For teenagers in Singapore, the military is just part of life. Every male who turns 18 must enlist and serve two years. While some might view this as a daunting requirement, Alex Ian Loh picked up the skills he needed to pursue his watchmaking dream by becoming a weapons expert. And he’s shooting for the stars with Arcturus Watches.
“My fascination with mechanical watches came through building and taking apart of various weapons,” said Loh, a 26-year-old law student and founder of Arcturus. With his military days behind him, Loh’s ability to tinker would lead him in different directions. ”I could dismantle a rifle in about eight seconds. Honestly, since I was I child, I’ve been interested in how things are put together. I gave my parents some trouble taking things apart around the house.”
During his two-year military stint, Loh also met some friends who were interested in watches. They would sit around on breaks and talk watches and try their hand at modding Seiko dive watches. For Loh, it was the beginning of his fascination with mechanical horology that would lead him to want to launch his own creation.
A multi-faceted timepiece
With the Arcturus LC-1, launching Feb 8 on Kickstarter, Loh has created a layered timepiece powered by a Miyota 9-series with some interesting complications, including a day/night indicator on some models and a power reserve indicator. Not content with a mere two-layer sandwich dial, he added several complex dial layers to create an art deco-inspired timepiece that is detail-packed.
“I have this thing for symmetry and balance,” said Loh, who is also an amateur photographer. “I really do enjoy aesthetically beautiful things. There’s something about art deco that seems very overt, but at the same time the designs just worked. When thinking about this project, I was looking at old timepieces from the Art Deco period and modern watches like Cartier and Perrelet and designers like Gerald Genta (the mastermind behind the legendary Audemars Piguet Royal Oak).”
With an eclectic mix of styles swimming around in his brain, Loh’s vision for the LC-1 began to take shape in 2017. The Arcturus brand is not Loh’s first effort. An earlier brand did not achieve the funding it needed to launch. Loh had been working with several friends on that project. He believes working by himself and developing a singular vision will make a difference with the Arcturus. Still, crowd-funding a project is no easy task.
A little help from new friends
After Loh finished the design process, he needed to find a manufacture willing to take on such a complex design. He reached out to about 25 manufacturers in China and with the help of other brand owners, started making the right connections to build his dream watch.
“It was only when I started designing Arcturus that I began learning of all the different microbrands in Singapore and elsewhere. “I really look up to those guys,” he said. “And they surprised me at every turn. I was expecting a very competitive atmosphere, and I didn’t expect help – they didn’t owe me anything.”
Kickstarter firebrand Kyle Schut of Straton Watch Co. was one of the brand owners to offer advice. “I didn’t expect brand owners to look out for each other the way that they do,” Loh said. “It was so encouraging.”
In his spare time – which is in short supply as he launches the Arcturus project while working on his law degree – Loh enjoys reading, cooking, photography, and collecting vintage cameras.
His friends and family were at first baffled by his decision to start a watch company. “People in my community can be a little skeptical of different ideas,” he said. “But eventually my family became excited for me. My parents are both dentists and would show their patients sketches of the design. This started as a hobby for me, but I hope to make it my work in the long term.”