June 8, 2001 - Singapore
Part 2, v.1:

I turned right as I exited THG, heading toward Cortina's Watch Espace Boutique.

As I passed by a lingerie shop on the left, I could not help but cast a shy, embarrassed peak at the display window. Of the frilly, lacey intimates they had on display in the window, I wondered, "Do they adjust in the production stage for the size differences?" The pretty blond shop attendant looks at me with a subtle, knowing smile...

I continued down the hall of shops, away from the Conrad Hotel side of the mall. Center concessionaires selling souvenir caps, cigars; store fronts right and left...this could have been any mall, anywhere in the world...As I approach the end of the corridor, I see the dark wall with the bright, lighted display windows framing these wonderful little toys of ours...Breitling...Tag/Heuer...Baume & Mercier...

I reach the entrance:

What treasures lie beyond this threshold?

Cortina's Watch Espace Boutique is a bold new concept in fine watch retailing. 6000 square feet in area, the idea is to bring together not only the products, but the "look and feel" of each of the individual brands, all together in one master shop. Each of the "shops within a shop" are designed and constructed using materials and layouts that are identified with the specific brand world wide. I am reminded of the Via Condotti,but in air conditioned comfort on an island in Southeast Asia...

In this age of the internet, I believe Cortina has conceptually taken the right step in refining and focusing on the parts of the brick and mortar essence that cannot be usurped by the 'net - the "look and feel," the haute luxe shopping experience.

But a caveat to my friends at Cortina - the greatest challenge still lies ahead. You have dressed the shop in the finest materials and construction money can buy. The raw ambience is there and successful. Whether the staff can carry off the rest of the equation is your management challenge. To fail in this area will bring bitter disappointment to those consumers like me rooting for your success.

Think of the immaculately coiffed, impeccably dressed vision of beauty at the cocktail party, who makes your heart skip a beat and jaws drop in awe from across the room. As you approach, you notice her chewing on gum, reminding you of a bovine chewing on cud. You continue your approach, apprehensive, and as you get closer, the coarse street language and the whiney, nasally voice just shatter the illusion into a million broken pieces...

Most of the major brands are represented here - IWC, JLC, Blancpain, Tag/Heuer, Antoine Preziuso, Omega, Cartier, Baume Mercier...

In the AP boutique, there are many examples of the marque. Here is a sample trio -

There is some "big iron" hidden away in that oasis. I spent some time with my assigned guide, playing with three different repeaters - a Blancpain Piece Unique Erotic Automaton Minute Repeater; a Concord MR with display back; and an IWC Grande Complication. We discussed what made one repeater better than another; why the Concord's hammers were not well adjusted; why, though the gongs of the Blancpain are made from centuries old mystic alloys, the strikes were still too soft and the tones not quite as crystalline as they could have been; why the repeater of the IWC Grande Comp was the best of the three, yet still inferior to the Patek or Vacheron.

I beheld the sheer beauty of one piece which nearly brought tears to my eyes and almost melted the platinum in my wallet (this is the first of two times this nearly happened during this trip...)

The intricacy and detail of the skeletonizing, the depth of the movement that is visible, the perfect symmetry of the movement design and the balance of the twin barrels...the tourbillon is almost gilding on the lily! As I stood there, winding the crown, watching the entire gear train move in perfect order, the keyless motion works turning and spinning, engaging the rest of the power train, I had entered, if only for a moment, horological heaven...Patek may be king of the repeaters, but Vacheron Constantin is still the Master of the skeletonized movement.

I was woken out of my reverie by my guide, who reminded me that the time for the main raison d'etre of my stop here in Singapore was fast approaching, and so I thanked him and rushed off...

(continued in part 3)

PS: there was only one flaw that kept me from pulling the trigger on the Vacheron Constantin Squelette Tourbillon - the size was perfect for me, the case just right, the crown winding action silky smooth, but the crown design itself did not allow good purchase, and my fingers felt as if they were constantly slipping, a jarring imperfection in an otherwise perfect design. (sigh)

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