SPOTLIGHT ON JUSTIN FOONG – FOUNDER OF CALIBRE 61
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
The guy doesn’t reveal much. But when he does, it’s both deep and insightful. Justin’s story on collecting watches, is one that most collectors would consider a nightmare and quite heartbreaking. But I promise, that this story ends with a happy ending. Read on to find out more about the founder of Calibre 61, a club that you could say is kind of like a hidden society, where the focus is on people first and watches second.
Justin, thank you for agreeing to be a part of the first Mr Zaratsu 'Spotlight Series'. Could you please give our readers some background information on who you are and what you do for a living?
My name is Justin Foong. These self-labelled descriptions are awkward… but I’m a considerate, conscientious person that cares about people, relationships, order and various matters (although I care too much sometimes). I enjoy good company as much as I appreciate some quiet time on my own. In terms of my career, believe it or not, I was once a car mechanic but left the trade to complete a Town Planning degree. The degree sparked my career in project management and town planning.
Why and how was Calibre 61 formed?
There was no brief or a calculated game plan to it. As a contradictory environmentalist who is a closet car enthusiast, I had my time in various car clubs. Regular perusal on the Watchuseek forums led me to the Australian thread where I started the conversation for the first meet up in Sydney. We switched platforms (from forums) shortly thereafter due to logistical and security reasons with forums being very challenging to coordinate members and meets.
Could you elaborate on how Calibre 61 is unique to other watch societies or groups?
To be honest with you, I don't really consume a large amount of watch literature or subscribe to blogs and Youtube channels. Over the years, I've learnt that people simply have differing levels of priority and care. People prioritise things as they see fit and each club will offer their own style, culture and respective clientele. Since the founding of Calibre 61, it has grown organically and within the last few years, we have started to notice an increased growth in membership.
In terms of how Calibre 61 is unique to other societies and clubs, I’ve heard what others have said. Members describe our club as a pleasant, respectful and balanced community with quality discussion. People have attributed this to its relatively smaller member count and the referral system. I would say these factors are likely related.
What does your own personal watch collection look like? Are there any stories to share?
I do have a story to share and unfortunately it is one that begins with heartache. In 2015, my apartment was broken in to. I didn’t have the most expensive collection nor was I the wealthiest guy, but I had a collection that I was very content with. And in one fell swoop, it was taken from me amongst other valuables I can never get back. I took it surprisingly well (even without insurance), reminding myself that I still had my career, health, family and friends. The result of the event changed my mindset on owning and possessing things. Not saying that I was materialistic to begin with, but this new approach meant I lost the desire to obsessively seek out new watches. What happened instead was that I became an opportunistic buyer and would only spend money on watches that truly spoke to me.
Reflecting on my current collection, I’d say I have a balance of watches that some might label as “less premium”. Reflecting further, it is not much of a ‘collection’ but an assortment only. Again, my priorities have changed and in the last four years I have spent way more time and effort developing myself personally, professionally and culturally too. And to be honest with you, I am really happy.
My most important watch, for reasons that are sentimental, is the Frederique Constant Classics Moonphase. After the incident in my apartment, the members of Calibre 61 secretly raised funds to acquire this watch as some closer Calibre 61 friends tipped them off that I was eyeing it. To this day, I am forever grateful and remain speechless whenever I think about their act of kindness. That’s the thing about a community isn’t it? From afar, it may appear that we only congregate for a common purpose (in our realm, to gawk over these materialistic objects), but really, we come together to share our stories. Well for me anyway, that’s why I love this hobby.
For our final question, how do you unwind from your busy schedule?
I find peace amongst nature. So, a hike, a run, keeping fit and active, are regular activities that I fall back onto. Another past time of mine is taking my car out on spirited drives to carve up corners. I also enjoy reading and listening to podcasts, fixing and repairing things, art, photography, drinks and alone time. Finally, spending time with friends and family helps too.
Follow Calibre 61 on Instagram @calibre61