What came rushing into our minds when Franck Muller’s Vanguard Hairmau was first sighted were images of military patches.
For example, the “Flying Tigers” of the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force which operated between 1941 to 1942 during the Second World War (their flying tiger insignia was designed by the Walt Disney Company)
Then came William Blake’s (1757 to 1827) poem, The Tyger. Next up was the Katy Perry song “Roar”.
Then came the questions: Is this a symbol for a particular military unit? Did Franck Muller partner a military unit for this timepiece?
The answer is none of the above. The name “Harimau” is the clue as that is the Malay word for “tiger” when translated to English.
Franck Muller’s Vanguard Harimau Limited Edition is actually a commemorative piece specially produced to mark Malaysia’s 60th year of independence (1957 to 2017).
It was on 31 August 1957 that the Federation of Malaya became independent at the stroke of midnight. At that time, it was reported by BBC that young members of the Malay, Chinese and Indian parties that formed the government, stood in darkness for two minutes at midnight to mark the official handover.
As the flag was raised, they shouted “Merdeka” seven times.
Merdeka in either Malay or Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) means “freedom” or “independence” when translated to English.
The declaration of independence was read out to the public by Tunku Abdul Rahman (1903 to 1990), the first Chief Minister of Malaya, at the Merdeka Stadium at 9.30am on 31 August 1957.
The Yang-di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Rahman (Malaya’s first monarch and head-of state), Malay rulers, government officials, British officials such as Prince Henry, Duke Of Gloucester, Sir Donald MacGillivray (the British High Commissioner of Malaya) and other foreign dignitaries were among those present to witness the historical ceremony.
A summary of the 31 August 1957 proceedings can be viewed thanks to this YouTube video with English subtitles.
Tunku Abdul Rahman was the Chief Minister of Malaya from 1955 to 1957 who then became the first Prime Minister of Malaysia following its independence. He served as Prime Minister from 1957 till his retirement in 1970.
Harold Macmillan (1894 to 1986) was the British Prime Minister at the time. Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman (1903 to 1990) led the negotiations with the British for the handover of power and became known as the country’s “Father of Independence”.
How is the tiger symbol related to Malaysia’s 60th year of independence?
Malaysia’s coat-of-arms (Jata Negara) was the inspiration for Franck Muller as there are two tigers (supporters) beside the escutcheon (shield). The Malayan tigers symbolize strength and courage.
The two captivating tigers are pillars to the shield on the coat-of-arms and capture the “essence of Malaysia”, the brand explains.
Indeed, what must also be noted is that the Malayan tiger or Panthera tigris jacksoni is so-named because it is a subspecies unique to the Malay Peninsula.
However, the Malayan tiger is an endangered species. The IUCN or International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Malayan Tiger as being critically endangered.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Malaysia had as many as 3,000 tigers in the wild in the 1950s.
The current official estimate is between 250 and 340 Malayan tigers, resulting from the loss of habitat from development and agricultural expansion including hunting.
The Malayan tiger’s habitats are now within four states (Pahang, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu) that still have a substantial amount of rainforest cover.
Worldwide, only 3,200 tigers remain in the wild as their numbers have declined by 97% over the past 100 years. Three sub-species have become extinct, the Bali tiger, Caspian tiger and Javan tiger and a fourth has not been sighted for more than 25 years. Only six living sub-species of the tiger remain.
Therefore for us, Franck Muller’s Vanguard “Harimau” is much more than a commemorative timepiece; it is also a symbol for tiger conservation, a “shout out” or “roar” to protect the beautiful Malayan tiger.
This Vanguard watch can also serve as a symbol of strength, power and courage. For the Chinese, this timepiece can also be the “king” or wáng.
All these explain why the tiger symbol on Franck Muller’s Vanguard “Harimau” Limited Edition makes it an even more interesting and alluring wristwatch.
Franck Muller’s Vanguard “Harimau” is therefore not a raw deal; it is a roaring deal (pun intended).