Monday, 29 October 2012

Brightening up the interior of the new Aston Martin Vanquish

One should not sully the carpets of the latest Aston Martin with mere footwear. This is why a pair of tasseled loafers from the house of Ferragamo was used to grace the interior of the new Aston Martin Vanquish. The Vanquish was flown in recently and shown to prospective customers and members of the media at the Aston Martin Kuala Lumpur showroom.

I seldom see people wearing tasseled loafers these days. They do add an air of 'business' to the normal loafers, making them seem suitable for office attire (as it seems to be adopted by American businessmen and lawyers according to men's styling lore). This is the reason I chose to wear them regularly to work.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Kalkitos - Something I Used to do When I Was Young and Now My Kid Gets To Experience It Too

When I was a young lad I used to remember getting my mum to buy something called 'Kalkitos'. It was basically a fad in the 1970s and early 1980s. Kalkitos according to Wikipedia " were a type of art-based children's pastime that was extremely popular in Europe, South East Asia and Central America in the 1960s to 1980s. They consisted of a printed cardboard background image and a transparent sheet of coloured dry-transferables containing such things as people, vehicles, weapons, explosions, animals and so on. These figures were to be applied on to the background scene through a process called chromolithography, accomplished by rubbing the back of the transparent sheet with a soft pencil. Clever part application of transfers could result in such imaginative compositions as a character with an arrow sticking out of his head, or people dismembered by explosions."

I loved buying them and making my own composition from them and now, after all these years it is available again. I was at Amcorp Mall and I happened to stop by a shop selling vintage toys and curios on the second floor ( if I am not mistaken) and it sold some Kalkitos. You could buy it online through Kalkitos' website too. These used to cost three to four Ringgit but now it costs RM23.50. A great jump in price even though it is now manufactured across the Causeway in Singapore instead of Europe.

I bought the above background image for my 8 year old daughter to do. The reason I bought it is so she can experience a little of the days where we didn't have playstations, smartphones and other electronic gadgets to fill our time when we were kids. She seemed to enjoy it a fair bit and asked me to go get summore. But at RM23.50 for a piece of cardboard and stickers, I told her she'll have to wait.

Visit Kalkitos' for more details as I couldn't be bothered to write more on this even though it brought back some good childhood memories.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Age of Bronze - Helson Shark Diver

Bronze is now a big deal with big watches. Ever since Panerai came out with their PAM382, a 47mm Submersible cased in bronze (called the Panerai Bronzo) almost everyone who is into Panerai or Panerai sized watches yearned for it (especially after they've watch The Expendables 2 - five of the limited to 1000 pieces is featured in it).

 The thing with bronze is that is oxidizes fairly easily and it forms a nice patina (more so if you actually took it diving in the sea or artificially aging it) that only something made out of bronze will have. This material, like silver will turn its colour and have a certain warmth to it. This is unlike stainless steel or gold, which shines and glitters. What bronze does it have various textures and allows a more vintage look to an item. It also makes a watch into something that came out of a steampunk storybook. The look is more machine or device than a watch.

I have procured a Helson Shark Diver 45mm Bronze simply because it is stunning in the flesh. It costs less than a Panerai Bronzo which now costs in the region of RM70,000+ and you can buy about 15-17 of the Helson pictured herein. I also think that the Helson is the best of the other bronze beasts out there. Here you can see it whooping a Rolex Submariner in terms of size and presence. It is actually slightly larger and higher than even a Panerai Luminor 44mm. The thing is massive. It also allows its wearer to dive to a depth of 2000m where its wearer gets crushed to a pulp if not in a diving bell while it survives the sheer pressures of the deep sea. And I like it.

The Italian brand Anonimo has a few pieces in Bronze that can be bought at less than half the price of the Panny, but it uses a different sort of bronze that somehow allows a more uniform patina than the Panerai or the Helson. Sometimes you need a lot more patina and the Anonimo does not give this to me. Aside from that, bronze is the 'In-thing' when it comes big watches these days. I personally do not think that a small 36mm dress watch cased in bronze would be pleasurable to wear as the smallish case would not allow one to show off its patina.

I have handled a Panerai Bronzo. I totally am in love with it. Except for the price. If I bought one I'd have to sell an arm and a leg. Or a car or two. Or mortgage my house. Or save and starve. It's as simple as that.

Monday, 24 September 2012

A bunch of Diver Watches

(Left -  Rolex Submariner No Date 14060, Top Left - Sterile China Sub, Bottom Left - CWC Royal Navy Diver (unissued), Top Right - Seiko 6309-7040, Bottom Right - Omega Seamaster 300, Right - Seiko 6105-8119)
I love the simplicity of the Diver watch. Its legibility at all times of the day, whether underwater or at night, in a pitch black room or the Malaysian jungle. Of course some of the watches here are more than thirty years old.

A few years have passed since the photograph above was taken. Time does fly when you're having fun.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A Good & Affordable Pen - The Parker Jotter

My first posting in was about basic items that every man should have. It included my opinion that every man who works in an office environment should carry a proper pen. This means a decent pen instead of a cheap papermate or kilometrico. As cheap Kilometrico ballpoint pen poking out of your shirt pocket is a sign that you're not paying enough attention on your overall image and that you're not willing to go the extra mile in your quest to be prim and proper. 

A RM50.00 Parker Jotter ballpoint pen (now sadly out of production  still available at most large departmental stores in Kuala Lumpur) is something that does not cost the earth yet its arrow clip makes a good enough statement when poking out of one's shirt pocket. A Montblanc Meisterstuck fountain pen is even better. I've got one of those as well as about twenty other vintage Parker fountain pens.

 But if you're slightly careless or forgetful, then an entry level Parker would suffice most of the time as almost every other pen in the shirt pocket of most Malaysian paper pushers are either free, stolen from office supply  cabinet or as I mentioned, an el-cheapo ballpoint pen with a plastic cap or built wholly of plastic with numbers like the nib size, e.g 0.5mm, printed on it (very unbecoming). Couple that with its ease of use (which is the actual reason I tend to use the affordable Parker instead of refilling the fountain pens) and you're got a winner folks.

In short, any entry level Cross, Schaffer, Parker and any pen with a proper cap, clip and barrel would do. It's not the brand, but how decent its built and how it gives you a better overall impression. 

My very used stainless steel Parker Jotter is seen here with an Omega Seamaster Professional Quartz and a Sony Ericsson K800i. Those that are fans of James Bond will see that connection right away.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Custom Made Shoes in Kuala Lumpur

This is a pair of custom hand made shoes specially ordered by yours truly. I basically told the chap making it that I wanted a pair of wholecut shoes with a medallion pattern up front. And this was what I got. It also has a bevelled waist as requested (even though it is still a little wide) and it basically a type of pegged shoe - using steel nails instead of wooden pegs like those you see in bespoke shoes from Eastern Europe. But the great thing is that these are Made In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to be exact. It is pegged at the waist as well as the front of the sole. The welt you see on top is purely decorative. 

The actual colour of the shoes are below, as the shoemaker (an Indonesian chap based at a leather goods shop located on the 1st floor of the Campbell Complex, Jalan Dang Wangi, Kuala Lumpur) used some cheap polish on it. I basically used nail polish remover to get its original colour back which is a lighter chestnut? colour like the photo below.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Hand-made Capal for Eid Ul Fitr

This year I decided to bring in a little more tradition into my Hari Raya Aidil-Fitri (that's what most call Eid-ul-Fitr over here in Malaysia) footwear. A pair of traditional hand made capal.

The Capal or Chapal as some spell it has its origins in the Indian sub-continent and was believed to be first brought to these parts by traders to Malacca in the 15th century and was assumed to be widely used by those of the Malacca Sultanate. The Indian origin chapal was then made and adapted by local Malays into what we see today - a thong slipper made out of leather. The 'Y' shaped strap is made from soft cow leather and a tougher buffalo hide is used to make the top part of the sole. It has a rubber sole with a 1-1.5inch heel instead of being flat like a pair of flip flops. 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Patina & Why Cheap Italian Shoes Are Useful

This is a pair of shoes made by Andrea Cammelli, one of the million or so shoe makers in Italy. I've decided to give it a new lease of life with a bottle of Cutex nail polish remover, leather conditioner, shoe cream and polish.

Actually, I wanted to experiment a little on it. As I mentioned earlier I got this pair of shoes at a bargain. RM150.00 at Tangs down from its original list price of around RM500.00. Typically Italian budget brown shoes with glued/stuck on construction (which I've added a thin slice of Vibram to the sole and heel so that it'll be a perfect beater work shoe for me and the Malaysian weather). It also had a full leather lined upper but it has that sliightly square toed look to it. Not like those ridiculously square toed crap. Almost, but with the elongated shape of the last it is wearable with a pair of slim cut trousers.

The brown leather of this cheap pair of shoes is typically Italian. Thin, and well, cheap feeling. Not substantial like some of the other shoes I have but not as thin as those glove leather shoes that Italians seem to use most of the time. Anyway, I think they made this shoe using polish instead of dye. So I resorted to cutex to get rid of the polish in a few strategic spots. Rubbing harder in those spots which you want it to be lighter and lightly rubbing the parts you want it to retain some darker shade on the leather. After that, condition the leather using leather conditioner, then a layer or two of shoe cream (in light brown, mid brown and dark brown) and then a layer of dark brown polish.

I must say it somehow worked for me. The shoe with new waxed laces looked a million times better than the tired old look. More patina/antiquing making it look slightly more special to wear. And the investment was basically a bottle of cutex and some time to kill.

Not bad for a first time effort eh? And this is why a cheap pair or three of Italian shoes come in handy.

Update: The shoe gets another rework three years on. Read it here folks.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Reason I Fancy Italian Shoes A Tad More....

...than English ones is the fact that they're slightly decadent, slightly over the top and slightly flamboyant. I do have a few pairs of English made ones, but these days, every time I end up buying a new pair of shoes it ends up being Italian.

Take this pair of StefanoBi. It may seem like a typical pair of dark brown brogues, but the madness is in the details. The antiquing, while not as rich as the ones on the pair of Santoni I featured earlier is quite good. The shoelaces have a little knot at the end instead of crimped plastic makes it a tad more playful than the usual straight laced brogue. And then we get to the sole of the shoe....Or soul of the shoe.

Now this is usually a place where no one would actually see, but it still is beautifully embellished.  The sole is dyed/coloured a nice brown/green. It basically is patina for the sole of the shoe. The narrowest part of the shoe has a fiddled (or beveled) waist and is beautiful to look at. I have to apologise for the photo as I am couldn't find the correct angle to capture this detail. Anyway, add some strategically placed nails to the front and on the heel and everything comes together (It's those the little details) and the final outcome is pure decadence. Well maybe not as decadent as some other shoes out there. A Silvano Lattanzi or a Branchini (who used to own StefanoBi before selling it off to LVMH) comes to mind for something totally outrageous. Or if we add the French custom patinaed shoes  .....hmmm. But these would cost a kidney or a leg in this part of the world.

 Of course there are those that say Italian shoes aren't as well constructed as some British goodyear welted ones (these are Blake stiched) and may not last as long. But one cannot help but indulge in some flair as you only live once. So who cares if it does not last 285 years or so. It will look stunning for at least 15 years which is quite a decent time for a pair of shoes, like this pair of Bruno Magli monkstraps that are a part of a larger, non-weekly shoe rotation lineup of mine. 

In fact they could last another decade or so. One can never have too many shoes.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Servicing One's Watches -Featuring an Omega Speedmaster Day-Date

There comes a stage in owning an automatic watch that most never seem to take into account – Servicing the darn thing. The Omega Speedmaster Automatic Day-Date which you see in the photo above belonged to my late father. He bought it sometime in the mid-1990s and has gone through at least two rounds of servicing before it was handed to me.

It wasn't in good nick when I first got hold of it. The pusher button at 11 o'clock could work, and the 24 hour sub-dial wasn't in synch. I somehow believe that the movement in this Omega Speedmaster Day-Date is a little sensitive and fragile as it seemed to get out of whack quite easily. So I decided to send it for a full service at the local Swatch Group service center recently. For those that aren't in the know, the Swatch Group basically owns the Omega brand together with brands like Tissot, Longines, Blancpain etc.

Anyway, all the hands were changed as were some other bits and bobs which I do not really care as long as the thing works properly. The thing is that servicing the Speedmaster isn't exactly cheap (if you choose the official service center and not an independent party). In Kuala Lumpur, you will get charged somewhere in the region of RM1,900.00.

The irony is that when my father bought the watch, it only cost RM3,000 after discount. The watch is still on sale and is now listed at around RM10,000 or thereabouts (but is now chronometer rated). No wonder servicing costs so much.

It also goes to show that once you purchase your Swiss horological device, you should treasure it as inflation will kill you if you want to buy a new one. That is IF servicing the darn thing wouldn't do that do you in the first place. 

On a similar note, the Omega Seamaster 300 in an earlier post is also in for a service, but that one is going to Switzerland as the service center does not have the expertise to do it locally. Sigh. It seems Omega automatics will run for about nearly a decade or so before it gets gummed up.

Oh yeah, you do get a nice Omega leatherette travel case with the full service.  

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Some Colour to Brighten Up Work Attire

A friend took this photo of the lower part of my ensemble recently. He was slightly taken aback by the many colours I had on me. My dress shirt was a mid-blue shade, grey slacks, green socks, and chocolate brown shoes with blue shoelaces.

The shoes are branded Andrea Cammelli, Firenze. These are 6 year old pair of cheap Italian shoes - thin glove-like leather which the Italians seem to like putting on their cheaper shoes (but extremely comfortable from the start as you don't need to 'run them in', slightly shoddy stitching, stuck on sole that I've added thin Vibram rubber soles and a Vibram re-heel. These were  bought from CK Tangs during its first sale (when it first re-opened in Malaysia some years ago) for an incredible RM150.00. Tangs are one of those stores that stock Italian shoes, usually from those smaller shoe makers that Italy has thousands of. Sometimes, gems could be found even if they are not the usual brands most of us hear of.

The choice of green socks made me seem a little Irish (whereas I am as Asian as most of the people in this parts of Kuala Lumpur) as I reminded him of a Leprechaun. Don't mind actually as Leprechauns have a pot of gold lying somewhere around. Actually the only thing Irish around my office would be Guinness Stout sold in nearby shops.

Anyway, I suppose it IS a little distracting if you work in a total business environment and everything is all protocol and what-not. But I work in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur where things are a little less formal and I dress to please myself. So expect purple, orange, red, maroon, green, blue coloured socks and a lot of patina in my shoes. And shoelaces of various colours too!

Friday, 15 June 2012

A Post After A Long Hiatus - Santoni FAMs Double Monk Strap Shoes

It has been a long time since I posted anything in here. I have been a little occupied with lots of things and blogging  wasn't one of them. Anyway, I do believe that some shoe pornography is in order to start things off again.

But before the pictures start flowing in again I have to say that most Malaysian men are oblivious when it comes to having a proper pair of shoes on their feet. I see most of them with ten thousand Rnggit watches (or more) but the cheapest looking three hundred ringgit loafers that actually do not go well with their fancy double cuff dress shirts and silk ties. Once I was at a cafe at the Suria KLCC and out of the hundreds of men that passed by, only one chap had a decent (and it was not even great) pair of shoes.

Let me say that your ten thousand Ringgit watch MUST be complemented by a great pair of shoes in order for you to be a complete package. Aristotle Onassis once said that " If you want to know the measure of a man look at the shoes he wears".

One has a choice of using either Italian made or English made shoes for the best. I prefer Italian as they are lighter, daintier and cut a slimmer profile most of the time. The shoes are more cutting edge, or fashion forward but sometimes when cut in the normal styles, utterly sublime - like this pair of Santoni FAM (Fatte A Mano) double monkstraps pictured below. It may not be bespoke or a custom made pair, but as Ready to Wear goes, the finishing/ antiquing is stunning.

- Don't you just love the fit to size (mine's a size 9 - in Santoni sizing) and exact shape of the shoe, shoe tree?

Note: Santoni shoes can be found at the Parkson departmental stores at Suria KLCC and at the Pavillion Shopping Center in Kuala Lumpur. They used to be sold at Isetan KLCC but after a hiatus, the brand is back, together with Church's shoes (both have the same importer here in Malaysia). And I am glad they're back.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

From My Drawer of Sharp Pointy Stuff: The Malaysian Army Victorinox Knife

This is something that has been in my drawer of goodies since 2009.  You can tell from the date in the photo above. It is also pictured with a CWC Royal Navy Diver (unissued) circa 2000 - which is a helluva watch for the price. The Malaysian Army specced Swiss Army Knife made by Victorinox.

The Malaysian Army knife with locking blade (which I think is based on the Outrider model) from the Victorinox Facebook page:

"2008 we finally won the tender for 33,000 units with an option for another 50% of the new Malaysian pocket knife which is based on item 0.9123, appearing in camouflage with the logo of the Malaysian Defence Forces. Alex is already working on the preparations for the next tender. We are further in an advanced stage to supply also the Royal Malaysia Police with a pocket knife based on the new Swiss Soldier knife with bi component handles and camouflage tampoprint.

Anyway, this little piece of work is sitting in my drawer, right beside the German Army knife made by Victorinox too. Although I actually like that model as the main blade can be operated single handed. 

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Single Speed Bicycle with the Brooks Swift Saddle

I was recently given a gift by a close friend of mine - A single speed bicycle (with a flip-flop fixed gear hub) for me to cycle around. The bicycle is an Exitway Freedom. Exitway is a Malaysian brand that builds (or assembles) bikes with parts imported from Taiwan (or so my research says). It has a cromoly frame (with a shortish wheelbase yet with a relaxed top bar), 700c x 25 slick tyres and aero wheels, drop bar with tektro brakes and it weighs about 11/12kg or so. Not that light, but decent enough for a single speed with a Lasco 42t crank and a 16t cog at the rear.

If my explaination above isn't sufficient please note that I am not a cyclist. I get tired easily as I am a petrohead (or gearhead or motorhead). Heck, I write motoring stuff most of the time! But I love the simplicity of a single speed bicycle and this was actually what I rode when I was in high school many years ago (circa 1986-1988). That bicycle was basically a roadster framed bicycle on 28inch wheels without mudguards and chain cover. It also had a racing bike front fork and stem and no other frills. Those were the days. I could cycle it for miles.

And that is why I have a soft spot for single speed bikes (or fixies as most people call 'em these days regardless whether it has a fixed hub or a freewheel). I like it freewheeling as it is relaxing. Bicycles to me are for recreation these days and a freewheel reminds me of the carefree days where one would just cycle a bit then coast a bit while enjoying the sound of the freewheel going 'tttrrrrr'. Anyway, I am not a fighting fit teenager. So I prefer the simple pleasure of coasting.

Oh yes.One should always personalise a bike. Hence the beautiful Brooks Swift saddle replacing the ridiculously hard Exitway branded saddle that came with it. The original saddle was so hard that even the Brooks saddle seemed soft. I actually replaced the original saddle with a cheap tan coloured one (above) but it didn't look the part - hence the investment in a Brooks. Aside from that I installed Wellgo alloy pedals. These replaced the ugly plastic platform pedals that came with the bikie. The bike is now cro-mo steel, alloy and leather. A classic combination if one may say so. Enjoy the photos folks, and do ignore the slightly messy floor around the bike. I can sometimes be a little sloppy.


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