Art of Living: Jessica Wong

by Susanah Cheok

To mark Blancpain’s reinterpretation of its 38 mm Villeret Quantième Complet timepiece with moon phases, an exquisite yet discreet timepiece emblematic of the Villeret collection, the watch marque celebrates the wisdom and art of time, as personified by the creative founder of Scene Shang, Jessica Wong.

Blancpain’s complications heritage is 40 years young, and it celebrates this incredible milestone with the new 38 mm Villeret Quantième Complet timepiece, a quietly stunning piece that’s both jewellery and timekeeper. Encircled by a ring of diamonds, with sparklers also marking the hours between 12, 3, 6 and 9 in blushed golden numerals, Blancpain’s Villeret Quantième Complet timepiece pairs modern minimalism with elegant classicism. The rose gold accents, feminine to a hilt, juxtapose perfectly with the handsome leather strap in brown.

The reinterpretation of the 38 mm Villeret Quantième Complet is a refinement in aesthetics in terms of subtly reworked hour-markers that are not just slender, but fine, and charming cut-out sage leaf-shaped hands. The enchanting moon phase, peeking out cheekily, has also been redesigned. These distinctive codes preserve legibility and the stylistic purity of this timepiece, with utmost respect for the Villeret identity. Wearing it feels like holding an object that’s the perfect combination of the past, present and future.

To mark this feted re-interpretation, Blancpain speaks to designer and entrepreneur, Jessica Wong, who, in thought, deed and word, also capture the style, sophistication and innovation of the treasured watch collection, as well as its perpetual progress, after all, art, design, and modernism run in Jessica Wong’s veins.

She is the co-founder of Scene Shang, a Singapore-based lifestyle company that designs, produces and retails furniture and homeware with an Asian contemporary perspective. As Scene Shang’s creative founder, Jessica, an architect by training, is the heart and soul of the design and creative direction of the brand. What she really does is tell stories of people, their history and culture, through her craft.

A Twist of Aesthetics

In 2007, instead of travel, fun and relaxation during a gap year before completing her Masters in Architecture, Jessica interestingly found herself in Shanghai knee-deep in work at a graphic design and advertising outfit. She was there for a year. “Being there really excited me due to two things,” she remembers. “Firstly, my eyes were opened to the possibility of other kinds of design and secondly, I became aware of the beauty and richness of Asian culture, which had a very exciting synergy and at times tension in the very fast-moving city of Shanghai. This made me become more aware of my own culture and identity.”

The Shanghai experience changed both her career perspectives and personal aesthetics. It also gave her impetus to form a graphic and interior design startup in Singapore with a schoolmate, which thrived for 5 years. But Shanghai and potential other eye-opening experiences there were calling and so Jessica finally revisited.

Her discoveries in Shanghai the second time around, travelling with her now Scene Shang partner to various provinces in China, were inspiring, adventurous and culturally insightful. It was also during this second 2-year stint there, during which time they found craftsmen who would help bring their idea and designs to life – that Jessica and her partner came to the realization that “the home is a place where culture is first experienced and we wanted to be able design and create things that could be in that space, to help pass on these wonderful stories of culture and tradition, that help to shape us and give us our identity.” She saw an opportunity there to create meaningful furniture and homeware that could capture an Asian touch, with a contemporary perspective.

Art of Time

Over time, the aesthetics and philosophy of Scene Shang – which, when translated from Mandarin means “new appreciation” – evolved and crystallised. Says the contemporary design visionary and aesthete, “Our philosophy is good living, rooted in Asian culture, and our mission statement is to bring to everyone an entire lifestyle experience rooted in Asian culture, while embracing our roots in good living.”

Belief in and passion for purveying the unique pieces from Scene Shang make it hard to separate the woman from the brand. Jessica proudly admits that “it coincides greatly with my personal life. My home is a space that is filled with Scene Shang furniture; my favourite piece would be the ‘Jia Ju’ rocking stool. That design, I feel, brings together Asian history and culture and the accessibility of the contemporary aesthetic. In scale and function, it is utterly modern. It’s a fun piece that can be easily moved around the house and that allows users to enjoy it in whatever way they please – as a stool or a rocking horse.” 

Jessica’s rocking horse stool is but a microcosmic representative of her larger macrocosmic role in society. Of the latter, the contemplative creative has this to say, “I think that culture and tradition are very important in life, as they help to build and shape us as individuals, as a society. However, culture and tradition have to evolve and cannot remain exactly the same as it was hundreds of years ago, as then they would lose relevance and relatability. I see my role as taking culture and tradition as an inspiration point to create something new, so that hopefully, culture and tradition can evolve and still be appreciated in this day and age.”

Jessica leads as she lives – with passion, objectivity, and generous sharing.

“It’s important to motivate my team by constantly sharing our brand vision, by being generous with praise and being objective when teaching. I believe that it’s important for a leader to guide their team to achieve their full potential, by recognising their strengths and weaknesses, and helping to nudge them in the right direction, by letting them make decisions and not being afraid if mistakes are made and also importantly by learning from them. Being a woman leader where I am today, means being blessed with plenty of opportunities and that, with the right will, we can do whatever we set our minds to.”

Wisdom of Time

How often do you check the time and why?

“Every morning when I wake up and then again when I’m leaving the house for work. These are important markers that signal what kind of day I’m having: a normal day? An early, long day? A late and lazy day? The time sets the tone for the day and mentally prepares me.”

Where do your check time – watch, phone, or clock?

“I check the clock first thing when I wake and the last thing when I sleep. The next time check would be my morning ritual when I’m dressed, and then I put on one of my watches, which might require setting, an action that makes me feel like I’m ready for whatever the day brings. I’d feel lost without a watch on my wrist. If I do check time on my phone, it’s probably when I’m cooking or doing something that requires me not to wear a watch.”

How is your work similar or different from the process of watch-making?

“Being a designer with a curious mind, I’ve actually tried to take apart and put together a few old mechanical watches. I admire watch-making for the patience required to handle all the minute parts and especially, the precision required in the art of watch-making. The attention to detail, the selection and the control of the right tools for the right purpose. In a way, my work might be similar to watch-making, however watch-making definitely requires a lot more patience and control. That’s really a skill I admire and would like to learn more from which I believe would be able to help me in my own.”

What do you look for when you shop for a timepiece?

“I love a classic design that tells a story, especially if it has historical significance or has made a mark on the watch brand’s history. If it is a newer and more recent timepiece, I would like to see that the timepiece bears the history and heritage of the brand, but yet also carries a touch of the contemporary in the movement or a change in material, so that it would speak of its place in time and not merely be a nostalgic design.”

How does time play a part in the wisdom you’ve gained and in your personal and professional growth?

“I can be impatient. Over time, though, I’ve learnt not to expect results and answers straightaway. Waiting can lead to better outcomes. My most important life lesson is not to rush time. There’s a time and place for everything. The beauty of life is to be able to look back with a different perspective, and hope for a better future.” 

What is the most difficult thing you’ve had to do so far, and what was the wisdom behind overcoming it?

“Over time, I’ve come to recognise that level-headedness and objectivity are important traits to overcome any challenge. I’m a feeling person, and while that inspires creativity, it is essential to look at things objectively when you’re running a business.”

This feature is produced in collaboration with Blancpain. Artwork by Curatedition, all rights reserved.

Related links:

Wisdom of Living: Dr. Jade Kua

Blancpain Classics: Villeret 2020

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