Pertama Complex is one of the oldest shopping malls in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Strategically located at the intersection of the famous Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (previously known as Batu Road) and Jalan Dang Wangi (formerly called Campbell Road). It was first built in 1976 and was the hive of activity amongst local shoppers and tourists alike in its heydays.
Today, Pertama Complex (literal translation: (the) First Complex) has been overshadowed and outclassed by the ultra modern shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur and in the outskirts of the capital of Malaysia. Tourists, from overseas or out-of-town tend to flock to the newer and bigger shopping destinations, such as the Suria KLCC, Sungei Wang Plaza, Mid Valley Mega Mall and the likes.
If you’re expecting first class rest rooms, creature comforts, photogenic interiors, modern bistros and Starbucks – forget it. Pertama Complex is a basic, no frills retail center for bargain hunters who know what they want.
Despite its ageing architecture and outdated interior design (the interior is practically the same since the 1970s), Pertama Complex remains popular with office workers in its immediate vicinity and savvy shoppers who are on a mission: to buy something rather than window shop.
While not exactly a family-friendly shopping mall (cellphone vendors often puff away in a supposedly no-smoking premises) nor one that you would take your better half on a date, Pertama Complex still thrives due to its attractive, no-frills shopping experience. Low price and variety is the key attraction here.
Above: Exterior and interior shots of the Pertama Complex. Exterior photo courtesy of the UDA website.
The 33 year-old retail center is renowned for its numerous cellphone kiosk vendors (they’re packed on almost every floor), shoe stores, sporting goods stores, leather goods, cheap jeans and apparel, photographic stores and of course, watch stores. There’s even an old bowling alley located on the uppermost floor although most daytime patrons don’t come here to bowl.
Due to Pertama Complex’ relatively low shop lot rental (some stores actually own their premises thereby operating on much lower overheads) prices of goods are generally lower than those of more modern shopping malls.
For those wondering how to get to Pertama Complex when you’re in Kuala Lumpur, check out this interactive Google Map! The red balloon marked “A" designates the exact location of this antiquated-but-still popular commercial center.
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I thought I’d mention in passing that my favorite entrance into this retail center is through a side door shortcut going through Foto Selangor, the largest photography store in Pertama Complex. The folks manning this camera shop still remember me as I had bought a Canon PowerShot S2is and a PowerShot S3is ultrazoom cameras, plus plenty of camera accessories and rechargeable NiMH AA batteries in the past.
Foto Selangor enjoys very brisk daily sales due to its well placed location on the ground floor of this shopping center. It also stocks on a wide range of cameras, lenses, strobe units and accessories, attracting first time camera buyers and seasoned photographers alike.
Above: Interior shots of the well stocked Foto Selangor camera store.
Actually I haven’t visited Pertama Complex in over a year and my mission was to purchase either a digital SLR or the latest PowerShot SX1is or SX10is. I brought along two cameras for this trip – my “vintage" PowerShot S3is and a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 ultra-compact, which I used to take photos for this blog.
I spent more than half an hour comparing Canon’s latest 10 Megapixel ultra-zoom digicams, the PowerShot SX10is and SX1is to my present S3is. Both were physically much larger and heavier than the S3is (as you can see in the photos above) and notably heavier. I didn’t find the new higher resolution electronic viewfinders (EVFs) a quantum leap above the lower pixel count (115K dots) in my S3is’ EVF. Although they both sported higher resolutions for their EVFs, present electronic viewfinder technology has yet to approach the clarity of true optical viewfinders found in rangefinder and SLR cameras.
OK, I noted the new SX10is and SX1is’ wider 20x zoom (28-560mm) as the most significant change since Canon’s previous S2is/S3is/S5is (the three shared the same 12x zoom lens). The catch is that with four nickel metal hydride AA batteries loaded, both the PowerShot SX10is and SX1is felt as heavy as a consumer digital SLR with a kit zoom lens and rechargeable battery fitted.
Top: My old Canon PowerShot S3is visually compared to the new PowerShot SX10is (left) and the PowerShot SX1is (right).
Disappointed by the incremental improvements offered by the latest ultra-zoom PowerShots, I made up my mind to look into digital Single Lens Reflex (dSLR) cameras instead. Digital SLRs have larger image sensors than your everyday compact Point & Shoot or ultra-zoom camera, have better optical lenses (even by the standards of the cheap kit lenses that come with budget dSLRs) and thus take much better photos. The downside is that dSLRs are much bulkier and heavier than ultra-zoom digicams and high quality lenses often cost a small fortune.
All film and digital SLRs have a true optical viewfinders with a flip-up mirror instead of an electronic one. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, which is a compact Four Thirds digital SLR allows you to interchange lenses, it is by strict definition not a true dSLR as it employs an electronic viewfinder and thus lacks a viewfinder mirror.
I discovered that the full-HD video capable PowerShot SX1is was also priced very closely to Canon’s entry level digital SLR – the EOS 1000D (also called the Rebel XS in the USA) and slightly more expensive than Nikon’s budget model dSLR – the very popular Nikon D60.
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t end up buying my first digital SLR from this store as the sales assistant didn’t give me an attractive packaged bundle. I also didn’t like the fact that the salesman attending to me was rather pushy in getting me to buy a camera. Obviously he was more interested in getting the sale done rather than to educate me.
When it comes to buying something that I’m not very familiar with (in this case, a digital SLR), I prefer to chat with a seller who’s willing to talk about photography and has the patience to discuss the merits and demerits of a particular model. There’s nothing more that puts me off than strong arm pressure sales approaches.
OK, with the subject out of the way, let’s move on to the focus of this post – watch stores!
Citron Watch Store
The first store in this virtual tour is none other than Citron Watch Trading Co, which is one of the earliest tenants of Pertama Complex. Strategically located at a corner on the 2nd floor (or 3rd floor, if in American terminology) of the complex, Citron Watch offers a wide range of watch brands including Rado, Tissot and Enicar, a lesser known but value-for-money Swiss marque.
Citron Watch is managed by Ms Emily, who is a pleasant woman who gave me kind permission to take interior photos of her store, which you’ll be seeing in the series of pictures below.
While I’m not a regular customer of Citron Watch, I did purchase a NOS Seiko SKXM19K 7s26 automatic and a Seiko alarm clock sometime in 2004. What I liked about Emily is that she’s not pushy in getting a sale. She didn’t mind talking about watches and her business whenever I dropped by, even though I wasn’t planning to buy anything from her store.
Top: Exterior shots of the Citron Watch store. Emily was rather camera shy, but you can see her in the photo on the right. She’s the one standing dressed in pink.
Citron Watch mainly specializes in low end Seiko, Alba, Timex, Casio and Citizen watches while keeping abreast of the latest models from Seiko. Emily doesn’t bring in high priced Seikos as she said that most of her customers prefer to look for bargain priced watches. Orient watches are unfortunately not sold here.
What I found interesting about Citron Watch is that it’s the only store in the Pertama Complex that carries the “J" versions of Seiko 7s-caliber automatics, which are parallel imported. Malaysia’s official distributor of Seiko watches only brings in the China-assembled, “K" counterparts, not the Japan made ones.
Above: Citron Watch’s Seiko display racks. Alba watches are also placed on the right, as the Alba brand is a subsidiary of the Seiko Holdings Group. Also on display are Rado, Titoni, Tissot and Enicar (the latter two not shown) timepieces.
Photoset 2 below shows more watches for sale, including discontinued and NOS models. Once I came across a white dialed Seiko SDWD19P 7T32 quartz alarm chronograph, similar to the one that I have which I purchased back in 1998 (not from Citron Watch). I was impressed as ever since then I had not seen another watch similar to mine. I told Emily that if I ever lost my watch, I’d promptly replace it with the one from her store.
The SDWD19P sat in her shop for around three years until a customer spotted it and bought it. I hope the watch went to a good home. I once considered buying that Seiko but since my SDWD19P is still alive and well, the purchase would be somewhat redundant.
Above: My second longest owned Seiko: Model SDWD19P with its original solid link bracelet
Above: More photos of Seiko products at Citron Watch
Of notable interest is the fact that Citron Watches also happen to have several discontinued Seiko models. According to Emily, her employer maintains another retail outlet (also called Citron Watch) in another part of the city. Watches that have been lying unsold in the other outlet are often transferred to her store. In Pic 1 of Photoset 2, you can see a trio of discontinued 7s36 Seiko 5 Superiors (models SNZ437K, SNZ433K and SNZ438K) and in in Pic 3 you can see a few late 90s Kinetics on display.
Photoset 3 shows the various Citizen watches in the store. These are discontinued and NOS Citizen models. I asked Emily why she didn’t bring in the latest Eco Drive and Promaster models from Citizen. Her reply was simple.
She explained that very few of her customers are interested in Citizens and the current authorized distributor for Citizen watches, Citizen Malaysia imposes a rather steep prerequisite – she would have to take up one piece of the entire latest Citizen range across the board. The new Citizen Eco Drives distributed by Citizen Malaysia include their high end titanium Promasters, which are not really easy to sell.
Above: Arrays of Citizen watches, mostly discontinued models
Picture 4 shows a rack displaying the cheapest Citizen automatics. Most of Citron Watch’s customers are locals from the lower income group and foreign workers from Indonesia, Myanmar and Bangladesh. For some reason the latter group prefers gold toned watches so Citron Watch stocks a good supply of affordable gold plated watches.
I saw a few Citizen Oxy models although they are not as plentiful compared to a few years ago. I remember seeing a nice military styled Citizen automatic, with a hand-windable movement and regretted not buying it. It’s gone since then.
Wrapping it up, while the Citron Watch store has an interesting mix of old and late model watches although it doesn’t carry a very wide range of Seikos and Citizens, in addition to Swiss brands like Tissot, Rado, Enicar and Titoni. Emily’s store carries some latest Seiko models but not that many or varied.
If you’re looking for NOS Seikos, Citron Watch is a good place to start. Prices are reasonable and if you’re good at negotiating Emily might agree to let go of a NOS watch at an irresistible price.
Citron Watch’s address is at Unit No 2.88, 2nd Floor, Pertama Shopping Complex, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahmah, Kuala Lumpur.
By the way, the Citron Watch store has no relation to the Citron Watch company, a manufacturer of mass cheap timepieces in China.
Lastly but not least, here’s a big thank you to Ms Emily for giving me kind permission to take some pictures of her store.
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