x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Better to collect watches rather than cars, and that's no wind-up

Joe Haj Ali, a Dubai based watch collector, speaks about his timepieces.

Joe Haj Ali displays some examples from his vintage watch collection. Duncan Chard for The National
Joe Haj Ali displays some examples from his vintage watch collection. Duncan Chard for The National

Joe Haj Ali is a watch collector based in Dubai. Here, he talks about his timepieces.

Tell me a bit about your collection - you said it dated back three generations?

My late father had a modest collection of pocket watches with some coming from my grandfather that were made for Ottoman market. My interest kept growing and I would help him catalogue new additions. Today, the collection includes pocket watches, clocks, automatons, wristwatches dating from the early 1700s to today, including Swiss, French, German, English and American makers.

How many watches do you own?

That must remain my secret but it is a large collection.

Do you have any historical pieces?

One of the interesting pieces in my collection is a Patek Philippe, retailed by Tiffany & Co. Produced in 1912, this watch is interesting for a couple of reasons. It [was] one of Patek Philippe's earliest wristwatches made for Tiffany in New York, and it is believed to have been owned and worn by the US senator Thomas J Walsh, the case of the watch is engraved with his name. In 1932, Thomas J Walsh presided over the Democratic National Convention that nominated Franklin D Roosevelt for president, and was appointed attorney general in president Roosevelt's administration.

How good are watches as investment?

I have in my collection pieces that have gone up 300 per cent [and] some go up between 5 per cent and 20 per cent annually. Watches are an alternative for an investor to diversify his portfolio compared to, say, classic cars that need constant maintenance and storage facilities and I can tell you from experience that restoring an old timepiece is lot less costly and stressful than restoring a classic car.

gduncan@thenational.ae