Singapore Writer’s Festival 2017 (Part 2)

Why I Write: The Social Responsibilities of a Writer. Many people struggle with mental illness and there is a need to break the silence of mental illness. Try to live each day with dignity. Life is full of ups and downs. But the question is how we live life courageously in the face of trying circumstances. Writers write because there is something deeply that they care about. It is important to write from the heart (pain/loss). It is also important to place content in a suitable medium (make it accessible to blind readers, for instance). Listening without judgment is a skill that not many of us have. Use your sight to observe others and observe keenly. In life, everyone wants to be understood, even the poor or the mentally less able. Learn to inculcate understanding/ acceptance among others. Learn to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Changing Singaporeans’ mindsets towards mental illnesses is crucial. The aim of most of these books is for Singapore to become empathetic society. Caregivers need support as well and not just the patient/family member etc.

Against All Odds. Sam and her family had a happy life and marriage. They had 3 kids. However, after a fall in Thailand, she was paralyzed from the waist down and this put an end to her sporting endeavors. She could no longer do the things she enjoyed because of this spinal injury. After the incident, she felt depressed and upset with life. However, one day, a penguin came into her house and she found that because she could take care of something so fragile, it sparked inspiration in life and for her to keep going on. If you a writer, something will call out to you. Enjoy the moment in life, carpe diem. The penguin story is a spontaneous thing that happened and it was not planned for. Her husband (Cameron) captured beautiful images of the penguin and told the story of Sam through the bird. The penguin lived with them for 2+ years and the whole family, including the boys adored them. Although Sam can no longer surf, she can still kayak in the lake and train for the para-Olympics competitions. There is a need to learn to compromise after you had a serious accident. You will have to learn to do things in a different way. It is crucial to be physically and mentally active if you want to keep your zest for life. Exercise can definitely help you in a huge way. It is important to remain optimistic in the face of trying circumstances and you will eventually find a way forward.

Aram Across Religions. There are some commonalities across religions. Aram is an Indian word which means ‘what should someone do/what should someone avoid’. It has deep roots in ethics and values. Dhamma is what distinguishes humans from animals. Animals go by their instinct while humans have choice. This is the main difference between animals and humans. Even if you are very intelligent, without aram, you are like a block of wood. Aram consists of 2 main values – basic human values (Do not do harm to others) and values related to one’s life (value-specific ones). Religions all set out with the aim of creating Universal peace. It is interesting because all religious buildings end up with a peak at the top of the structure. Buddha emphasized the importance of discussing points of agreement and not disagreement. There is no need to argue. Literature is important as it portrays experience. All religions move to one being, with common values. There are many things that can be learnt from the Bible. William Wan drove the Kindness movement in Singapore. Love, Kindness, working humbly are all common values that all religions share. However, it is also possible to be an ethical, moral and virtuous person even if you do not faith in God. Buddha also struggled deeply to get rid of his human weaknesses and achieve human enlightenment. There is nobody that cannot be reformed and transformed. It is always important to remain grateful and to remember your roots. You are never good alone as everyone needs the help of others. Rama is a role model for mankind as he shows how to be good when the odds are not in your favor. On the surface, religions have many differences. However, when you go deeper, you will realize that religion is a lot more common than you think. As a human, we need to learn to be passionate and compassionate.

A Brighter Tomorrow? Aram and What the Youth Want. There are 17 Singapore sustainable developmental goals that we all thrive for. It is important to get youth to be involved. Jessica Cheam founded a start-up called Eco-business, which is an NGO. She aims to tackle issues like inequality and climate change. It is important for young people to be passionate about such causes. The story is yours to shape and to develop. The future is in your hands. It is important to give words of encouragement sometimes to others. Help the youth where no one believes in them. Help those people in welfare homes. Ultimately, love is important and if you really care for someone, put your heart into it. Love the person you want to help. Give the opportunity to a young person and you just might change someone’s life. What is the modern Singapore story? Singapore has moved from a third world to first in just 1 generation. However are Singaporeans still hungry? Do they still want to live the material dream? Different generations of people want different things. Migrant female workers are marginalized and can’t speak well. Many are from low-income families and marry poor men. There is too much social injustice. Amanda Chong is doing work in this area to help these migrant workers and their kids. These segments of society need more attention and bringing out the successful stories will help them. Can you be a protagonist in your own story/life?

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Singapore Writer’s Festival 2017 (Part 1)

The Green State of Singapore. Singapore has plenty of thriving nature ecosystems. The last of the tigers seen on the island was the 1930s. In the last 100 years, there is a trend of increased use of cultivated land (crops) and increase urban land use. The percentage of primary forests have decreased a lot. The 1960s marked the resettlement of people from village to HDB. NParks works with MINDEF to allocate land for jungle training. These jungles also enable biodiversity to thrive. The interesting thing is that in the 1930s, almost all of Singapore’s bio-diversity was gone and this had to be built from scratch. Today, Singapore has an outstanding range of biodiversity. We have over 400 bird species, which is 4% of the different bird species in the world. We also range high on the bio-diversity index and have improved over time. We top the Green new Index, the Treepedia by MIT. Some interesting species which we have are the Horseshoe Crab, where there are properties in their blood which can detect certain toxins in human blood. Everyone needs to take positive action. Nparks has a nature conversation masterplan in place to boost our conservation efforts. Roadside greenery and the various nature parks, reservoirs are all due to careful planning. 22 May is the bio-diversity roundtable and we also get schools involved. There is a school where the Chinese teacher actually brings students in the courtyard for lessons, where there is more greenery. 93% of Singapore’s forests were chopped in 1883 due to colonization. The Botanic gardens were tasked to re-forest and to grow Singapore’s bio-diversity in the late 1800s. Up to the 1930s, Singapore produced most of their food. In the modern day, we import almost everything. This was largely due to government policy on the need to make better use of the land and modernize our economy. Botanic Gardens actually re-introduces extinct orchids through a hybridization process. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the chief gardener. Almost everything green in Singapore has been created and this provides a conducive environment for businesses to set up shop here. Trees were planted along expressways to impress tourists. When animals (tigers, wild boars, meerkets) are dangerous, we try to get rid of them. The green movement is growing and more young people are on-board. The increase in green energy does not necessarily mean it’s good for eco-systems as these are very distinct. Land still needs to be set-up for natural eco-systems. Roof gardens on multi-storey carparks are also more common.

All in a Traveller’s Day. The Chinese and Taiwanese markets are bigger than Singapore’s for writing. Write about your own experiences. Traveling can inspiring you to write. Mimi is an illustrator and now a comic book writer. One can use social media to update people on your upcoming novel. This might be a niche area. Writing a travel guide is different from a novel as you are heavily constrained by guidelines. Telling your publisher upfront that you are going to work on a particular work might help as it leads to you feeling the pressure and motivation to get things done. Most Singaporeans travel casually because they feel repressed here. However, most do not achieve the type of depth that travel writers experience. It is necessary for travel writing to have some element of universality, and not completely personal. Sometimes, even if you are a travel writer, it is important to just go in with less expectations and to experience as many things as naturally as possible. There is no need to contrive a novel. A good thing about comics is that you can exaggerate things that happened along the trip. The problem is that social media is all about framing and people make the place seems very exclusive and empty. However, in reality, there could be many people waiting for the same opportunity as you. Smartphone apps have changed the way we view things and meet people. Travel writing needs to be very open and chatty. Marc Nair writes a short haiku for every of his photos. There is a need to be a responsible traveler, such as by recycling materials. The problem with some tourists is that they may intrude into someone’s privacy if they go too close to someone’s famous house for a photo opportunity etc. Poetry can be linked with photography if it tries to explore the space in a photo. Write in your own voice and learn to find your own writing style. Sometimes, it is useful to get lost while traveling as it allows you to experience things you wouldn’t normally had a chance to.

From Apart to a Part: Writing to Unite. To some, many do not know where home is as they might have been displaced due to violence, turmoil in their own country etc. However, home is actually within you and once you are at peace, you must feel at home everywhere you go. Suki Kim taught English to North Koreans in NK for 6 months and wrote about her experiences. In NK, everyday felt the same and it felt really empty. There were no news/emails received and you didn’t know how to assess what was true. It was mainly propaganda. Literature can connect the arts/culture and translation is important as it helps to revive old literature. Through the shared power of literature, it is powerful enough to spread culture and important cultures. Learn to immerse yourself in other cultures. Learn to understand the human narratives through talking to refugees etc. The power of fiction is so amazing that someone else might actually think your character is a real person. It is almost possible to fall in love with a character in a book. All of us humans have a story to tell. It sucks being a migrant worker. The panelists shared about a Nigerian woman who tried to go to Italy to work as a result of social unrest in her country. However, her journey was fraught with difficulties and dangers. Stories help us to understand the world and make sense of what is true. Sometimes, the media do not feature such stories and hence the truth is suppressed. Social media is a way of broadcasting to the masses. There is a need to learn about someone else, and one of the best ways are through stories. Poetry is like rain, which politicians can’t stop. Soon, it will seep into the ground like rain. Writers have a social responsibility to share the stories of those who have slipped through the cracks. Through this sharing, it is hoped that the world will be more aware of such plights.

Growing up with Sumiko Tan. Sumiko graduated from English literature and moved on to a journalist covering crime. Later on, she wrote 2 books on crime. She is well known for her personal columns in the Straits Times on Sundays. The good thing about a personal column is that it allows everyone to start off on a clean slate. She wanted to show everyone that small things in life have a bigger meaning. Everyday experiences can be interesting as well. However, most of her columns had the same succinct writing and a certain structure to it. Over the years, she has received much praise for her work and sometimes some criticisms too. She always chooses to write from the heart and that’s how her topics were chosen. It is no wonder that she has written 400+ columns over 22 years. However, she only like 10 to 20% of them. They were compiled into a book. Some of the topics she covers are her pets, love, death, loneliness etc. She has an obsession with death. She only got married at age 46 and does not regret having no kids. Having kids would just have affected her career achievements. Now, she interviews household names like Tony Fernandez, Zoe Tay etc. Often, she also writes about her mum and husband. ST uses readership surveys to decide whether to continue her column and most readers responded positively. Over the years, Sumiko has generated the art to write everywhere, even with distractions abound. Deadlines also help her. Sumiko avoids over-dramatization of her characters and also plans to write short stories in future. She likes works by Sonny Liew and Tash Aw, local authors. Young people nowadays can do an internship or even start a blog to showcase their works and talents. This might help employers notice and aid in a job hunt. It is important to be sincere in your writings. She is grateful to having been born in Singapore, in such exciting times. So far, she does not have many regrets in her personal life.

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A Man and His Watch (Iconic Watches & Stories From the Men Who Wore Them) by Matt Hranek (Part 3)

From the Hermes Archives. The archives are in Paris. They manufacture straps for others too. They look at watches through a celebration of leathercraft, style, fashion etc. Some of their ostrich straps are really lovely. There were even belt watches in the 1930s.

Bradley Price. He is the founder and product designer at Autodromo. His watch is the Autodromo Monoposto. I was a product designer. I was obsessed with vintage cars since young. A watch could then be inspired by gauges in a car. I started off with the Ronda quartz movements in my watches as they were cheaper. Just like the old cars, my watches had a red line painted on the glass. It was truly inspiring. Eventually, I ventured into automatic movements. The brand has a cult following, with I am very proud of. When you are a small company, it is possible to relate to your customers better. I want to create something that’s interesting and exciting. As a small outfit, we can always try new things.

I think Autodromo resonates with people because we’re still a tiny company; basically, one guy designing stuff. – Bradley Price

I don’t care about trying to create something that lasts for the ages; I’m trying to create something that excites people now, something that they want to buy and own. – Bradley Price

Adam Craniotes. He is the writer and cofounder of Redbar Group. His watch is the 1980 Casio F-7 and the 2012 IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Ref 5029. My grandpa supported my passion for watches. He bought the Casio F-7 when I was young. I was the moderator for the IWC form on Timezone. I wanted a pilot’s watch all along. The one which I bought was made completely of black ceramic. However, the price was prohibitive. I sold a few watches and my mum chipped in as well. My mum recognized my passions and supported me.

Both of these watches always put a smile on my face when I wear them. And as with any hobby, if you can’t have that moment, you need to pick another hobby. – Adam Craniotes

Grahame Fowler. He is the founder of Grahame Fowler original. His watch is the Rolex Submariner 5513, Rolex Mil Sub 5517, Omega Seamaster 300. Watches just came naturally to me when I was young. My 5513 was found on a beach in Dorset between 1972 and 1978.

A lot of people say my Rolex is wrecked. Actually, it’s destroyed, but for me it’s a work of art. It’s like a piece of sculpture. The dial’s been corroded and faded from years of being washed about and water getting in and degrading it. – Grahame Fowler

I became interested in military watches as a child. My dad was in the English Royal Corps of Signals, and all the men had military watches and guns. – Grahame Fowler

Henry Leutwyler. He is a photographer. His watch is the Rolex Cosmograph Ref 6241 and the Rolex Oyster Bubbleback. After my dad passed away, mum and I moved to another place for superstitious reasons. I bought a Rolex Cosmograph secondhand to commemorate the time when I was a kid. It wasn’t because of monetary value, it was because I loved it. I inherited a Rolex bubble-back when my uncle died. Don’t get attached to money.

Even if I were to lose all my money again, I would never sell these watches, whether they’re worth a dollar or a million dollars. I will eat less, get thin, work hard and start over. – Henry Leutwyler

Sylvester Stallone. He is an actor, director and screenwriter. His watch is the Tiffany & Co. Gold Rolex Submariner Reference 1680/8. This is the watch I was most connected to. I first saw it on Gregg Allman, lead singer of the Allman Brothers band. I love the strength and simplicity of the watch.

From the Zenith Archives. Mechanical movements weren’t sexy or modern in the 1970s. Quartz movement hasn’t killed the fascination with craftsmanship and mechanical things. Zenith was able to return to produce mechanical movements due to Charly Vermot. This resurrected the brand. The El Primero was a high-beat chrono movement that was really outstanding and even found its way into early Rolex daytonas.

Ralph Lauren. He is the Chairman and CCO of Ralph Lauren Corporation. His watch is the Cartier Tank Cintree. It has a unique combination. Watches were an important part of a man’s look. To me, watches have emotional value. Creating a watch collection is about building something emotional. I like things built with a purpose. Watches are like moving art.

I think a man and his watch have a special bond. It’s probably his most signature personal piece – something he puts on every day. It’s functional jewelry. – Ralph Lauren

I believe in wearing different watches to match the mood of what you’re wearing, where you’re going. I see watches as I see clothes: part of a world we live in that changes from day to day. – – Ralph Lauren

I’ve always thought of my cars as moving art. I feel the same way about watches. It’s moving art, worn on your wrist. I don’t think there is anything like it in the world. – Ralph Lauren

John Criscitiello. He is a watch dealer. His favorite watch is the Breitling Chronomat. I have been trading watches since 1983. I saw the Breitling in the late 30s and 40s. The case is very rare. It was left behind by a GI in June 1941. I was happy to be a care-taker of it. I have been keeping this watch for nearly 20 years already.

Nate Berkus. He is an interior designer and author. His favorite watch is the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 3800/A. I liked things of quality since young. My parents wore good watches too. My mum bought a steel Air King when I was 12. My dad used to own the PP, but he lost it before passing away. I knew after he passed on, I wanted to buy it again and eventually did. My partner didn’t make it in the tsunami in Cambodia in 2004. That day, I lost my PP. I knew after that, I wanted to get it back.

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A Man and His Watch (Iconic Watches & Stories From the Men Who Wore Them) by Matt Hranek (Part 2)

Eng Tay. He is an artist. His favorite watch is the Panerai Reference 3646. I always liked vintage items, like cars and watches. In Asia, I loved to window shop for watches. I bought my first Pam from a friend (it originally belonged to a Navy officer). The story of how I got the PAM21 was more interesting. I actually flew down to Singapore and paid crazy money for it. That is just me, I am very passionate about Panerai.

George Bamford. He is the founder of the Bamford Watch Department. His favorite watch is the ‘Popeye’ Yacht Master. I started the watch customization business. I loved cartoon characters like Popeye since young. Because of that, I wanted to put Popeye on a watch. The sales of the watch were a massive success. It’s like paying homage to these character characters, but also adding a twist to it.

Everything you buy has a soul to it. You remember the details: exactly when you bought it, how much you paid for it. You want to think of that item as exclusively yours – unique to you. – George Bamford

Mark Cho. He is the co-founder of the Armoury and Co-owner of Drake’s. His watch is the Grand Seiko 61GS Very Fine Adjusted. When I first saw a Seiko that costs 8k, I was shocked. I decided to research extensively on the Seiko and really how significant the watch was. I loved its history. I even visited the Seiko museum in northeast Tokyo. To my surprise, the watch I purchased was also being displayed in the museum. The quality of finishing can rival their Swiss counterparts. Seiko is known for their big flanked lugs, lots of planes and is very angular. One day, Seiko will really live up to their reputation.

I love the Japanese attitude, the dedication to trying to be the absolute best you can be, to really push the envelope even given your own constraints. – Mark Cho

The Grand Seiko is a subtle watch, not really recognizable for what it is, but I like that. It’s a lucky watch for me. – Mark Cho

Holger Thoss. He is a photographer. His watch is the Breitling Chrono-Matic GMT. My dad gave it to me. I loved it very much. All along, I believed in the Buddhist tradition and belief in the temporal nature of things.

It’s also important to cherish the things you have and – this might seem weird to say – to have a relationship with them. You have to honor each object and, at the same time, be ready to let it go. – Holger Thoss

Eric Ku. He is a vintage watch dealer. His watch is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm. He had an obsession with mechanical objects. When I was younger, we often looked forward to get the full-color catalog in the mail. I kept following this JLC watch, but the price increased over time, and I regretted not getting it. I eventually bought it for $35,000, which I over-paid. However, to me, it was okay. This was really a unique watch because of its rich history. I paid a huge premium for it.

Watches are very personal things – expressions of who you are. And what you’re willing to pay all comes down to perception of value. – Eric Ku

James H. Ragan. He is a former aerospace engineer at NASA. His favorite watches are the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatches. Watches were the backup instrument to test flight time. 4 companies bid. However, the Omega was the most durable. Wally Schirra and Gordo Cooper had worn Omega Chronographs for their mercury days. NASA kept using Speedmasters thereafter. The speedmaster professional came in useful during the Apollo 13 mission. These Omegas really meant a lot to me. The Omega Speedmaster Alaska Project aimed at triple protection. However, it never flew into space

Omega Archives. I got the chance to visit the Omega archives. I photographed the second-generation Omega Speedmaster ref CK2998. It was Wally Schirra’s watch. I also got to see John F. Kennedy’s watch, which he worn when he was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States.

Alessandro Squarzi. He is a fashion entrepreneur. His favorite watch is the 1968 Rolex Submariner Reference 5508. My dad gave me the watch when I was 18. To me, it looked very modern. It’s a priceless piece.

Gabriel Vachette. He is the founder of Les Rhabilleurs. His watch is the Universal Geneve Compax. The watch was handed down from my grandpa to my dad and now to me. My dad was a watch collector too. The chronograph movement was amazing. I fell in love in watches because of my dad. Later on in my life, I created a watch blog, which was lifestyle focused.

Kenta Watanabe. He is the co-founder of Buaisou Indigo Studio. His watch is the Indigo-Dyed Casio G-shock. I kept soaking the watch in Indigo dye. It turned out to be amazing.

Hamilton Powell. He is the founder and CEO of Crown and Caliber. His watch is the Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer. It has a running second hand. It was made by Heuer, for A&F. Back then, A&F was a cool adventure outfitter. It was both for adventurers and for guys who likes beautiful things.

I also like that it’s a manual-winding watch. I believe we’re alive for a brief period of time; whether it’s fifty years or a hundred, in the scheme of things, that’s a short blip. And it’s up to us to use that time intentionally. So taking a moment to wind my watch means giving myself 20 seconds of the day to create a sense of purpose as to how I’m going to use my time- to ask myself, Am I going to live today with intention? – Hamilton Powell

Josh Condon. He is a writer, editor and author. His watch is the Movado Moon Phase. The idea of heirlooms are a big deal. I have been handed down things from my grandpa etc. My dad loved to give me things too. My dad bought a Movado moon phase and I started writing about it. On my 36th birthday, my dad bought it for me. He also gave my brothers the same watch. I haven’t taken the watch off since. Every time I wear it, it reminds me of my family.

Geoffrey Hess. He is the CEO of Analog/Shift. His watch is the Rolex Eagle Beak Tropical Submariner, Ref 5512. It’s the story behind the watches that is important. I met my wife because of this hobby. I love vintage Rolexes. Often, I go for collector events overseas. We are almost like brothers. People like vintage because of the tropical dial, serial number matches the box, lume on dial match the hands etc, crown guards look like an eagle etc.

But to some degree, the world of vintage Rolex is a science; we collector always have a loupe, and we’re examining the colors, the serifs on the fonts, the way the Rolex coronet is printed. It’s a grown-man science. – Geoffrey Hess

Michael Friedman. He is a historian at Audemars Piquet. His watch is the 1938 AP. This watch would be included in an auction. My dad was impressed by the history behind it. I studied time through the different time periods and realized how interesting it was. My dad used to encourage me to explore the world. It was a moment which I shared with my dad forever.

Tom Sachs. He is a sculptor. His watch is the ‘New Bedford’, customized Casio G-shock DW-5600. I hot-glued a metal cage around a digital watch in the past. The Japanese created the Casio with the concept of status and of a low price. I have worn the same G-shock for the past 20 years. I engrave every Gshock I buy.

I like the idea of something that costs $40 that you own, versus something that costs $4,000 that owns you. – Tom Sachs

People wear watches for their associated value. You wear an Omega Speedmaster and you’re Neil Armstrong. Or you wear whatever watch James Bond wears, or Sir Edmund Hillary wore, and you become that person – even if you work in an office, at least your watch is the same as that hero’s. – Tom Sachs

Bre Pettis. He is the founder of Bre & Co. His watch is the Bulova Accutron Spaceview and Origami watch. I am impressed by the Stonehenge because of its accurate astronomical alignments. Watches represent a worldwide contract and are incredibly interesting. My dad gave me this watch. It’s a transition between a mechanical and quartz movement. The tuning fork was like the gear-train of the watch. Watches actually make great gifts to others and encourages friendship building. I created the origami watch.

Stephen Lewis. He is a photographer. His watch is the paper cutout of a HP calculator watch. I used to like cutting watches out from famous watch magazines. I was impressed by James Bond when he checked the time on his Pulsar digital watch. Nowadays, I wear a Rolex submariner, which was a present from my wife. I have been able to dig myself out of a hole with little imagination.

David Coggins. He is a writer. His watch is the JLC Reverso. Reverso was a gift from my parents. In the past, polo players could flip the dial as it was necessary to protect the watch crystal. The way the watch flips is also very purposeful. I also like Art Deco numerals.

I want a watch that’s well-made and designed with purpose – just like a suit, for that matter. And I like to wear a watch every day. – David Coggins

I think you can tell a lot about a man from his watch, and I prefer one that errs on the side of discretion. – David Coggins

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A Man and His Watch (Iconic Watches & Stories From the Men Who Wore Them) by Matt Hranek (Part 1)

Preface. My father owned a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust, stainless steel with a black dial. It meant a lot for him as it signified a successful year in business. I was 18 when he died and I was given his watch. Every time I wear it, it remains me of my past. No other watch I own will replace this. I was a magazine editor for the watch market and I began doing a lot of research on historical brands and collectors. All these stories are powerful and unifying in nature. For many of these men, these watches played a significant role in their lives. Paul Newman’s Rolex was a gift from Joanne Woodward, his wife. It was a Daytona, reference 6239. The feeling of holding it was simply electrifying. The inscription on the back read ‘Drive slowly – Joanne’. Now, his youngest daughter Clea, wears the Daytona daily. Compiling the stories in the book has been an absolute joy.

For many men, watches seem to have a deeper meaning than just keeping time. Watches mark special occasions, they tell the world a bit about who you are, and they can, if you’re lucky, connect you to the people in your life who matter most. – Matt Hranek

At the end of the day, a watch is just a watch – it’s the story behind it that can make it exceptional. – Matt Hranek

Eric Ripert. Eric is the Chef & Co-Owner of Le Bernardin. His watch is the Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921. The numbers on the dial are offset to the right as it is meant for drivers to look at. I received the watch in 2011. My business partner gave it to me as I was celebrating the 20th anniversary at Le Bernardin. Vacheron is a beautiful brand. Like fine watchmaking, cooking is a craftsmanship as well. When craftsmanship reaches a certain level, it becomes art. Collectors understand the effort gone into making watches.

For me, watches signify special occasions. I’ll buy one for myself as a gift, maybe for the holidays – or maybe before, if I can’t wait. – Eric Ripert

From the Rolex Archives. I managed to set foot in the Rolex Archives. It was from there that I managed to photograph Francis Chichester’s watch. He was a famous adventurer who circumnavigated the globe from Aug 27, 1966 to May 28, 1967 and wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. The watch worked perfectly throughout his expedition.

Mario Andretti. Mario is a racing legend. His watch is the 1967 Gold Heuer Carrera Pilot Reference 1158CH. My uncle gave me a watch when it was my 13th birthday. An F1 gave me the Porsche Design watch in Rio. But, I fell asleep and the watch got stolen from me. In 1978, Porsche was kind enough to replace it for me. Most of the watches I own are given to me. Often, watches were given out as ‘trophies’ for winning races.

Benjamin Clymer. Ben is the founder and executive editor at Hodinkee. His watch is the Omega Speedmaster Mark 40. My dad was a photographer and since young, I was obsessed with gadgets. This naturally progressed to wrist-watches. My grandfather really impressed me and I looked up to him as a hero. When I was 16, my grandfather handed me his Omega Speedmaster Mark 40, which ran on a Valjoux movement. It was a chronograph with a triple calendar. I started off my career in strategy consulting at a big Swiss bank. The whole watch journey started when I blogged on Tumblr about this Omega watch that my grandpa gave me. An editor from a major men’s fashion site reached out to me after he saw the Tumblr post. He was interested in me as I was writing about old watches. I started Hodinkee in 2008. This watch was the one that kickstarted my career. Without it, I wouldn’t have achieved the success that I now enjoy.

One day, when I was 15 or 16, my grandfather said to me, unprovoked, “You know, I want you to have this.” Then he took this Omega off his wrist and handed it to me. I was just blown away. – Benjamin Clymer

From the Cartier Archives. I wanted to see the Cartier Santos-Dumont. The location of the archives is unknown to me as I was being hooded at the back of a van and was driven to a secret location. The place had super high security. However, the archivists inside were super amazing and hospitable. Some of the interesting pieces were the Constantine I’s Cartier Tonneau from 1915. Another was the Cartier Santos-Dumont. This was a transformational piece. Alberto Santos-Dumont was the first person to pilot a fixed-wheel aircraft that could take off and land under its own power. Louis Cartier gave him a watch so that he could keep time while flying. This was essentially the first ‘pilot watch’. This marked the era where wrist-watches started growing in popularity. Before this, all owned pocket watches.

Dimitri Dimitrov. He is the Maitre D at the Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel. His watch is the Timex Indiglo. Bill Murray gave me his Timex because the Baume and Mercier I was wearing was not visible in the dark. I thanked him for it. The Timex had a button you could press where there would be a backlight. This was something like the Gshock.

Kikuo Ibe. He is the creator at Casio G-shock. His watch is the Casio G-shock. The watch he would be making had to be tough. The G-shock was launched in 1983 and took off in the US. No one gets bored of the design, even today. G-shocks are subject to rigorous testing.

James Lambin. He is the founder of Analog/Shift. His watch is the 1967 Doxa Sub 300 professional ‘Black Lung’. It started with my grandpa, as he appreciated objects with high quality. There can be storytelling related to objects. Dirk Pitt was a character of fiction and he wears an orange-faced Doxa diving watch. I was determined to hunt it down. I did plenty of research. This watch was really designed with a purpose. Doxa was a reputable brand, and is older than Rolex. By the 1950s, the company wasn’t as relevant. Orange dials make the watch dial very visible underwater for divers. I bought it from a guy that used it for diving. I just want to love my watches.

A vintage watch is the ultimate luxury – it’s owning something that no one else has, but it’s also being the keeper of its story. It’s a book; there are chapters. And then you have that object and you write your own chapters into it. – James Lambin

Paul Boutros. He is the Head of Americas and Senior Vice President at Phillips. His watch is the Rolex ‘Kew A’ Observatory Chronometer. I looked at watches with my dad. I was mesmerized at those on display. The movement was really impressive. It was really love at first sight. I did research and asked for watch and auction catalogs. Dad and I often went to flea markets and retailers. We both often fought, but when it came to watches, there were no fights. When my dad passed away in 2002, I was awestruck to see the box of watches he left behind. I entered the watch industry despite being an electrical engineer at Lockheed Martin. I joined the watch forums, like TimeZone. Now, I’m living my dream at Phillips.

NAS. He is a musician and entrepreneur. His watch is the Patek Philippe Nautilus Reference 5712R. A serious gold Rolex makes a man look dapper. Many famous men have worn the Rolex Presidential. I developed my own style when it came to watches. The Nautilus fits me well. It goes well with almost every outfit. I still like old-school movies on film.

If you see a guy with a lot of diamonds on his watch, the way I see it – the way I’ve experienced it with other people, and even myself – you know that guy likes to have a lot of fun. He’s looking to have a good time. – NAS

They say time is an illusion, but even so, you need it. A good watch represents someone who’s punctual, responsible, who has a lot on his plate. Someone who knows how to manage his time and takes life seriously, because life doesn’t wait for anybody. – NAS

Dr. Jack Carlson. He is an arcaeologist and author. His watch is the 1941 Waltham Trench Watch. I love the idea of artifacts and understanding history through objects. Waltham is a watchmaking brand that made watches for soldiers in WWI. My watch has a shrapnel guard. I imagine the stories behind the artifacts.

Aaron Sigmond. He is a columnist and author. His watch is the Elgin. My grandfather purchased the Elgin. It represented, to him, the life in America. Elgin is based in Chicago. When he passed away, I wanted his watch. This is the least valuable watch in my possessions, but it’s the dearest to me. Like my grandpa, I only wear it on special occasions.

Max Wastler. He is the founder of the All Plaidout Blog. His watch is the Timex Ironman. I got it from my camp counselor when I was young. I respected him a lot. It came on a Velcro strap that was really impressive. It’s just a simple, clean digital watch. In addition, it has the Indiglo light function. Wearing it makes me feel like an adventurer, even in the city.

From the Tag Heuer Archives. Steve McQueen was an amazing man and a racer. He made the Heuer Monaco famous. A lot of them received wristwatches as gifts. I was very lucky to be able to access their archives. The famous film was called ‘Le Mans’. Jo Siffert was also another prominent guy in the industry.

Matt Hranek. He is an editor, author and photographer. His watch is the Sears Winnie the Pooh Watch. When young, I was obsessed with everything Pooh related. My mum kept this watch for me all along. This was the watch that started it all.

Atom Moore. He is the photographer and art director of Analog/Shift. His favorite watches are the New York City Swatches. Swatches were colourful and cool. During my lunch breaks, I would head to the Swatch store and study about watches. The Keith Haring watches were pretty amazing. Since then, I have participated in auctions for vintage Swatches.

I’m buying Swatches all the time, because they’re inexpensive and they’re fun, so why not own them? They’re like little pieces of art that you can put on your wrist. – Atom Moore

Frank Castronovo. He is the chef & co-owner of Frankies Spuntino Group. His favorite watch is the IWC Mark XV. My grandfather endured a tough life. However, he was a collector of cars, watches etc. He believed that these items could retain value. When he was older, he decided to visit Germany and see the people and the culture. He asked me what watch I wanted. I mentioned I liked IWC and we drove through the Black Forest to the IWC boutique. I like the black face on stainless steel. The watch is incredibly comfortable and you can wear it on any occasion.

It’s my everyday watch, but it’s also an heirloom; it’s something you pass on to your children and your grandchildren. Heirlooms make you think about the people in your life. – Frank Castronovo

amahw

Annual Conference and Global Internal Audit Leadership Summit 2017 (27 Oct)

Managing Cyber Risks. (KPMG) Cybersecurity is one of the top 5 risks as rated by CAEs. Cyberattacks are one of the top 3 man-made risks which can be addressed. In a survey, Asian CEOs aren’t as well prepared as their US counterparts when dealing with cyber risks and cybersecurity. There is a need for cybersecurity risk assessment. Sometimes, insiders can provoke a cyberattack too. Due to the widening of the digital footprint, it can lead to greater cybersecurity threats. External threats like new technology, technology change, regulatory compliance and changing market forces will continue to affect the cyber landscape. The new cybersecurity bill by CSA is slated to be released in Feb 2018. The Bill will affect CIIs from 7 different industries. The cyber risk gap needs to be plugged through the use of specialist reviews and audits. Some of the losses that an organization could face are theft of client information, IP, corporate date, DOS attacks etc. Nowadays, it is quite common for the attacker to attack your service provider (since there are less strict internal controls) and get information from them about your company. Some of the staff from your vendor might not be well screened also. Usually, there is no point trying to figure out who the cyber-attacker is as it is hard to prosecute if it’s not in Singapore jurisdiction. Some of the tactics that cyber-attackers use is ransomware, key loggers, phishing, insider data theft and man in the middle attacks. Do not give away passwords at any cost. Training/education is important, more so that IT tools at times. As auditors, we can audit the data classification in an organization. Cybersecurity is a growing factor and needs to be included as a risk indicator. There needs to be a detailed response plan after being attacked. There is also a need to link the cybersecurity threats to your business. One can read the ISO27000 series, MAS TRM Guidelines, NIST, COBIT and others.

SAP Case Study. (SAP) SAP is a German company. Maintenance costs is a big part of the implementation costs of having such an ERP software. For SAP itself, some of the risks facing the organization are acquisition risks, cloud computing etc. Within the audit team, they use the SAP Audit Management Software, which is automated from the end to end auditing process. One will be able to see clear audit plan overviews and also real time status updates of the plan. There are also resource management tools in place which will help improve the global resource transparency. In addition, there are audit executive dashboards in use. All these lead to better cost savings, user satisfaction and faster audit cycles for the organization. As a result, during quality assessments, the IA function scores better. Analytics helps in audit sampling for auditors.

Internet of Things. (Microsoft) The Internet has shifted from the Internet of content to service to people and now to ‘Things’. Internet is very commonly used nowadays as it is more efficient and has led to increased productivity. It has brought the whole world together through Skype. There is data in chips in our everyday devices and such data can be harnessed for decision making. Some of the benefits of IoT are that it leads to 1) safety, comfort and efficiency; 2) faster decision making; 3) revenue generation. Some of the risks of IoT are 1) privacy, security and legal (types of data collected can be collected and should be collected etc). The major challenges that will be faced are to obtain the business and IT buy-in and also the fact that data magnitude can be huge and complex and hard to interpret. It is important for IA to stay ahead of the changes and understand the risks emanating from IoT. We need to be trusted advisers to the business. CAEs need to determine the skillsets required, like from data scientists, private specialists etc. IA needs to recruit the right people. We need to change our approach to how to audit etc. The process flow is like this: device connection -> data sensing -> communication (access rights) -> data analytics (queries etc) -> data value -> human value

Data Analytics at MAS. (MAS) Data is the new AIR that we breathe. Insight is the new storage of value also. There are a few Vs we need to be aware of: Veracity, Value etc. We have approached the other departments, like banking, insurance and capital markets, to understand what are the pain points of these departments. We have moved from rule based (AML + STR) to machine learning. There is a strong need to enforce data quality and to move from just big data to smart data. Labels must be given for supervised machine learning in order for it to work more efficiently. However, there is also such a thing as unsupervised machine learning etc. For data, there is a need to achieve generalisability. An important question to ask is whether your model can work on future data? Or just past data? Ensure that your data can be interpreted and cleaned before it can be used. The process is as follows: 1) know the question; 2) understand the data; 3) find the right algorithm; 4) be aware of the limitations; 5) be sceptical; 6) automate; 7) experiment. It is important to share insights across the different departments. Machine learning is a programme which automatically improve its performance through learning and experience. Culture is hard to change and in fact, culture is more important than the application of an algorithm.

Cybersecurity Lessons Learned. (SWIFT Asia Pacific) SWIFT is a co-operative that is based out of Belgium. Nowadays, cyberattacks are tailored for a particular institution and that can be really scary. Hackers are now able to perform multi-stage attacks. There is a hacker collaboration space in the dark web. Cross-border banking usually requires the use of SWIFT. Hackers have different motivations for committing crimes and it is difficult to predict. Cyber must be managed from the top-down. One needs to understand that spending money doesn’t make you more secure and there is a need to evaluate cost-benefit analysis. At times, it could be the client servers which have issues. There is a need to dictate how the client runs their programmes in order to secure their environment. There needs to be a cyber-response plan in place to address attacks and to recover. In future, SWIFT would make it compulsory for banks to report on their compliance to SWIFT’s assurance framework. This will certainly help to improve transparency.

Ethics in a Digital World. (Avande) Avanade is a cloud service provider and is a partnership between Accenture and Microsoft. In this digital age, there is a debate between Personalization vs Privacy. Facebook tried to have two bots chats with one another, but they turned racist and eventually had to be put down. Although AI development is swift, it might be necessary to put the guardrails on AI and curb its growth in view of ethical considerations. What is morally acceptable in today’s society? What is lawful? Digital is becoming a way of life and ethical behaviour is vital in this day and age. Is there a need for a framework to manage ethical dilemmas? What are the possibilities of digital tech? Core ethical values are embodied by leadership and there needs to be a good tone from the top.

IA in the Age of Transformation. (Asia Pacific Black Sun, Sofitel Singapore, UOB, NTUC, EDB) What are the elephants in the room? This refers to important issues that are not being addressed by IA. IA needs to keep themselves relevant. 43% of jobs in Singapore can eventually become automated (mechanized, robotized, digitalized) etc. However, there are still many opportunities in the audit space to add value. IA needs to be high tech, high touch (build strong relationships with management), and high trust. IA’s job is to highlight exceptions to management and in order to do so, they need to be loud and courageous in the boardroom and not shirk from difficult conversations. IA needs to avoid getting on the newspaper. IA needs to familiarize themselves in the area of sustainability reporting and professional scepticism. IA needs to constantly update themselves through attending training etc. Industrial domain knowledge is also important and this is usually learnt on-the-job. People retention is important and there could be a risk of knowledge loss without people. There is a need for IA to provide inputs on controls for IT projects right at the start. If there are no audit findings, it is possible for IA to issue a clean audit report. IA should gradually take on a more advisory role for the business.

auditing-service-singapore

Annual Conference and Global Internal Audit Leadership Summit 2017 (26 Oct)

Opening Address by Guest of Honour (Professor Tan Cheng Han). (SGX RegCo) Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX) has moved to a disclosure based regime for markets for regulators. Shareholders are active and can ask questions of the management or try to get rid of a few directors. There is a need to listen to businesses nowadays when trying to propose new regulations. We have moved from a prescriptive to a more principle based form of regulation. Nowadays, we listen to market participants and seek their inputs. We live in an uncertain world. Lawyers should facilitate transactions and not simply keep telling people want they cannot do. They should guide people to be able make decisions within the legal framework. In this way, it is similar to what Internal Audit does. As an auditor, it is important to stand your ground and do the right thing, all the time.

Transforming Internal Audit. (AIG) It is important for IA to be clear of their role. Internal Auditors should read the ‘Common Body of Knowledge’ by IIA and also the ‘Global Trends of 2030’. Our job is to find things and to help management see things that they have not been able to see (i.e. provide assurance). Many companies have evolved over the years, like IBM, GE, Rakuten in order to stay alive. Some might have to abandon their traditional model just to keep afloat. IA can also read ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Internal auditors should all get the Certified Internal Auditor certificate and show that they belong to a professional body with high standards. We all need to comply with IIA standards. The current IA role is shifting from one of assurance to also one of advice and insight. Some of the more recent trends in internal audit include performing data analytics on the whole population. Combined assurance is also one of the up and coming trends in Internal Audit.

In Conversation with an Audit Committee Chairman. (SIA, DKSH) The IA team in PwC has grown tremendously since its inception. The role of IA is to provide an independent assurance on governance and risk management. Is the level of risk management adequate for the business? IA should also get inputs from management on their performance. One factor to judge the CAE is on whether the audit plan is incomplete and what the status of the plan vs is the execution. One option is to conduct a 360degree feedback exercise. A CAE’s pay package should be established by the remuneration committee and with inputs from the audit committee. The bonus paid is relevant to the company’s profits and individual performance. IA is a business partner and must not be seen as competing/slowing down the business. There is a need for internal auditors to retain a strong ethical and moral compass when discharging their duties. If you feel you are being mistreated by management, do highlight this fact to the Audit Committee. In cases of disagreement with management, it is important to highlight to the AC what is your position. It may be wise for audit partners to resign from the audits where there is serious disagreement with management. Before joining an organization, it is important to try and assess its culture and whether the culture is ethical etc. The CAE must be outgoing and interact seamlessly with other stakeholders. He must demonstrate leadership potential etc. One way to assess that is through conducting reference checks on his background etc. It is not necessary for internal auditors to have accounting backgrounds. However, it is difficult to be a CEO without a finance/accounting background. In general, having a diverse IA team is important. As the chairman of the AC, it is important to do preparatory work and also to meet the IA informally a few times a year. For young auditors, it is important to spend on your own career development and set 3 year career plans on what do you want to achieve etc.

Innovative and Agile Internal Auditing at Google. (Google) In Google, the employees practice moonshot or 10x thinking and they try their best to think differently. Waymo is their project on self-driving cars. They have many interesting projects like on Calico, Capital G, Deepmind, GV, Jigsaw, Nest, Sidewalk Lass, Verlly, Waywo, X etc. Google was incorporated in 1998 by Sergey and Larry. Read the Founders’ letter to get an insight of some of Google’s core values. Also, on their website, there is a hilarious list of ’10 Things we know to be true’. Their IA has also to fit in with the culture at Google and they are moving away from SOX compliance to other forms of combined assurance. An intense level of collaboration is expected at Google. They use many syncs, tools and techniques to get their work. The stakeholders are usually understanding and it is not difficult for IA to receive information. Also, the IA team uses software so that the client can see the IA reports at any time and also there is live QnA that happens every Friday. The software will enable the IA team to view the project status live and also to view audit working papers. Audit findings are tracked using software. As for hiring, Google looks for collaborative people. As for other skills, Google looks out for cognitive abilities, role knowledge, leadership and Googleyness. The top down approach doesn’t always work and Google tends to empower employees instead. Due to the speed of change, the IA team only develops a 6 mth rolling audit plan and revises it accordingly due to changing level of risks.

Auditing Big Data. (New York State Office) In the New York auditors’ office, the IA role has been expanded to include both artificial intelligence and data analytics. Big data makes decision making easier and faster. Avoid rolling out apps when not many have access to the network. The greatest opportunities will come at a risk. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. There is a need for big data and technical skillsets. Big data is large, complex and covers many complex data sets. There is a trend of lower cost of data storage. Despite this, data tags will help in the data retrieval. Big data has really helped the audit team in NY to improve the audit efficiency and effectiveness. There are mainly 4 risks associated with Big Data: 1) program governance; 2) tech availability and performance; 3) security and privacy; 4) data quality, management and reporting. When using big data, it is important to ensure that there is no invasion of privacy and that it is legal to collect and use any particular form of data. It’s a massive leap to fully integrate by data and analytics. The auditors analyze social media like Craig’s list to detect unlicensed car repair workshops etc. The team also builds AI when it is not available.

Geopolitical Risks – What does it mean to Organizations and Internal Audit? (Focus Strategic Group Inc) Internal Auditors need to understand global and regional trends facing them. There are many geopolitical risks in this world and these threats can lead to supply chain disruptions. There is a massive distribution of wealth problem in this world. Some of the major events that have impacted the world are the Israel/Palestine conflict, war in Syria, Greece debt, Brexit, appointment of Trump, Spain/Catalonia separation. There is an increasing trend of protectionism for major economies and these countries are also against immigration. Trump is against the North American Treaty agreements, the TPP etc. In this world, there is only the certainty of uncertainty. People fight over many things, like land, resources, religion, perceived inequalities etc. China is also striving for more economic co-operation and wants to be the next Superpower via their one Belt one Road programme. They are also looking at how to harvest resources in the Arctic Circle. China started the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIB) and there are currently 57 countries on board with them. This bank can help provide funding for major infrastructure projects. The 3 prominent tech companies in China are Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent etc. In IA, we need to ask ourselves whether our organizations are secure. There is also a frequent need to check asset risks, read up on the latest news and check countries’ sovereign ratings. It is also possible to buy insurance to cover losses arising from geopolitical risks.

Panel Discussion: Transforming Internal Audit. (VISA, GIC, Google, SIA) There is a need for internal auditors to develop a more diverse set of skills especially in this world of digitalization. IA can be the change agent and also shape the company’s culture. For listed companies, IA can check compliance with the listing rules with methodology. The modern IA role is beyond compliance and more towards advisory. There may be a need for IA to revamp its methodology and include the need for analytics. IA needs to be proactive, adaptable and diligent. As auditors, we need good communication and networking skills and have the willingness to do things better. There is a need to use CAATs like Qlikview, SQL, Tableau to improve data analytics skills. There is a need for executive support before a data analytics programme can be rolled out successfully. One should start with the small DA projects with ROIs in order to show to management that it can work. An advanced maturity of data analytics would include things like predictive/behavior analytics and robotic process reengineering/augmented intelligence. Whereever possible, it would be good for IA to be able to automate its processes. IA can perform the prediction and look through the red flags. It is important to have good mentors who will grow and support you in your relationship. Auditors need to be curious and learn continuously. Company culture can be assessed via analytics and by the conducting of employee opinion surveys.

Internal-Audit

audit financial company tax investigation process business accounting