DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — “All these watches,” Yousuf Gargash said, waving his hand over his collection. “And I look at my phone” for the time.
He does have plenty of choices: His collection includes a 3rd Execution Heuer Autavia 2446 from the 1960s, a stainless steel Patek Philippe 5960 and a Wyler Vetta from the ’40s.
“For me, it’s the aesthetics that sing to me,” said the 30-year-old Emirati, who manages a real estate office. He added that his collection of more than 50 watches was eclectic but that he was particularly drawn to chronographs, the combination of timepiece and stopwatch.
“Me as an individual, I love chronographs,” he said. “I know it’s something very simple, a lot of people will be like, ‘That’s not the best complication,’ this and that, but I just love it. Just the fact it is very simple and looks really nice. Dials look beautiful when they are in chronograph watches.”
It was his uncle’s gift, a Rolex Explorer II, a 2005 model, that kick-started Mr. Gargash’s passion for watches. “This was literally the first watch I ever received, for graduating from school,” he said. “It’s never been polished, never been serviced, nothing. I still try to maintain it as much as I can.
“It’s a very simple watch, it has some nicks here and there but — I would never sell this. It’s nothing crazy, but it’s still something special to me.”
Mr. Gargash began to buy watches in 2010. Initially, he said, his purchases were unrefined; if he liked the look of a watch, he bought it, without much consideration of the brand.
But now he is focused on building his collection, which is about 60 percent vintage models, like the Rolex Submariner 5513, with the kind of faded bezel that collectors call a ghost and what Mr. Gargash called a “beautiful patina” developing on the dial.
The rest are modern editions, like the Officine Panerai PAM 662 Radiomir, a 2016 watch based on the one that the Egyptian Navy commissioned from the maker in 1954. Mr. Gargash introduces each watch to a visitor with as much passion as a museum guide describing a painting.
Part of Mr. Gargash’s collection of more than 50 watches. There is one common thread through some of it: the serial number.CreditChristophe Viseux for The New York Times
There is one common thread through some of the collection: the serial number.
“I’m a bit of a metalhead,” he said with a smile. “I used to like Iron Maiden and ‘Number of the Beast’ — 666. It’s kind of my number,” he said, adding that he recently purchased a Tag Heuer Tribute to Muhammad Ali watch, a steel Carrera Ring Master Calibre 5 limited edition, that had his lucky digits.
He does sometimes sell watches, but never ones that were gifts or have sentimental value, like the Frédérique Constant model that his uncle, now deceased, gave him or the Rolex Datejust that he bought for his sister during a visit to the Gold Souk, the traditional market in Dubai. It’s one watch that, he said, will never leave his family “since I got it with my friend, who passed away.”
Mr. Gargash also likes helping friends find watches. “You’re looking for something? I’ll be the hookup type of guy, but it’s not my main thing,” he said. “I’m more of a collector.”
“Now, this one,” he said, indicating a watch with a distinctive falcon emblem, “a Rolex DayDate 18038 with U.A.E. Armed Forces dial, I remember seeing the same watch in 2011 in auction and I didn’t have the money to buy it.” He decided to hunt for it and found one at an auction in 2016.
“I thought, ‘O.K., you know what, I’ll go for this watch.’ I’ve always loved gold with brown, there is just something about it that’s super cool,” he said, referring to the gold watch and its brown dial. “Initially, I was supposed to stop at around $16,000. But no.”
The price eventually rose to about $26,000, much more than the watch’s market value. Later, he had the watch serviced and the discs that display the date on the dial changed to modern Arabic numerals. But, he said, “I’m happy.”
“Thing is,” Mr. Gargash said, “once you start collecting it just — it’s more of like a nonstop lust for these watches. When you start buying watches, it doesn’t matter how much it costs. It really doesn’t.”
One thing that he does think about is how he is viewed as a collector: “I would like to be one of those eccentric collectors.
“You have different types of collectors,” Mr. Gargash said. “You have the purists, the hoarder, the investor, enthusiast, the specialist, et cetera, et cetera. What I mean by eccentric or eclectic is to be all those collectors and more. I consider my collection a pretty good collection, but there are people with more watches or more watches with grander complications.”
But he is, he added, proud of his buys.
“I wouldn’t consider myself as a newbie or small fish. I’d say,” he said with a laugh, “maybe, I guess, a yellowfin tuna?”
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