A Mr Zaratsu Interview With Wei Koh
Updated: Nov 27, 2020
By Daniel Yong
Stripping back a watch to its purest element where it leaves nothing to hide, demonstrates the level of a watchmaker's craftsmanship and exposes the bullshit. When sipping and savouring a fine bottle of whisky, especially after repeating this process for years, one could easily separate the best from the worst. In this case here, I've been interested in watches since I was in primary school, the people who wear them and various editorials. But one individual has always stood out for me. Wei Koh is a man of integrity, style, kindness and a promoter of not backing down to anyone, even if it means you might get your ass kicked. Since discovering Revolution and The Rake magazines, I have been intrigued by the man who founded these brands. And it was my absolute honour, to interview someone I consider to be one of my heroes. But I won't give anything away in this introduction, you're just going to have to read the interview yourself!
Hey Wei! You don’t need an introduction, but could you let the Mr Z readers know a bit about who you are?
Sure, I’m the founder of Revolution and The Rake Magazines, but more importantly a lover of dachshunds, motorcycles, comradery and good cheer.
As an Asian Australian, I share some sentiments with you growing up as a minority. How would you describe your experiences?
Growing in New York City was amazing. I cannot think of a more exciting and diverse place and at least in the context of 80’s it felt incredibly inclusive. But when I moved to Washington D.C. or when I briefly attending boarding school in Connecticut, I was made to feel acutely aware of being a minority. I think sometimes you compensate for this in different ways. One way would to become super affable and gregarious so as to feel included. But there is always an underlying but unspoken feeling that you are being tolerated, permitted to be at the table. It was only when I moved to Singapore and lived in Asia for the first time that I understood what it was like to be part of the majority, to not suffer that sense of existential malaise that people are looking at you out of the corner of their eye or that the next racist incident is just around the corner. For example I was recently at Annabelle in London at the cigar room. And on the way to the toilet your typical big blustering pink faced drunk banker type came up to me and said in an inebriated manner, “Ni Hao Ma?” To which I responded “Hen Hao Motherfucker.” I suppose the one valuable lesson I’ve learned in life is don’t take any shit off of anyone. This might mean you might get beat up when you are young. But you will always be able to respect yourself.
Being a big fan of Revolution and The Rake, you discussed in previous interviews that you decided to start Revolution because you wanted to launch stories about watches that weren’t pretentious. Could you share why Revolution has seen a huge success across multiple countries?
Well that’s kind of you to say. I think it is because the journalism comes from a genuine place. At an age where I should have proper investments made etc, I’ve totally irresponsibly ploughed all my funds into watches because I am genuinely obsessed with them. Which also related to our transition into limited editions and e commerce. I like to think that the watches we create with brands or curate as an offer online or in our soon to be opened Revolution Watch Bars in Singapore and Maldives, are all watches that I would buy myself because they are genuinely dope. Also, Revolution takes subjects that can be a little dry or technical and without losing the substance explains them in a very relatable and fun way. It always makes me happy when people read my stories and laugh. Why Revolution has a following in multiple countries? Well I think that’s because watches are an international language of their own transcending race, religion, and national boundaries. That’s why I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t like watches. Joking.
I have to ask, especially considering that you’ve worked for one of the biggest bad ass directors ever (Kathryn Bigelow), what’s your current favourite film?
I have a lot of favourite films, but one I watched recently that I love is True Romance which is written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by the late Tony Scott. The dialogue is brilliant and you forget how cool Christian Slater was back in the day. He gets extra points because he also loves dachshunds. The cast is amazing, Denis Hopper, Christopher Walken, James Gandolfino, Brad Pitt and even Gary Oldman as Drexel, a white Rastafarian drug dealer. And most of all Patricia Arquette is sublime in this movie. As far as Kathryn’s movies go I would say Zero Dark 30, Point Break and an incredible vampire movie called Near Dark are all stellar. She also did a great cult biker movie called The Loveless starring Willem Dafoe.
I guess we should probably talk about watches since this blog is primarily about them. Considering you are always exposed to the most beautiful timepieces, what is the latest piece that speaks to you and why?
Not to shamelessly shill for my own collaborations but the steel origin Laurent Ferrier with the Sectors dial we did was kind of dope. I also have been digging the new Chopard Alpine Eagle Chrono a lot. Did you know it features the only automatic movement with a precise jumping minute counter? And I also bought the Tudor Black Bay 58 Navy and the Omega Silver Snoopy 50th Speedy. Such a great year for watches.
For those in your orbit, we all know of your admiration for Ralph Lauren. Being an educator myself, I know how important it is to have mentors in our lives. We’re going off track a bit, but I would love to hear your thoughts on having mentors for the young people reading this story.
Well I was lucky. You are told to be careful meeting your heroes because they might let you down. But when I met Ralph Lauren he exceeded even my incredibly lofty expectations of him based on his kindness and generosity. Did you know that when he found out cancer survival rates in Harlem in NYC were worse than those in the third world, he set about building a cancer hospital there to help change this. He doesn’t really talk about it but that’s the kind of thing he does. He taught me one very important thing. That when people are unhappy it’s because they spend too much time thinking about themselves and not enough time thinking about other people. Sounds like a certain Cheeto coloured world leader no?
When you have Wei Koh talking to you, you have to sneak in a conversation about negronis right? How did you get introduced to this iconic Italian cocktail?
At Pitti Uomo and all my trips to Italy. But I like how the cocktail has become a symbol of resistance against despair this year. And now that things are looking up. I can’t wait to drink a Negroni.
For our final question, how do you unwind from your busy schedule?
Well you probably can’t tell as I’m a bit of a fat bastard but exercise is very important to me. Almost holy. I have to exercise every day to point where I feel I may die to feel right and centred. So of course I have to be careful as a small injury can sideline me and that is a disaster. I used to road bike but now I do spin and run. I would like to get back into Muay Thai which I did when I was younger. And of course I was planning on starting Brazilian Jujitsu this year but I think I might give the person to person contact thing a break until there is a vaccine. I try to drink with moderation as I get older and hangover management becomes more of a priority. But this year I think with all the lockdowns we all became the world’s fittest alcoholics. I would say this year we need to all give ourselves a break.