Collectors’ compilations come in all shapes and sizes. Some accumulate stamps, coins or sports cards; others’ love of music drives them to vinyl records; while cinephile scour the world for associated memorabilia. Whatever the subject, the one thing collectors have in common is passion; and Yousuf Gargash’s passion for watches borders on addiction. “It has come to a point where I’m buying one every month,” confesses the the 30-year-old Emirati.
And he doesn’t discriminate — there’s space for everything from rare limited editions to vintage finds and new models in his collection.
Born, raised and educated in Dubai, Yousuf left for London to study at Regent’s Business School. As a student, he would often venture into Brixton to see his favourite rock bands perform, and like a true groupie, he’d queue outside gigs to get autographs and pictures with his idols. “I’d like to consider myself an average Joe who likes watches and has a crazy thirst or lust for them,” he explains over a casual lunch with The Galleria Magazine.
Once upon a time, Yousuf was the kid with the long hair and the Iron Maiden T-shirt. “I was a real metal head,” he laughs, “Which is why at Christie’s auctions I have the number triple six. My favourite band is Iron Maiden and it references one of their songs.”
That said, his taste in music ranges far and wide, and his watch collection is as eclectic. The charming collector gets nostalgic talking about how it all started. “I received my first watch as a graduation gift from my uncle when I was 18 years old,” he says. “It was a Rolex Explorer II, 36mm with a black dial. I don’t ever give away gifts or sell them, because gifts have a lot of sentimental value.”
Yousuf works in the family property business. The company, Seven Emirates Real Estates, was established in 1968; his forward-thinking grandfather named it that even before the unification of the seven emirates. But it all comes back to watches for him. Sometimes the two overlap, like with Yousuf’s first watch purchase — the Dubai Edition of the Chopard Mille Miglia Gran Turismo XL, number 13 out of 200 piece produced.
Bought in 2010, the watch made very little profit when the young watch lover sold it four years later. But like most things in life, it takes experience, knowledge and a little bit of luck to achieve good results.
His best buy was at a Christie’s auction several years later, where he picked up a Jaquet Droz for $9,000. It had never been worn, and the exclusive model was eight of 10 pieces. It also had a UAE national symbol on it.
Now with about 40 watches in his collection, the young businessman says he likes to give all his watches some wrist time, although some are used more frequently. “My day beater is a Panerai Pam 662. It’s number 666 out of 1,000 pieces and a tribute to the old Egyptian Radiomir — one of the earlier 1950s Panerai models.”
As a member of the Dubai Watch Club, Yousuf was also given an exclusive leather strap only available to members. The club started a few years ago because the founder, Adel Al Rahmani, wanted to create a group for men with similar interests. “We usually meet daily for social gatherings and we tend to arrange a lot of events with different auction houses as well as numerous retailers such as Rivoli, which is available at The Galleria,” he explains.
“We also have events with independent watchmakers like Roger Dubuis, JLC, IWC and Vacheron Constantin. They ask us about our thoughts – it could be about aesthetics or the movement, what draws us to a watch and what interests us.”
Being part of the club also means he gets to visit some of the most prestigious factories in the watchmaking world, such as Tag Heuer. Yousuf’s favourite pieces include a 1971 Omega Speedmaster, an A. Lange & Söhne Datograph with an inverted panda dial, a 1960s Rolex Submariner 5513 and an IWC Portofino Chronograph that was a gift from his father. “It’s hard to really say what is my most precious watch. I don’t think I am at that level yet where I can say I have one that I really love. I love all my watches,” he says.
But his eyes light up when he talks about Richard Mille. “Now I am in love with the brand.”
The brand’s partnership with the tennis ace Rafael Nadal has produced some of the world’s lightest tourbillon watches, including the RM35 NTPT, which weighs a mere 4g with a strap. “Adel once asked me to put on his Rafa watch, and it’s one of the lightest watches I’ve ever worn. It hugs your wrist beautifully and it’s so easy to read.”
Yousuf’s Middle Eastern highlights include a Rolex Day-Date, a Datejust, an Air-King and an Oyster Perpetual — all with the UAE national symbol on. “If I had to pick brands that are up there and mainstream, and we are not talking independent, I would list A. Lange & Söhne, Vacheron Constantin, Richard Mille and Patek Philippe among my favourites,” he says.