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Vintage Watch, Dubai

21 October 2015

Luxury watches are easy to find in Dubai, but if you’re looking for something a little different and with a story to tell, this is the man you should meet.

t’s hard to get a word in edgewise with watch connoisseur, Osman Bhurgri. Not because the Irishman is a big talker, but because he – or more specifically his watches – are in demand.

Naively, I’d chosen a busy local cafe for an interview with the man behind Vintage Watch Dubai. When it comes to Bhurgri’s collection, men are like bees to honey. As soon as he opened his case, filled with rare workhorse timepieces lovingly restored, he draws an inquisitive crowd.

An avid collector of vintage watches with a strong narrative, Bhurgri recently launched a small collection for sale through Dubai’s independent concept stores. His vintage pieces have seen battle and the depths of the Arctic seas – which naturally is part of the appeal.

“It’s the story they tell. The collecting of vintage watches is a compelling hobby for men as they’re really the only accessories we get to wear. These fantastic little pieces of macro mechanical engineering have survived so much, in many cases outliving their original owners.

“I love the functionality aspect of a watch from eras such as the 1980s and ’90s, when having an accurate timepiece was an essential part of everyday living – as opposed to checking the time on your phone.”

Bhurgri’s collection includes rare diving watches by niche Italian brand, Squale, a clock from a Russian MiG jet and an air force issued Precista 6BB that was likely deployed at Bessbrook military heliport in his home country of Northern Ireland during the 30-year conflict commonly referred to simply as The Troubles.

Vintage Watch Dubai started as social media fun but strong interest saw Bhurgri launch the brand with watches for sale, offering original military of defence straps obtained internationally or made of Dubai camel hide.

“It’s really an equal mixture of obsessively hunting online and sheer luck,” Bhurgri says of his sourcing methods. If watches have a story to tell, then working order or even being in one piece is non-essential. A prize purchase was a box filled with watches and was secured at a Ministry Of Defence auction that held a variety of timepieces in disarray.

“Repair-wise, you need to do the smaller stuff yourself, such as inspecting a watch and having a basic understanding of parts. For small things, like bezel changes, straps and adjustments, I enjoy doing them but for more complicated work, I send the watches to my watchmaker in Ireland. Behind every great watch collection there should be a great watchmaker. Think of them like a doctor!”

Vintage Watch Dubai has struck a chord as buyers return to appreciating craft, authenticity and heritage. Bhurgri’s first range, which is sold through the likes of curated store Akin Barber & Shop, has been a hit.

As for his treasured Ministry Of Defence find, Bhurgri says the Cabot Watch Company watches found in there were Royal Navy issued, carrying the British Empire’s ‘Broad Arrow’ military marking on the back, as well as the dates, 1989 to 1990, tying them to the first Gulf War.

“I spent 18 months seeking out parts to restore them one-by-one into working order but making sure to leave enough patina on them to ensure their battle worn history could still be seen,” he says.

instagram.com/vintagewatchdubai

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