With more than a decade in the trade, Sam Cheng, founded Watchlink as a hobby – that’s why he calls it his passion corner rather than a business. The 55-year-old says his best memories are meeting people from all walks of life – bankers, housing agents, hawkers and contractors.
What's the story behind Watchlink?
I've always been fascinated with mechanical movements and this sparked the interest in watches. I started collecting them around 1997 and along the way, I’ve met countless like-minded watch fans. One day it hit me, why not bring this hobby further? I then made the decision to transform this into a business and Watchlink was officially born in 2009.
What was your journey like before you started Watchlink?
My previous business, Hobbylink, was built upon my love for radio control cars. My journey started when I won the first national radio control racing championships back in 1983. Since then, I’ve travelled around the world for competitions. It was from these travels that I’ve widened my horizons and connected with people of high stature and from reputable backgrounds. There was one common trend amongst them - the love for delicate mechanics and hence, watches. This was how I discovered the opportunity for a watch business.
Tell us more about the beginning days.
It was not all a bed of roses. Capital was the first obstacle because of the costs of these high-end timepieces. There was also huge risks involved in the purchase of secondhand watches due to authenticity issues. One mistake could easily cost me tens of thousands of dollars. But I decided that life is too short for regrets, so I went ahead to get a bank loan and there was no turning back!
I started from ground zero.
I didn’t have much education, but that didn’t hinder me from learning. I learnt and did everything on my own – from building up the website, taking photos of the watches and managing the store. My hunger to learn also drove me to seek out professionals in the industry to pick up knowledge and skills on determining the quality and rarity of different types and brands of timepieces. I’ve never stopped learning since then.
What do you love the most about this passion corner?
Meeting people from all over the globe. I’ve had the honour of hosting renowned individuals from as far as USA and Europe who have specially made the trip down to visit my humble store. Some of these people are dealers themselves or even big shots from international shops. To me, these friendships are extremely valuable.
Where do you see Watchlink in the next 5-10 years?
The past decade saw an exponential growth in the customer base. But this is only the beginning. I envision a greater expansion in the next decade with a strategic rebranding of the business and a widening portfolio of timepieces. Amidst the ambitious plans, I believe in staying true to the basics, and that is to focus on building strong customer relationships - always people before money.
Which is your personal favourite timepiece?
Definitely Panerai. This was one of the first brands I brought in to Watchlink. It may not be as popular now as it used to be back in the days, but it holds special meaning to me because of the good days and memories.
What is the one ultimate life advice you’ll give to others?
Put your pride and ego in your pocket. Never stop learning from others and offering your help no matter how small your contribution may be. The way to go far is to always put people first and build connections wherever you go. You never know, you may need the help of the roadside cleaner someday.