Watch dealer Marya Ali says every watch has a story and no two deals are ever the same. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Careers can either be a matter of choice or coincidence. For Dubai-born Marya Ali, it is perhaps a case of both.

A watch manager working with luxury timepieces, the 25 year old, currently in London, credits Dubai for her unlikely vocation.

“Growing up in Dubai, I was always surrounded by beautiful things. My family are all big lovers of luxury, women would spend hours shopping for beautiful designer handbags but they never really interested me. It was always the watches that the men in the family discussed that I was transfixed by. I would be around them, hear their discussions and see them show off their latest timepieces. This was how I began to understand more about the market and where my love of watches was born,” she told Gulf News.

Born in Dubai, Marya Ali studied at the Al Nahda International School in Abu Dhabi, then attended University of Sharjah where she did Architectural Engineering. But the first job she landed was that of an assistant to a professional watchmaker in London. Image Credit: Supplied

Career as a horologist

Marya, who is of Syrian origin, said, “I was born and raised in Dubai and have a lot of Emirati cousins and extended family in the UAE. I studied at the Al Nahda International School in Abu Dhabi, then attended University of Sharjah where I did Architectural Engineering.”

But when she travelled to the UK to visit her sisters three years ago, fate had other plans for her. Since she loved watches, a friend let her know about a vacant position for an assistant to a professional watchmaker. “That was how my career as a horologist began,” recalled Marya.

She couldn’t believe that she now had the opportunity to handle the world’s most exclusive, sought-after time pieces on a daily basis. “The watches range anywhere between £8,000 to £500,000. It was during my time with the professional watchmaker that I really learnt my trade, working with the most knowledgeable experts in the business,” she said.

Storming a male bastion

Marya was well aware of the fact that she was in a predominantly male bastion, so she made an extra effort to educate and equip herself adequately for her job.

In early 2022, she joined the Knightsbridge-based Love Luxury, a pre-loved designer boutique that has now ventured into Dubai as well. “The store has become synonymous with some of the world’s best watches, so we get a lot of customers that travel to either sell or buy something they’ve seen on the site. I also have a whatsapp broadcast of more than 200 collectors all over the world, it’s here that I let everyone know the watch I have as soon as it comes in, and they get in touch with me privately if they have something to sell or would like me to source something.”

Marya Ali's clients mainly comprise high net worth individuals, including high profile sports personalities and celebrities. Image Credit: Supplied

Every watch has a story

Marya claimed there is a boom in demand for pre-loved luxury. “I love this industry. No day is ever the same, no matter how long you’ve been in this industry you will always be learning. The people I meet in the store are fascinating, I have collectors coming from as far as China and the US, it’s not unusual for them to come directly to see me from the airport, pick up their watch and get straight back on a 10-hour flight! Every watch has a story and no two deals are ever the same.”

She said her clients mainly comprise high net worth individuals, including high profile sports personalities and celebrities.

Relevance of watches

But at a time when people carry mobile phones, with time zones from different parts of the world available at a click, how relevant are watches, especially pre-loved ones, today?

“Watches may not be an essential for telling the time anymore, but they will always be in demand. Designer watches serve many purposes, they can be an investment, a family heirloom, a way to mark a special occasion or a treasured gift. They’re also a status symbol and can make an outfit just like any piece of jewellery or accessory can. The luxury watch industry is booming as watches continue to be a brilliant investment option, and with wait lists ranging from six months to three years, the second hand watch market has never been so busy,” she said.

So how does one secure the most sought-after designer watches? And what are the best investments?

How to choose the right watch?

Marya said there are brands that are easier on the beginners. “These brands are more accessible than most as prices start lower than a lot of other collectible brands and because they are becoming more exclusive with who they sell directly to, it means selling on the pre-loved market can give you a bigger return. There are others that will always be collectable brands but choose wisely, the right model can be one of the best investments you can make but I’ve also known people to lose thousands. Avoid trends is the simplest bit of advice I can give as in a few seasons’ time you’re not going to be able to find a buyer. Some watches are a safe bet to hold value as do most luxury watches with blue and green faces at the moment,” she let on.

Telling a fake

All of this leads us to the next question: How does one tell a fake?

“There’s no fool proof way to spot a fake watch these days,” she admitted. “The counterfeit market is booming and fake watches are becoming increasingly hard to spot. The only real way is to put it through an authentication service, although there are some instant giveaways, the weight for instance,” she explained.

“I handle watches every day so I know if a particular model of a particular brand doesn’t feel as heavy as it should. I also listen to the mechanisms and investigate each component, some people might have real watches but the screws are fake. Even the smallest of components can go for a huge amount,” she cautioned.