The Collector: An Interview With Instagram Star Santa Laura

The Collector: An Interview With Instagram Star Santa Laura

Arthur Touchot
By Arthur Touchot June 22, 2015
Santa Laura Watch Collector Interview Romain Jerome Wrist Shot Two
Santa Laura in London with his Romain Jerome Titanic DNA Tourbillon.

Who is Santa Laura? More than 128 thousand people in the world are asking themselves that question. The Singapore-based watch collector has build a huge following on Instagram, where he shares his vast collection of timepieces, most often placing them in front of his unique green Lamborghini (check out the highlights and his famous car in the gallergy below)). Yet, only few have ever seen his face. Last week, he contacted Haute Time to say he was flying into London to purchase a couple of watches, including the following Romain Jerome Titanic DNA Tourbillon. Naturally, we jumped on the opportunity to meet the world’s most famous wrist.

Who is Santa Laura ?

Santa Laura is actually the name of a ship that I used to operate. And it was a very lucky ship. It made a lot of money. I no longer have her. But I thought this would be a good way to keep her close, and hopefully keep the lucky streak going.

When did you first get into watches?

Not long ago actually, compared to collectors who have been collecting for decades. I started about six or seven years ago. The first watch that got me really intrigued was the first generation Ulysse Nardin Maxi Marine Chronometer 43mm. I like the sporty look of it, and I like how the gold case combines with the blue rubber strap. I now have the Ulysse Nardin Freak to go with it. It was a really cool concept when the brand first came out with it.

How many watches would you say you own today?

Over a hundred. The price range varies of course. I even have a Swatch SIMSTEM51 ! But most of the watches are $15,000 and up. I don’t buy a watch if I’m not really passionate about it, and I have zero regrets. I don’t think about the value the watch is going to have in two years time. I buy a specific piece only if I love it, regardless of its future value.

You seem to have a strong preference for the independent brands?

Yes, now I’m really into the independent brands. I like to buy watches from people with talent. They put a lot of attention into their watches. And while they have small budgets in comparison to the larger brands, their watches show so much more imagination. I think the well-known brands…people are always going to go for them. I have friends that really like these watches, but personally I don’t find them as exciting. Hublot might be the only exception, because the brand is really contemporary.

The independents are very popular in Southeast Asia, aren’t they?

They are selling a lot of watches in Asia, especially in Singapore and Indonesia. That market is very strong for them, and most collectors there buy independents. I think they are more knowledgeable about that segment. I see who is buying them, and we spend a lot of time talking to the owners of these brands. It’s what is known in Singapore as “horo-bromance”: If you’re wearing an independent brand, and you meet someone else who is also wearing an independent brand, you can sit down and have a conversation. I don’t see that interest when I’m in Europe.

Your Instagram account is blowing up. People absolutely love to see the life of a real watch collector. What do you get out of it?

I got into Instagram about a year ago. I started the page to monitor the watches that were being released. I was browsing. But I love to share what I’m passionate about, so of course I starting sharing my own watches, and a part of my life. It’s a great way to connect with others who share the same passion.

Any tips on how to raise our wristshot game?

1) Always try to shoot in front of an interesting background. Sometimes I get more questions about the background than the watch.

2) Don’t hold your watch too close to the camera. I used to do that. It doesn’t work so well.

3) Shoot outside. I mostly shoot outside because you can’t beat natural light. Then again, the weather in Singapore makes that very easy.

4) Have the best camera possible. I used to shoot with my iPhone but I’ve switched to Samsung in order to get better wristshots. I find the camera on it is much better.

With SIHH and Baselworld behind us, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what 2015 looks like in terms of novelties. Did you like what you saw?

Honestly, I think 2015 was a bit disappointing. I didn’t see anything amazing. I think the star of the show was the Jacob & Co. Astronomia. Personally I prefer it without the baguette dial. In terms of the mechanism, it was unique. I don’t have it. Not yet. Apart from that, the Cabestan Triple Axis Tourbillon of course. That was really interesting, but from what I understand, the brand is going to fine tune it some more.

Is there a watch that you wish you could have bought, but is no longer available?

Yes, the Harry Winston Opus 12. I actually bought it, and had it for two days, but it was malfunctioning, so I had to send it back. When they received it, they refunded me. At the time, I was happy with that, and thought I would just buy it later on. But since then, I haven’t been able to find it.

Photo Credit: Haute Time; wrist shots by Santa Laura. For more awesome shots of his collection, please follow the official Santa Laura Instagram account.