The theme for tonight is “Reflections”, which gives us all an opportunity to look back at how we came so far, and how we have been sustained over time, for it has been said that Time and Tide wait for no man. Some may ask why Starhill Gallery?
For those who are not aware of the developments of Bintang Walk and Starhill Gallery I would like to highlight some of the achievements, to help you understand how we have arrived at the current phase in our evolution.
It has been six years since our acquisition of Lot 10, Starhill Gallery and JW Marriott Hotel. While I was enthusiastic with the first acquisition, I realised a little too late that the retail industry in Kuala Lumpur was not as sophisticated as it appeared to be.
Whilst Bukit Bintang Street has always been a popular retailing centre for over 100 years there was very little rejuvenation and investment in this lived in street.
It was with this in mind that YTL created Bintang Walk. We had the full support of the former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and City Hall. We completed the Bintang Walk in a mere 6 months! Millions and millions have enjoyed this walk since. It was a good case of talking the walk and walking the talk. KL-lites welcomed it and travellers loved it!
Our suggestion to the government to waive the high duties and taxes on branded goods paved the way for more serious and quality investments in the retail industry especially in the luxury goods category. The government responded positively and all within 4 months! The rest is now history… From a retailing backwater in 1999, Kuala Lumpur today has become an increasingly exciting shopping destination, all within 6 years when it took decades for other cities to achieve this.
We hired David Rockwell Group from New York, a global icon for mall designers. The Starhill Gallery was their first shopping mall assignment in Asia!
We did not stop there, we got one of the most successful brand managers in the world, Interbrand, to reposition Starhill Gallery. Interbrand was credited for turning dowdy Selfridges into an exciting store, which improved sales tremendously.
As part of Starhill Gallery’s 250,000 sq ft of retail space, we are proud that the watch retailers occupy over 20,000 sq ft of that space making us a “Global Fine Watch Retailer” with over 70 luxury watch brands represented on one floor.
Jaeger LeCoultre is a fully integrated Manufacture, choosing to develop a unique business relationship with Swiss Union and have worked together since 1998. Their boutique the largest in the world will house a master watchmaker providing a special level of service by being on-site to consult clients.
How wonderful it will be to visit the boutique to learn and observe the skills of a master watchmaker, this practice will allow the continuation for the soul of the manufacturer to be visible, this level of service and master craftsmanship has not been seen before in Malaysia and is a compliment to our vision.
It is truly amazing that a fine luxury watch consists of more than 300 parts with highly complex mechanisms, fitted into the smallest of casings! It takes great thought and meticulous work. It is a masterpiece of patience and passion and the apogee of craftsmanship.
There is a synergy between Starhill Gallery and Jaeger LeCoultre for we share a similar vision and philosophy, when it comes to attention to detail and creating products, which have their own personality.
Jaeger LeCoultre have elevated watch making into an art form by re-introducing the idea of enamelling to their watches. Their artisan was forced to teach himself this craft, due to a lack of craftsmen and became so fascinated that he decided to switch from watch making to enamelling because of its inspiring beauty, that to me is passion, and this passion can take 200 hours to complete one design. This passion has made the Reverso one of Jaeger’s iconic watch timepieces and they are the only manufacturer to have created 1000 calibres since 1833.
Many years ago watches used to be made in winter, when there was less work to do on the farms. Throughout the years, luxury watches have maintained their status as symbols of success: time is indeed money. It is poignant from this fact that no matter how many recessions an economy undergoes, there will always be ardent collectors of these fine pieces of craftsmanship.
We look forward to working with Jaeger LeCoultre and Swiss Union to further develop their business and presence in Starhill Gallery and as a watch collector I look forward to being tempted to collect yet another masterpiece from this fine watch maker.
Baltasar Gracian said, “God Himself chastens not with a rod but with time”.
So, God bless all of you and thank you very much.
Speech delivered by Tan Sri (Dr) Francis Yeoh
Managing Director, YTL Corporation Berhad
at the Press Conference for Jaeger LeCoultre and Swiss Union
at JW Marriott Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
on July 05 2005