’s what the market is. The round Da Vinci (Ref 3750), which this new design is based on, has been the most successful. That model famously introduced ceramics to high watchmaking. Might collectors look forward to ceramic models in the new collection? We’ll see. You need to start with the classic offer, which is what the market is demanding. In time, we’ll work on limited series and also things we did in the past. What else could collectors expect? We have a new perpetual calendar based on the 89000 chronograph. It’s a new module based on the chronograph

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with all the functions, flyback, etc, so it’s quite a complicated movement. But the principle of simple adjustments is still present. It just has a different base movement than for instance the Portugieser, which is based on the 52000 movement. Why create a new base movement just for the Da Vinci? It’s a different engine and collectors will appreciate it. We didn’t want to have exactly the same engine in the Portugieser as in the Da Vinci. It wouldn’t make sense. Will you use the Da Vinci to showcase IWC’s expertise with perpetual calendars? IWC is probably the world’s market leader in perpetual calendars. When I look at the number of perpetual calendars that we sell and when I listen to the retailers, we are by far number one. We might not be the leader in other complications, but in perpetual calendars, we are. And I think we should capitalise on this. ≠

“The round Da Vinci, which this new design is based on, has been the most successful.” From above: Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36; Da Vinci Automatic 36.


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The Da Vinci’s case is based on a sketch of a fort by Leonardo da Vinci in his Codex Atlanticus, which was found by IWC’s head designer Hano Burtscher.

“We might not be the leader in other complications, but in perpetual calendars, we are.”





An ancient material meets Minerva’s historical chronographs in Montblanc’s latest 1858 Collection. By KENNETH TAN

This and facing pages: like its historic predecessor from the 1930s, the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter comes with a black dial and historical shaped hands.

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January – 2017


he choice of bronze in Montblanc’s 1858 Collection is the deliberate enhancement on an already vintage style. Minerva, the Villeret-based manufacture that’s now part of Montblanc, had been producing chronographs since the 1930s. Its historical designs of cathedral hands, art deco-inspired crowns and classic minute railway tracks encircling the dials were transposed by Montblanc into the 1858 Collection, which was first unveiled in 2015. Just last month, Montblanc paid an ode to the vintage triumph of timepieces with purposeful bronze editions within the collection. The glorious patina of

bronze was achieved by Montblanc’s research into ensuring it would develop unique and uniform colouration across years of wear. The three recent bronze propositions are the 44mm Montblanc 1858 Automatic (€3,490, S$5,295), the 44mm Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time (€4,990) and the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition (€27,500). Meanwhile, the chronograph – limited to 100 pieces – is powered by the manual-wound MB M16.29


monopusher movement which resides within a 44mm full bronze case. Its champagne dial is embellished with sunray finishing while cognac alligator leather straps – crafted at Montblanc’s Pelletteria in Florence – completes the vintage aesthetic. Its movement boasts further technical and design touches that recall Minerva’s overarching influence; the in-house developed MB M16.29 is inspired by Minerva’s original 17.29 Calibre used in pocket watches and wristwatches from the 1930s. A closer examination of the red gold-plated movement, reveals components crafted in the shape of the Minerva arrow.

The chronograph is powered by the manual-wound MB M16.29 monopusher movement.∆



CHIME TO CELEBRATE Make some noise for the 20th anniversary of Chopard’s LUC manufacture and its new minute repeater, the LUC Full Strike. Co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele tells Celine Yap more about this timepiece, but not before reminiscing a little.

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January – 2017


hopard LUC began in 1996 as a tribute to the brand’s founder, Louis-Ulysse Chopard. Co-president of the company, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, is the key driving force behind it, motivated by a desire to create movements worthy of Chopard’s illustrious history. Starting out with a blank canvas, he was determined that the first movement made fully in-house by Chopard had to be something special – something the market did not yet have. That determination culminated in Calibre 1.96 (known today as Calibre 96.01-L), a double barrel, self-winding base movement with a micro-rotor. Exquisitely finished, it marked the beginning of a new journey for Chopard, one that would bring it to achieve some of the most state-ofthe-art complications in fine watchmaking. What had been the greatest

LUC 150 All-inOne in 18-carat rose gold was launched on the occasion of Chopard’s 150th anniversary. Facing page: LUC Quattro Tourbillon.


challenge about making your first movement? Finalising the working prototype and industrialising it. When we had the first movement ticking, I was very happy. But then I realised that this was only the beginning. Calibre 1.96 has a number of uncommon traits and for a first base movement, that was a lot to deliver. Why was it so important to be different? We cannot just make another automatic calibre. We were in the mid-90s; it wasn’t the 60s. We have to show some innovation, some progress. This is what we do with every one of our movements. If you make a mechanical movement today, it has to be according to the possibilities that we have today. What are some milestones of the LUC line that really brought out the know-how of the manufacture? Other than the first movement, the chronograph was an important milestone because it provided us with

He was determined that the first movement made fully in-house by Chopard had to be something special.



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“I think the combination of traditional approach with some innovation is a very seductive solution.” the second automatic movement with a central rotor. It also paved the way for our Fleurier ebauche, which is the even more industrial part of our activities. Then of course in 2010 we did the optimal complication, the All-InOne, and now finally the minute repeater. The Full Strike is at once very traditional yet almost futuristic with its monobloc crystal gongs. How did that come about? Most repeaters are a bit of a selfish experience because you could only listen to them by yourself, and I wanted to make one that allows you to share the experience to the people around you. That was the brief. We also didn’t want to have a slide as we wanted to provide a reasonable protection against humidity. Finally, we arrived at the idea to

machine the gongs in a singlepiece construction with the crystal, using it as an amplifier for the sound. Does it bother you that crystal gongs are not exactly the most traditional? This is almost a philosophical thing. There are companies using silicon parts. You could say it’s not traditional but it has some advantages which are undeniably interesting. I think the combination of traditional approach with some innovation is a very seductive solution. We didn’t want to make another similar minute repeater. What are your three favourite LUC watches? If I had to name just one, it would be the 1860. I took it out of my safe the other day, wore it and really enjoyed it. That watch was the beginning of so many things that followed. ≠

January – 2017



“The 1860 was the beginning of so many things that followed.”

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. Facing page, clockwise from top left: LUC Triple Certification Tourbillon; LUC Lunar One; LUC Chrono One; LUC Full Strike.



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January – 2017



IN THE NAME OF PROGRESS Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam’s posthumous show, Great Leap Forward, illuminates her legacy and that of Tun Dr Mahathir. By ELAINE LAU


ne month before Nirmala Dutt S h a n m u g h a l i n g a m ’s solo exhibition, Great L eap For wa rd, was scheduled to open, the 75-year-old contemporary artist passed away suddenly, leaving the art community bereaved. She was one of Malaysia’s foremost pioneering artists celebrated for using art as a tool to awaken social conscience. Shanmughalingam studied painting under master portrait painter Hoessein Enas and then went on to train in art schools in the US and the UK. Her art portrayed instances of political and societal injustice, as well as exploitation perpetrated locally and abroad. Illegal deforestation, the war in Bosnia, environmental pollution, the bombing of Libya, and rape and child abuse in Malaysia were some of the issues that came under her sharp scrutiny.

Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam often worked in a post-modernist style. Facing page, clockwise from above: Kampong Polo II, 1984; Great Leap Forward VII, 199899; Membalak Jangan Sebarangan Nanti Ditimpa Balak – Rumbia, 1990.

Armed with a bold, distinctive postmodernist style inspired by the work of Otto Dix and the war etchings of Jacques Callot and Goya, Shanmughalingam made her highly critical views known in paintings and mixed-media works that combined documentary photography and text such as newspaper clippings. Her last major body of work was a series of unsettling paintings produced in response to the 2004 tsunami in South-east Asia. Shanmughalingam’s untimely passing makes it that much more important that the solo show organised by Our ArtProjects still go on – and thankfully, it is. The artworks in this show serve as a timely re-examination of the legacy of Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in light of his recent political manoeuvrings.




The 13 artworks chosen for the exhibition are derived from S h a n m u g h a l i n g a m ’s practice in the late 1980s and 1990s, when she cast a critical eye on the cost of progress under Mahathir’s ambition to turn Malaysia into a developed nation by 2020. The phrase, Great Leap Forward, in reference to Mao Zedong’s disastrous economic and social campaign, in some ways mirrors what happened here under Mahathir’s reign. The use of indigenous motifs and newspaper clippings highlights the plight of those left behind in the pursuit of modernisation, from the Bakun hydroelectric dam and the displacement of native populations

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to the environmental cost resulting from illegal logging. Why bring up these past issues to the fore once again? Her rationale is because Mahathir has not been held accountable for or answered to the injustices he allowed to take place under his stewardship. And they continue to be perpetuated today – the recent plight of the Temiar people in Kelantan is but one example. More p o i n t e d l y, Shanmughalingam’s sobering works ask the question: “What will we be remembered for after we’re gone?” Nirmala Dutt: Great Leap Forward runs from 7 to 27 January at Our ArtProjects in Kuala Lumpur. ≠

In the late 1980s and 1990s, she cast a critical eye on the cost of progress. Shamughalingam’s paintings reflect her concern for the women and children who are victims of poverty and oppression.



FROM WATER TO WINE A journey up the dramatic Douro River is an opportunity to delve into the rich history and traditions of the Portuguese heartland.

The enchanting Douro Valley is the result of centuries of maritime trade, intermingled with the production of its now world-famous port wine. Inset: Scenic Azure.

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January – 2017



t’s easy to be enchanted in Porto. Perched at the mouth of the Douro River, Portugal’s ancient wine trading hub has always been a city that knows how to linger in the hearts of visitors. The late afternoon sun bathes the 17th-century Mosteiro da Serra de Pilar in honey-hued light, and dazzles off the intricate ironwork of the Dom Luis I Bridge. The al fresco seafood restaurants that line both sides of the Douro – Porto proper to the north and Vila Nova de Gaia to the south – are packed with locals and travellers enjoying the late summer warmth, while on the timeless waters of the river, pleasure boats and ferries crisscross in our wake. It’s a postcard-perfect beginning to my 500km 11day luxury journey up and down the Douro River valley, the heart and soul of northern Portugal and a historic trading route for the region’s world-renowned port wine industry. Port helped put Porto on the map and the Douro made it happen. The Romans planted the first vines in the valley’s shale-encrusted hills over 2,000 years ago, and by the 15th-century, English and Scottish merchants had begun shipping the robust, fullbodied wines of the Upper Douro down its waters to the Atlantic and on to Britain. So it’s fitting that the river is playing a vital role in the region’s next boom, as tourists from around the world arrive to cruise its gentle waters, sip the valley’s unique wines and delve into the rich traditions of the Portuguese heartland. Scenic is no stranger to the Douro, but the recent launch of Scenic Azure, one of the brand’s ultra-luxurious custombuilt ‘space ships’, makes the Australian travel company the first non-Portuguese line to operate its own vessel on the waterway.


Sleek and elegant, Scenic Azure offers all-inclusive opulence, from staterooms with electronically controlled sun rooms, through to gourmet dining and a range of insightful shore excursions. By day, as the ship cruises, guests congregate on the expansive sun deck to watch the terraced vineyards drift by, and as dusk settles, they dress for dinner and make for the chic Panorama Bar, where nightly port briefings are conducted by Maria, our cruise director. These cocktail-laced talks offer excursion options for the day ahead, all of which are fascinating and included in the cruise fare. We had embarked on the first of the Freechoice excursions earlier in the day, exploring the regal halls of Porto’s neoclassical Palacio da Bolsa, walking the bustling


From top: today, the Douro waterway attracts a more leisure-seeking class; the UNESCO-listed city of Porto.

Rua de Santa Catarina shopping street, curling our way past the merchant’s mansions that line the Atlantic coast, and gazing up at Jorge Colaco’s blue and white tiled facades at the cavernous Sao Bento railway station. By late afternoon we’re saying goodbye to Porto, cruising east under the guise of the expansive Episcopal Palace and Inset photo SCENIC

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dipping beneath the many bridges - Ponte do Infante, Gustave Eiffel’s Ponte Maria and the Ponte de Sao Joao railway arch - that leap across the deep river valley. Sun-worshipping tripeiros (as the locals like to call themselves) wave from the many beaches that line the river as the UNESCOlisted city centre is replaced with bucolic riverscapes punctuated by weathered family estates. Each day on the river is different. At times we cruise, passing through towering river locks and between vertiginous, honeycombed cliff faces. At others we leave the ship to explore the region’s complex history. In Guimaraes we venture down cobblestone streets to explore the beautifully preserved halls of the 500-year-old Ducal Palace, the ancestral home of the first dukes


January – 2017

of Braganza. In Lamego we visit the stunning hilltop sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, a twin-towered 18th-century church famed for its blue and white plaster interior, before walking the 686 steps down to the town’s main square. After berthing in Peso da Regua late one afternoon, we learn about the production of local wines at the beautiful Museu do Douro, before sipping tawny portlaced cocktails on the terrace to a backdrop of traditional Portuguese Fado guitar. With the sun dipping behind vine-covered hills and the music flowing down to the riverfront, it’s

The 18th-century shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios with its glazed tiles accessible by 686 baroque steps.


before exploring the Spanish city’s captivating Museo de Art Deco y Art Nouveau. In Coa Valley, there are options to visit sites of prehistoric rock art, to learn to roast locally harvested almonds or to venture up a river tributary by canoe. In Provezende we sample the vintage port wines of Morgadio da Calcada in the label’s 17th-century manor house, now beautifully preserved as a boutique hotel and cellar; and in Pinhao we learn how port wine is produced at a private tasting at Quinta do Bonfim, one of the valley’s largest contemporary producers. The cellar never saw us coming and my fellow guests and

Scenic’s varied excursions not only map Douro Valley’s past, but also its future. an enchanting way to end a day on this extraordinary waterway. Scenic’s varied excursions not only map Douro Valley’s past, but also its future. We learn how Cistercian friars lived in the 12th century with a visit to the site of the Mosteiro de Sao Joao de Tarouca, buying handcrafted elderflower liqueur from local artisans and visiting a newly opened museum dedicated to the preservation of its ruins. In Salamanca, at the halfway point of our journey, we sample Iberico cured meats and locally crafted cheeses at the cathedral-esque Abastos Markets,

The pervasive religious influence across the centuries has resulted in magnificent interiors.

I returned to the ship lumbered down with prized finds from the Douro’s vintage years. The educational aspect of a Scenic cruise continues onboard with regular lectures and lessons covering everything from Portuguese language and cooking to traditional tile painting. However, the beauty of a Scenic cruise is that you can be as active or inactive as you like and many times I find myself soaking up the captivating riverscapes from the solitude of my cabin’s sun room. In fact, the beauty of a river cruise over an ocean cruise is



that you never leave the destination. Throughout our journey the towering rock walls of the ancient river gorges; the redroofed mansions of quinta wine estates; the mountain villages perched high above the river valley; and the iconic terraced vineyards that plunge down to the Douro’s waters are our constant companions. There’s a true sense of becoming part of the locale, rather than just enjoying a series of fleeting moments as a visitor. This immersion continues with the ship’s sensational dining opportunities. In addition to the elegant Crystal Dining room, where multi-course a la carte dinners are complemented by buffet breakfasts and lunches; and the River Cafe, home to delectable cakes, pastries and afternoon teas;

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coast, now bronzed after lazy afternoons lounging around the Sun Deck’s plunge pool, enjoying al fresco barbecues or exploring time-weathered valley villages. Our last evening is spent at a special farewell dinner hosted within the barrel-lined Burmester & Nash Distillery, which first began exporting port wines to Britain in 1750. To the haunting tones of Portuguese Fado, we toast our new discoveries, to the rich heritage of this often overlooked corner of Europe, and to the bright new future it’s set to enjoy. Scenic’s 11-day Unforgettable Douro cruise starts from A$6,895 (S$7,300) per person, twin share. Departures start from April 2017. ≠

There’s a true sense of becoming part of the locale. A tasting of the delicious wines in this famous region also leads to some quaint dining rooms. Facing page: the Moorish-styled Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace).

Scenic Azure offers Portobellos, an Italian fine dining concept matched with Tuscan wines, located at the bow of the ship; and Table la Rive, a superbly intimate dining encounter reserved for Diamond Deck guests that features a six-course locally inspired degustation menu with sommelier-paired wines, in this case the very best of the Douro. We arrive back in Porto to the cooler climes of the Atlantic

January– 2017



We toast to the rich heritage of this often overlooked corner of Europe and to the bright new future it’s set to enjoy.

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t newly launched Define: food – so named to describe its honest approach to cuisine - in MidValley City, the idea of a customised dinner menu is taken to new heights by its inventive chef Malcolm Goh. He honed his culinary skills at five-star hotel restaurants before taking on a series of cooking competitions including a double-medal winning effort at the Culinary Olympics in Germany. He has also appared on Asian Food Channel’s Back to The Streets and Great Dinners of The World. The whiz chef approaches his bespoke menus with a blend of imagination and execution




Chef Malcolm Goh (inset) uses a combination of classic and modern cooking techniques to showcase and enhance natural flavours.

before serving them on stone plateware, custom-made at an atelier in Malacca. “Every step in cooking is quite straightforward – the challenge is when you have to coordinate 47 steps in order to produce one perfect dish,” he says. Goh’s self-explanatory Tribute to our Ocean bespoke menu (RM300 per person) begins with an amusebouche of Fin de Claire oysters served on a bed of wood and dry ice. The combination of basil jello and hot sauce melds into the raw taste of sea and shell – with a subtle aftertaste of tomato extract. A first entree of Hokkaido scallop with sambal puree, crispy kalian floss and clam gel is a medley of tastes and textures.



Comfort food at its best.

The second entree, an air-flown Brittany blue lobster har kaw and claw with squid ink puff sago, offers a similarly Europeanmeets-Asian twist. Served with a generous helping of bisque, this dish confers freshness of ingredients in every bite.

The tender, succulent fish contrasts well with juicy, crunchy carrots caramelised at its tips. The plat principle consists of Ike Jime Grouper – a Japanese-style of ensuring freshness in the fish’s preparation – together with umami beurre blanc, vegetables and a pomme souffle of Jerusalem artichokes. The tender, succulent fish contrasts well with

juicy, crunchy carrots caramelised at its tips. A dessert of chocolate souffle offers intriguing hints of Maldon sea salt and a surprising side of black pepper-accented strawberry sorbet. Goh’s bespoke menus are available on request. ≠

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January - 2017



Martell’s limited-edition cordon bleu raises the amplitude on cognac’s signature character.





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fter China, Malaysia is the second biggest market in the region for Martell products. The spicy notes of cognac mirrors the taste profile of Malaysian food, complementing each other to bring out a depth almost impossible to achieve with any other spirit. In Martell’s new cellar master Christophe Valtaud, the world’s oldest maison of cognac possesses a native of the region. On a recent trip to Malaysia, Valtaud cites his immense excitement for the potential of food pairing with Martell’s latest creation, Intense Heat Cask Finish (RM800). “Your food matches perfectly with cognac. With Intense Heat, we enhance the cordon bleu, highlighting the spicy notes and delivering it with smoothness. The “chauffe crocodile” interaction with the wood creates its unique character, helping the consumer understand the very important stage of ageing and, specifically for this, the role played by the intense burning of the cask.” To become a cellar master one must first be a master taster, as such Valtaud is the ultimate gatekeeper of Martell quality. “My job is to check and preserve the quality from the vineyard and provide feedback to master distillers. The most important things in my job are the ageing and the blending; to find good barrels for the process and then to blend the precious

Martell Cordon Bleu Intense Heat is made from the same emblematic blend as Martell Cordon Bleu (originally created by the House of Martell in 1912) but with spicier, woodier aromas released by flame-touched oaken casks.

eaux de vie. All these different steps are to preserve the style and quality of cognacs and my responsibility is to reproduce the historic range and produce new expressions such as Intense Heat.” Valtaud’s work is hugely affected by the vagaries of the weather and the fickle nature of a brandy’s core ingredient. “When you work with a grape as a base ingredient, you have the impact of the climate, the area, the soil.” The Martell advantage, according to Valtaud, is in an adherence to rules that uphold centuries-old standards. “We produce very smooth and very mellow cognac because we use fantastic eau de vie. Our specific method of sedimentation preserves the aromas at a very high level of purity and because we also don’t want any bitterness, we use only fine-grain oak. We’ve been doing it this way for 300 years. I taste between 70 and 90 eau de vie every day, just to uphold the quality of Martell. “However, we also have to be innovative for our consumers. I have to work with the legacy but also push Martell to be ready for the future. I use the eau de vie that comes from my predecessors and similarly, what I put in my cellars is not just for me, but for my successors. Some of the eau de vie will only be blended in another 100 years or more. This is the nature of the job, thinking and planning ahead to deliver only the best.” ≠

“Our specific method of sedimentation preserves the aromas at a very high level of purity.”

January - 2017



“My responsibility is to reproduce the historic range and produce new expressions.”

Christophe Valtaud joined Martell in 2011 as its sustainable viticulture manager. Photo JEAN-FRANCOIS ROBERT



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AN EPICUREAN ODYSSEY Top chefs James Won and Nurdin Topham present a Hennessy XO gourmet exploration. By ELAINE LAU


ith its rich blend of aromas, f lavours and sensations, the Hennessy XO has much to reveal on the nose and palate. To fully savour its complex and bold yet nuanced character, the cognac house embarked on an epicurean odyssey with James Won, chef extraordinaire at Enfin by James Won in Kuala Lumpur known for his creativity, and Nurdin Topham, chef-founder of the Michelinstarred Nur in Hong Kong who espouses a field-to-table philosophy. Each a culinary maestro in his own right, the chefs went on a discovery journey of the local produce in Sabah and came away with an array of pure, fresh

Bario Grains with Chicken. Unique to Sabah, the Bario grain is one of world’s highest grades of rice.

Each chef is a culinary maestro in his own right.

ingredients. Their culinary experiments culminated in a degustation menu (priced at RM999++ per person) comprising seven exquisite courses, one each to correspond with the XO’s seven taste dimensions, with the additional intrigue of Asian flavours pairing with cognac. The sensation that greets you on the first sip of Hennessy XO is an intense heat with warm aromas of dried fruit. The chefs translated this into a piquant concoction of succulent Sabah tiger prawn confit in a delicate broth with curryinfused oil, and heirloom tomatoes and wild Sabah mangoes for a bit of tartness and bite. Highlighting the spirit’s peppery note French blue lobster married with a deliciously

January - 2017

This dessert of chocolate with young coconut mousse was paired with Hennessy XO neat.





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From left: James Won, Mathieu Duchemin, Nurdin Topham and Foo Ken Vin. Inset: lobster prepared with fresh burnt coconut creme.

The sea cucumber mirrored the velvety smooth, rich texture of the spirit. rich burnt coconut creme sprinkled with a dash of Sabah yellow chilli pepper, and served with a side of cubed sweet potato and pickled Sabah seaweed fronds. Next came the pan-fried hybrid grouper in hazelnut butter dressing, contrasted with tart lemon puree and fermented yam bean encased in raw papaya and umbra fruit. This served to enhance the cognac’s candied notes of orange and apricot. Meanwhile, the sea cucumber, slowbraised with ulam raja and pomelo leaf oil, mirrored the velvety smooth, rich texture of the spirit.

To harmonise with the oak and vanilla accents of the XO, the chefs offered a creative take on chicken rice in the form of tapai-infused slow-cooked chicken with Sabah

Top photo BONNIE YAP

Bario rice creme and crispy rice for a nice crunch. The penultimate course, a dark chocolate dessert with young coconut mousse delicately infused with ginger, peppercorn and rose water, teased out the cognac’s warm cocoa finish. The final dessert, a nod to cognac’s lingering sweet oak finish, was composed of stewed and slowroasted Sarawak pineapple with Hennessy XO on cake soaked with pineapple and cognac essence, finished with ginger and orange garnish.≠

January – 2017



LUSCIOUS LABEL Two things money can’t buy: happiness and a Grollet. By WINNIE YONG


ome insist they’re one and the same, and truth be told, they wouldn’t be too far off the mark. This unassuming Bordeaux blend comes from the exclusive confines of Domaine du Grollet, the family estate of cognac maker Remy Martin outside Cognac in Charente, southwestern France. Produced in limited numbers, it’s served only to guests at the estate in exchange not for money, but for friendship and appreciation for a red wine from a region famed for centuries for one thing and one thing only - cognac. To have savoured this 2008 Reserve’s aromatic bouquet of black cherries and toasty oak, so smooth and mellow, is to have savoured happiness - both equally lasting, equally hard to forget. ≠

This Bordeaux blend comes from Domaine du Grollet. Photo LAW SOO PHYE



Robb Report


Once again, Chinese heritage takes pride of place on Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label release for 2017, which is dedicated to the Year of the Rooster. By VISHAL BHASKARAN


n the run-up to the Year of the Rooster, Johnnie Walker has seen fit to bottle its zenith expression, the Blue Label, within a design to honour the Malaysian Chinese community. This Malaysiaonly release features artwork by Lithuanian-born artist Ernest Zacharevic, lauded for his wall art installations that dot Penang, capturing pure Malaysian moments. Penang, of course, was selected as the setting for the launch — and for the minor design aspects found on the bottle — due to the permeation of strong Chinese influences through cuisine, traditions, community and heritage buildings. This is Zacharevic’s first brush stroke on a project of this class, the challenge being

Ernest Zacharevic’s love affair with Malaysia began during the Chinese New Year period.

to produce a cohesive piece even when wrapped around the four sides of the angular Blue Label bottle. When lined up, a quartet of bottles displays a graffiti-style dragon held up by dancers, amid Penang landmarks in the background. A small rooster also features, a reminder of the Chinese zodiac animal this bottle is dedicated to. Only 4,000 of these bottles will be released, and with only the customary one in 10,000 casks of whisky used to produce the quality, character and flavour recognisable in a Blue Label blend. This exclusivity alone is worth every drop of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Chinese New Year 2017 Limited Edition (RM777 excluding GST). ≠

This is Zacharevic’s first brush stroke on a project of this class.

January - 2017



The traditional Chinese dragon dance and this year’s zodiac animal – the rooster – are featured prominently on the bottles.

January – 2017








1) The tournament included team and individual categories alongside an assortment of novelty challenges. 2) REHDA inter-branch golf is a regular activity to complement this annual tournament. 3) Participants prior to tee-off. 4) BMW’s 7-Series range topper, the 740Li (RM788,800), on display at the event. 5) Event patron Tan Sri Eddy Chen (left) presents a prize to a participant. 6) The post-tournament buffet lunch and prize-giving session. 7) Individual and team champions with their trophies.


Over 110 members of the property development fraternity and government officials participated in this year’s edition.


ver 110 members of the property development fraternity and government officials gathered at KGSAAS to participate in this year’s edition of the REHDA National Golf Tournament, organised by REHDA Youth and event patron Tan Sri Eddy Chen, MKH’s managing director.

The main sponsors were BMW dealer Millennium Welt and MKH, the former displaying the brand’s latest iteration of its 7-Series flagship among a selection of other vehicles to explore and test drive. Other sponsors included I & P Group, Matrix, Mega 3 Housing, Tungling Group and UM Land, with Robb Report Malaysia as official media partner. ¬



January - 2017


t is not often that romance is associated with a successful business, even one that involves curating a niche list of stays the world over, handpicked by James and Tamara Lohan and a team of anonymous reviewers that includes designers Henry Holland and Stella McCartney. The very name of the business, Mr & Mrs Smith, is itself an irreverent nod to the pseudonym often adopted by weekending couples. TL: I’m always looking for a new experience. This doesn’t have to be dramatic – it can be a little something that makes me realise that there is someone who really cares. I live to travel and I always knew I was going to do something in travel, I

our friends took us out for dinner to a roadside cafe. This was essentially a restaurant in an industrial estate. You could get your car serviced across the road while you ate. The view was terrible, but it was packed and served the best chilli crab I’ve ever eaten. We ended up hanging out with the owner in his tiny, air-


with my spa treatments since then. JL: ‘Perfection’ is a much-abused word in travel, but Soneva Fushi in the Maldives comes pretty close. You get your own Man Friday when you arrive and he will suggest all kinds of day and night activities. Our tour of the eco centre was a highlight: they make wealth out of waste. You can also go snorkelling with a marine biologist to get a sense of your undersea surroundings. It was a truly inspiring place. JL: I can tell from the entrance signage if the hotel is going to be right for us. And if that’s a bit soon, then I’m 90 per cent sure after seeing the lobby design and getting the welcome. If they clear the first fence, it’s straight down to details: the thread count of the sheets, the bathroom products. Then it’s to

“Throw yourself in wholeheartedly, take every opportunity that comes your way and get out of your comfort zone.” just didn’t know what. I learnt to fly a plane in my early 20s and nearly joined the Royal Air Force. James and I actually met on holiday – and it was a holiday romance that lasted! JL: Spontaneity is all in the planning and you can always change your plans if they don’t fit when you get there. Throw yourself in wholeheartedly, take every opportunity that comes your way and get out of your comfort zone. TL: When we were in Singapore last year,

conditioned whisky room, tasting our way through his staggeringly good collection. JL: I once had a massage in Morocco that I still can’t talk about – not at a Mr & Mrs Smith hotel, I must add! It was so ‘authentic’ that I was silent for at least two hours afterwards with the shock of being pushed, pulled and probed by a man who looked like he could have been my cellmate if we were in prison. I’ve been a little less adventurous

the bar to hear the music, taste the drinks and check the ambience. If that’s still going well, we go into food and service – and of course trying out the spa if they have one. TL: For me it’s about the welcome – from the moment you walk in the door you are either made to feel special or made to feel uncomfortable. That can be done via a thousand different touch points from the music they are playing in the lobby to the lighting. ≠




Robb Report



IWC Schaffhausen

178 Jalan Bukit Bintang 03 2145 7422

#2.24 & #3.26, Level 2 & 3 Pavilion Kuala Lumpur 03 2145 3611

#3.40, Level 3 Pavilion Kuala Lumpur 03 2142 7999

Bang & Olufsen #S-239A, Level 2 The Gardens Mall 03 2283 2218

BMW Auto Bavaria Kuala Lumpur 362 Jalan Tun Razak 03 2056 4288

Cortina Watch


#110, Level 1 Suria KLCC Shopping Centre 03 2164 5175

#G36, Indulge Floor Starhill Gallery 03 2303 6088


Jaguar Land Rover

#UG19, Adorn Floor Starhill Gallery 011 1723 0406

19 Jalan Perintis U1/52 Temasya Industrial Park Glenmarie Shah Alam 03 5569 3311


January – 2017


Jo Malone



#3.01.03, Level 3 Pavilion Kuala Lumpur 03 2145 0188

#E-G-16, Ground Floor TREC Kuala Lumpur 03 2110 3240

306 Jalan Sungai Besi Kuala Lumpur 03 9222 1100



Roger Dubuis

#UG30A, Adorn Floor Starhill Gallery 03 2142 9633

#131-132A, Level 1 Suria KLCC Shopping Centre 03 2166 2886

Sincere Fine Watches #G34, Ground Floor Suria KLCC Shopping Centre 03 2166 2181



314 Jalan Sungai Besi Kuala Lumpur 03 9222 2268

PenGallery #2-06-08, Level 2 The Weld, Kuala Lumpur 03 2164 5600

Quill 9, 112 Jalan Semangat Petaling Jaya 03 7947 6333


Volvo Cars

#G38, Ground Floor Suria KLCC Shopping Centre 03 2078 7078

Menara MBMR 1 Jalan Syed Putra 03 2260 1411

Loewe #2.35.01, Level 2 Pavilion Kuala Lumpur 03 2141 0262




Robb Report


In a world where American music dominates the airwaves, some tunes from smaller markets have broken through the stranglehold. By MARCUS YEW

Dragostea Din Tei


Possibly the world’s most exasperating earworm with no ostensibly coherent lyrics, this is Moldova’s most famous export yet (allegedly), sung in Romanian by O-Zone. It sparked more than 25 covers all over the Americas, Asia and even Africa.

Monopolising global airwaves throughout the mid1990s, Macarena is arguably the first pop song to have become viral. The catchy Latin beats and accompanying dance moves by Spain’s Los Del Rio stayed in the Hot 100 chart for 60 weeks.

Gangnam Style

The Fox

Psy’s K-pop supernova topped music charts across more than 30 countries. The quirky dance moves have inspired attempts by political leaders like David Cameron, Barack Obama and even Ban Ki Moon.

If you thought the song would be a great lesson for kids about onomatopoeia, Simon & Schuster published a children’s illustrated book based on this Ylvis hit – which sold out in just one day on Amazon.


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