Published on November 28, 2007
The founder of Swiss watch brand Ulysse Nardin recalls his days as a young man in Thailand
In his capacity as president and owner of the prestigious watch brand Ulysse Nardin, the 72-year-old is back in Thailand, this time to present a special collection of timepieces in celebration of His Majesty the King's 80th birthday and to donate Bt1 million to the Ananda Mahidol Foundation under royal patronage.
Schnyder recalls with fondness the 12 wonderful years he spent in the Kingdom.
"It was a happy and privileged time. During the week, I worked in Bangkok but weekends were spent care free at the beach with plenty of sports and a rich social life. I was also impressed by the friendliness of Thais."
In those days, the city was smaller with far fewer cars. "I had the pleasure of attending functions at which His Majesty was present, like some sailing events in Pattaya. I feel greatly honoured to have had those opportunities. I may be a foreigner but the esteem in which I hold His Majesty is no less than that of a Thai person."
For the commemorative timepiece, launched in collaboration with the Trocadero Group, Ulysse Nardin is presenting its Michelangelo UTC Dual Time. With royal permission, the watch features the Royal Ceremonial Emblem on the dial and is engraved with the message "The Celebration on the Auspicious occasion of His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December 2007" on the back with the serial number in Thai numerals.
The special edition collection features 99 pieces, 19 with 18-karat gold cases and the remaining 80 with stainless steel cases. Part of the proceeds from sales will be presented to His Majesty for his charitable projects.
"The design is specifically for Thailand. It came out very well and I think it will become a collector's item because took khon rak Nai Luang (everybody loves the King)," says Schnyder in fluent Thai.
Home to Schynder is wherever he happens to be living. His family resides in Malaysia, so that's where he spends most of his time, but he still considers Thailand a second home.
"I was born in Switzerland but I happen to enjoy my life in Asia," he notes. "Life is like a glass of water - when something new pours in, the level gets higher. Discovery is like the water you add to the glass; you're always learning, from both the culture and the lifestyle perspectives."
A keen sportsman and sailor, Schynder witnessed His Majesty's feat at the tiller in the fourth Southeast Asian Peninsular Games in December 1967, when the King represented Thailand in the International OK Class tournament. Sailing single handed in His own boat, His Majesty won the event. The Gold Medal was presented by Her Majesty the Queen on December 16, 1967. (The Thai Government has since decreed this date as the National Sports Day in His honour.)
Shchynder recalls the event. "As a precaution, the Royal Thai Navy posted boat guards every 200 metres. After the race, we had to go to Koh Lan, where everyone was granted an audience. We brought along our suits despite it being a warm day. We donned them and waited for His Majesty in the sweltering heat. He arrived in shorts. 'Aren't you hot in those suits?' He asked."