Beyond his talents for cooking, Christopher Ho is also an avid collector of watches, whisky and even Pokémon cards. We talk to the rising home chef about his watch-collecting journey and how his family influenced his style.
Christopher Ho is what a lot of people would call a home chef. The rising star in the culinary world is completely self-taught and, like many millennials, learned his chops through YouTube videos. Unlike most people, though, he’s had the chance to hone his skills with some of the most decorated chefs in Hong Kong, collaborating and hosting pop-ups with Eric Raty of two-Michelin-star Arbor and at socialite hangout Sevva.
Ho has also collaborated with Breguet, on the launch of the brand’s third-generation Marine Collection, a partnership he felt personally attached to as he owns a second-generation Marine 5817 that was passed down to him from his grandfather. And this Christmas, he’s already announced his first collaboration, with K11 MUSEA and Artisan Lounge, on the launch of his festive Moutai Banana Bread.
His longest-standing partnership, however, is with French bistronomie Ami/Wood Ear, where he’s the curator and part-owner of the restaurant and bar’s more than 400 bottles of rare and unique bottles, sourced from around the world.
A huge part of Ho’s success comes down to his affable manner, his knack for picking great partnerships and, most importantly, his keen eye for quality and uniqueness, which informs almost everything he does, from collecting whisky to curating his watch collection.
“The concept of uniqueness runs through my watch collection,” he says. “For example, the Rolex 16610 is a standard Submariner from 1994 seen on many wrists, but it’s been engraved with my initials and birth year, while my Datejust 16013 is both a Buckley [with painted Roman numerals] and it’s Tiffany & Co co-branded. As my luxury watch collection slowly becomes more mainstream, it’s defined by watches like these.”
He approached whisky collecting, a hobby he’s harboured since university days in the UK, in much the same way – and it brought him the opportunity to curate for Ami/Wood Ear. “Many of the bottles may not necessarily be expensive, but they can’t be accessed anywhere else in the world, or they’re autographed by bottlers or distillers,” he explains.
Ho jokes that he’s a hoarder, and it’s true that he’s avidly collected things since he was young, starting with Pokémon cards and figurines. Now, his fascination is with watches, sneakers and whiskies. “I was given my first luxury watch on my 18th birthday, but I only began to collect watches from the age of 21,” he says. “I’ve always been fascinated by watches – it’s something about how so many tiny parts can create something so intricate yet govern an intangible concept of time that always intrigued me.”
No doubt coming from a family of collectors has also informed Ho’s tastes. His aunt and uncle are both collectors of new and vintage watches, and his 18th birthday watch, given to him by his father, is an extremely rare model that’s still locked in a safe, unworn.
A family heirloom that he does wear, however, is his Breguet Marine Big Date 5817, which his grandfather passed down to him. “I still remember the story my grandfather told me of why he bought the Breguet 5817,” says Ho. “He was an avid golfer and wanted a rubber- strap watch for his golfing that equally balanced his wrist – not too heavy, not too light. That taught me that beyond all the bells and whistles of watch design, every watch has a purpose – and to this day I keep this lesson in mind when looking at new purchases.”
At a recent photoshoot with Breguet, Ho was drawn to the Tradition 7097, a boutique-exclusive version that comes with an elegant blue guilloche dial. Inspired by founder Abraham-Louis Breguet’s subscription pocket watches, it showcases the intricate movement components on the top of the mainplate, and features a retrograde second hand, much like the one-hand pocket watches of 1796. In true Breguet fashion, each part of the bridges and mainplate is finished to the highest degree, and the gold winding rotor, visible from the back, is finished with the clous de Paris guilloché pattern.
Musing over the watch, Ho describes himself as a cautious collector and tries to accord meaning to each of his watches. “I always make sure that the watch signifies a certain meaning, such as tying it to an important life event,” he explains. “If the watch matches the event well enough, then I’ll proceed to purchase it. Each item is thought through meticulously, meaning I don’t regret any of my purchases. Sometimes I do regret not buying a watch because of this, though!”