Watches that have Withstood the Test of Time
A look into the Vintage Watch Market in Dubai
So, if you Google "Vintage Watches", what you see on top of the page are a bunch of images, from our most popular shopping websites, of watches, mostly under a hundred dollars, a few years old. After an internal giggle, I scrolled down to see some more authenticity on the subject. The giggle comes from understanding the terminology 'vintage' slightly better.
Clearly, search words can get so intertwined on search engines. The said search engine was merely showing me 'previously or pre-owned' watches for someone who may be on a very tight watch-buying budget and does not mind purchasing a previously-used watch; it certainly did not show me iconic, authentic, vintage timepieces! As a car and a watch enthusiast, I understand what vintage means when it comes to them. That old is indeed, gold! That vintage does not mean a four or five year old anything. Vintage is deeper than that. Its wrapped in history, has heritage, perhaps even comes from another era. My knowledge on what is truly considered to be a vintage watch was furthered by Tariq Malik, Founder of Momentum Dubai, a regional dealer of classic and vintage timepieces in the United Arab Emirates, built in 2011. With the invaluable input of Tariq Malik, allow this author, to re-acclimatize you to the meaning of the word 'vintage' when it comes to watches, its demand, who covets it, and that money is not the first factor considered when buying a vintage watch. It's like art, people who collect art do it because they are passionate about it. We spoke to this collector of vintage timepieces about what constitutes a truly timeless piece to the most expensive pre-owned watch ever sold on Dubai soil. He started Momentum with the goal of sharing his passion and enthusiasm for collectible watches, eventually, to be associated as the go-to distributor for pre-owned luxury watches in the UAE, and the Middle East. Excerpts from the interview.
LUXpressso: Tariq, tell us, what constitutes a truly timeless watch? Tariq Malik: "A truly timeless piece is often an iconic or legendary watch. An iconic watch is a watch which stands the test of time. Brands which have been around for a while, have a strong heritage, or (watch) models which have changed the perception of certain aspects of a watch like the design, the dial and even the movements, like lets say, the Rolex Oyster, with the iconic oyster shape, or , the Cartier Tank, the Jaege-LeCoultre Reverso, Rolex Submariner, the Patek Philippe 5711. These are all iconic models. The list is endless. Breitling Navytimer, Panerai, even some Chanel watches, or Piaget. Today, most big watch brands have created their own icons." "An iconic watch can be iconic or timeless, because of certain aspects of the watch itself. To illustrate, in the year 1927, the Founder of Rolex, Hans Wildorf wanted to demonstrate the quality of Rolex's new waterproof watch, the 'Oyster'. To do that, he wrapped the Oyster around the wrist of a lady named Mercedes Gleitze. Mercedes swam for more than ten hours through the English channel, with the watch withholding water, for the entire swim. That became a legendary event, which translated into the Oyster becoming a timeless piece, not to mention a waterproof watch. Or, another example is James Bond wearing the Big Crown Submariner in his movies - which became a truly iconic watch."
"I also have a personal interpretation of the word 'iconic' when it comes to a watch. For me, a watch is already 'iconic' when you don't need to mention the brand, before the name of the model. For example, GMT Master or Daytona, you don't need to mention 'Rolex Daytona' to explain what that is. A Daytona is iconic. Most watch enthusiasts will already know that. Or, a Monaco, we don't need to mention that it is made by the brand Tag Heur, The Golden Bridge (Corum), The Reverso (Jaeger- LeCoultre), The Tank (Cartier), The Santos (Cartier). There are multiple examples which we could line up here, but this is my personal interpretation of what an iconic watch is. The fact that the models that I mentioned do not need to be accompanied by the brand name." LUXpresso: How would you define a “vintage watch?” Tariq Malik: "There is a clear line between vintage watches, and very often mistaken 'second-hand watches', which some people consider vintage too. The vintage watch, first of all, has to fulfil the criteria of being twenty or more years old, and is discontinued." Of course, a second-hand watch can be more than twenty years old as well, so how do we differentiate it from a 'vintage watch?' "So, vintage in general stands for the age-bracket, which is twenty years plus as mentioned. Vintage watches are usually iconic, they are precious, they have heritage, they have a story, they have an iconic design, they usually have a good maker behind, a good manufacturer behind them." "So, if you want to put a definition out there, you could say a Vintage watch is one that is (a) discontinued, (b) fulfilling the criteria of being twenty years or older, (c) and all all those aforementioned attributes, whereas, a second-hand watch is one that is previously owned / used. It could be two years old, it could be forty years old. "The difference between buying new grail watches and vintage grail watches is that for a modern grail watch, you can walk into any luxury watch store and buy your watch, whereas, for the vintage grail watch, you can have any amount of dollars in your pockets, for ages sometimes, until you actually find 'the watch', and that is a very big difference between modern grail watches and vintage watches."
LUXpressso: Which are some of the most investment-worthy watches? Tariq Malik : "Vintage watches are investments in passion. When we talk about investments, a lot of factors come into play, like, how much do I want to invest, how long do I want to keep the watch and where do I want to sell. All these are not easy answers. A lot of people say, 'ok, I am going to buy this watch as an investment because I want to have a return', but they don't really consider how, or when, or where to sell the watch, but, that is actually very important. Very often, we are asked questions from clients, 'which watches should I buy for a good investment?' My answer always is buy what you like, buy what you love and buy what you want to see on your wrist. The investment-savvy client usually wants to buy something where his money is not lost after a while, where his watch still retains value." "When you buy a watch, you spend a certain amount, lets say 10,000 dollars. You wear the watch for five to six years, you can still get the same or a little bit less out. That, according to me, is already an investment because you are using the watch. The vintage market has grown tremendously and the prices of certain watches have increased really, really high." "We can, for sure, say, being in the market for so long, that certain watches have turned out to be great investments over time. It depends on the quality of the watch, the age of the watch, what has been paid for it, what model it is, and which brand it is from." "The general rule is, buy something from a brand which has been around for a long time, who has withstood the test of time (pun not indented), that the model you are buying is 'iconic', that the price you are paying is reasonable. However, that is a question mark. A lot of people don't know what reasonable is when it comes to splurging on a watch. They just want to buy a watch for whatever price it is, they think it is an investment. But, it is not. So, you have to be smart in making that purchase. So, when it comes to vintage watch as an 'investment-worthy piece', "condition, condition, condition is key! If you feel like you may have got a good deal buying a ten thousand dollar worth watch for four thousand dollars, that you struck a good deal or it's the same investment grade, no it is not. It's all about the quality." "What also has to be considered is how you put the watch on the market. If you buy a very strong vintage watch for an investment, you have to be very sure which channel you want to sell it through. Do you want to sell it at an auction, do you want to sell it on the Internet, or do you want to sell it in the collector's circle? All that consideration plays a huge role. So, just to summarize it, Rolex watches can be very good investments, because most of their models are iconic. There is a huge collecting community out there for most of the (Rolex) models. What I can say, from my experience at Momentum, is that the Rolex sports models and the Day Date are the strongest collectibles and they are good candidates for being investments too. Lastly, like I said before, buy what you love, and you think you would enjoy wearing. That is the biggest investment."
LUXpressso: What kind of watches are sold at Momentum? Would you be comfortable throwing some figures at us? Tariq Malik : "We launched in 2011, and we were the first ones in Dubai to offer vintage watches. Honestly, we were testing the waters, as we didn't really know what people are looking to buy in Dubai. We started with a range of 25 brands including Omega, Longines, Oris, Favre Leuba, Rolex, Patek Philippe and so on. Overtime, we realized that we wanted to specialize in a select few. We wanted to concentrate on very few brands and within those, we wanted to be very good, and focus on quality. As time went by, our collection evolved to offering our clients five brands, which are Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet Cartier, Rolex and Omega. Cut to today, we are still offering only four to five brands but our main focus is Rolex, and even within Rolex, it is Vintage Rolex. Some of the models are the Submariner, GMT, and Daytonas. But more than that, we are known as as voice for the Rolex Day Date. So, our widest offering in the shop is currently the Rolex Day Date models, which I believe, we have around 30 to 40 different variants in stock." Tariq himself is a collector of Vintage Rolex. "I am a collector too. I collect Vintage Rolex very strongly, my passion, my expertise and my knowledge has led me to be considered as a serious player at the global Rolex Market and we have established ourselves within that brand, specifically, the vintage bracket." LUXpresso: Share some figures with us, if you can. Tariq Malik: "The average price range ,when we opened 10 or 11 years ago, was 1000 to 5000 dollars. Today, we are selling watches up to half a million dollars. With a sweet spot at around forty, fifty, sixty, thousand dollar mark." LUXpresso: Where do you sell your watches mostly? Tariq Malik: "We sell thirty percent of our watches in Dubai. And the other seventy percent of our watches go into export. We sell to Europe Asia, America, Scandinavia. And, sourcing-wise it is the same, most of our watches come from all abroad as well. As I mentioned, we sell only thirty percent of our watches locally (Dubai). But, if you go back 10 years, 'vintage' was not even a thing in Dubai, nobody was buying vintage watches. Yes, a few collectors were buying watches from auctions abroad, or from their travels to the U.K, U.S, Switzerland, but the collecting community was non-existent, and we build it from scratch. We are very proud that we have created some great collections here for local collectors." LUXpresso: We spoke about Dubai, especially the Emiratis opening up to owning a vintage / pre owned watch. Can you tell us more? Which type of watches interest them? Tariq Malik: "When we first opened our store in 2011, we had perplexed reactions from Emirati (local) clients to our watches, most of them were like, 'oh that's a used watch.' They were not particularly excited or interested about it, but when we told them that this is not only a used watch, it is an old, iconic, one -in - a - thousand, discontinued watch, that is when we caught their attention. Proving my point from earlier, when it comes to vintage watches, it is all about the history and their story and the expertise behind the seller, to make the it enticing." "Over time, more and more Emiratis have opened up to vintage watches and got interested in it, thanks to social media, the bustling watch community and knowledge about auction results, from which they realized the importance of these watches. So, now they come with a special request, for the watch to be more unique, something that perhaps no one or very few have. And, it is easier to be unique with a vintage watch, rather than a modern watch, which is made in bigger numbers. Once that was understood by them , they were more receptive to the idea of investing in a vintage time piece." It is the same philosophy as "mass produced" clothing versus a tailor-made, high-end, one-of-a-kind designer garment. "We have, over the years, catered to many Emirati clients, and among those, there were quite a few big personalities, even royals who bought from us. It is very flattering, and we are trying to do a better job everyday to make those attractive to our clients.: LUXpresso : According to you, a watch connoisseur is... Tariq Malik: "Somebody who is passionate about watches, of course, needless to mention, somebody who spends his private time researching watches, who learns about their heritage about the evolution of those watches in the past and definitely somebody who is not in it for the money. Passion is the most important thing." LUXpresso: Can you comment on the pre-owned watch market in Dubai today? Tariq Malik: The pre-owned watch market in Dubai, today, is big. There are more outlets than you can count. Not all are located in the big malls, they are mostly in the Gold Souk, in Deira, Dubai. The pre-owned market is going very strong, especially, when it comes to the modern watches, like Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet, just to name a few. LUXpresso: Lastly, is there any such thing as “the most coveted watch? I know different strokes for different folks, but, as a brand maybe? Tariq Malik: We breathe the brand Rolex everyday, especially Vintage Rolex. For us, it is the most exciting collecting community. I am a collector myself, I breathe Rolex everyday , I have two on my hand, always. For others, it's Patek Phillipe, Omega, for us, it's Rolex. Shweta Dembla: Contributor to LUXpresso Magazine Instagram: @dubaiinaframe