The year is winding up to its inevitable conclusion.
As is the custom, it’s time to reflect on the highlights of the past year, and shift our eyes to the year ahead. It has been an exciting year for us, and one of the busiest in my memory. Big things are happening for watches, modern and vintage, and for Momentum too — both locally here in the Middle East, and abroad.
2017 kicked off in a big way with our trip to Miami to attend the years’ first international trade show in the US. They say that “everything is bigger in the States,” and Miami was no exception. The International Watch and Jewelry Guild (IWJG) is the world’s most active central exchange for trading fine vintage, collectible timepieces and we came back with some great finds to kick off the year. There wasn’t much time to enjoy the Miami lifestyle, for there was important business to attend to back in Dubai: The opening of our second outlet at Robinsons Festival City end of March 2017.
Most of those who know Momentum are familiar with the original boutique at DIFC. Time had come to expand, and our sights were set on the arrival of Robinson’s department store, where we found the perfect home between an exclusive selection of international men’s lifestyle brands — and so there was much work to be done.
Every detail had to be perfect, and rather than produce a smaller version or a carbon-copy of our flagship store, we wanted something new, something light and elegant, and something unique.
While this was taking up most of my time, business went on as usual. As they say, time waits for no man — and the watchmaking world never stands still.
At about the same time Momentum was invited as the first dealer in the Middle East on the exclusive Rolex Passion Market — a name that most vintage Rolex fans know well. Those that know me also know that I have a soft spot for Rolex and I am extremely proud of this achievement. RPM membership requires that a dealer maintains a stellar reputation in the international vintage Rolex community, and keeps a large assortment of relevant stock. Momentum was the perfect fit.
The next highlight for us this year was not from Rolex, however, but from Omega: The original and most famous Omega chronograph, theSpeedmaster reference CK2915–1 was launched in 1957 — so this year marked the 60th Anniversary, as many of you will know.
The 2017 Speedmaster is virtually identical to the original in terms of styling, size and finishing. The most notable change is that the original caliber 321 movement was upgraded to the modern chronograph caliber 1861. Everyone at BaselWorld was talking about the new legend in stainless steel.
The ‘Speedy’ is, of course, only one part of a trilogy, together with the Seamaster 300, and the Railmaster. For those enthusiasts who were not content with owning just one of these classic watches, Omega created a very special Trilogy set, limited to just 557 pieces. Beautifully presented within a specially-engraved Swiss oak box, all three watches were engraved with identical Limited Edition numbers. Interestingly, the result was a massive surge in interest for the vintage models — which of course is Momentum’s home territory.
In contrast to the new Speedy, not many people knew that
Winston Churchill’s Gold Lemania Chrono was auctioned at Sotheby’s.
It’s a unique piece, because the entire watch, from the case to the hands to the hour markers is made of gold, and even the dial is gilt. Sotheby’s advertised that the watch is a symbol of Churchill’s “vision of peace and unity in Europe.” The otherwise unremarkable watch, though with such a superb provenance, eventually sold for a remarkable 162,500 GBP.
Speaking of auctions — No annual review would be complete without mentioning the Geneva watch auctions in May?– and as it happens every year, Momentum was present at the auction rooms, in the midst of all the drama. As usual, Rolex and Patek Philippe took center stage.
The “Bảo Đại”
The Rolex ref. 6062 with a black dial and diamond indexes, originally belonged to Bảo Đại, the last emperor of Vietnam, of the Nguyễn Dynasty. After an eight minute bidding war, Aurel Bacs was delighted to see it climb to a staggering $5,060,427, making it the most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction.
While the Bảo Đại set the record, this watch provided all the drama.
The 18-karat gold Patek Philippe reference 2497 with black gilt dial originally belonged to Emperor Haile Selassie. It was supposed to go on auction in November 2016 at Christie’s but was pulled at the last minute. The controversy involved a “dispute of title.” What followed was a tense bidding war among three decorated veterans of the watch collecting world. In the end the watch went home with Davide Parmegiani, one of the most important vintage watch dealers in the world.
It was an interesting year at the auctions all around. We saw a Cartier Tank that once belonged to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sell for a very good price, and later found out that the buyer was none other than Kim Kardashian. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona sold for a record $17.8-million at the Phillips Bacs & Russo Auction in New York. Bukowski’s auction house in Stockholm, Sweden, sold an Omega Speedmaster CK 2915–1 for $275,508, setting a new Speedy record, while an extremely rare Omega Tourbillon sold for $1.4 million.
Momentum was fortunate enough to be able to make a few good investments too, the most notable probably being the unique Ahmed Seddiqi and Sons GMT from 1978. It’s a rare and striking piece — and best of all, of course, it’s vintage Rolex.
The watch industry itself is also in a constant state of flux. This year the most notable change was when Georges Kern became the new CEO of Breitling, and Breitling itself was bought out by CVC Capital Partners. We also saw major changes in the online luxury watch arena. The most well-known online watch portal, Hodinkee, launched their new magazine, and also became the official retailer for certain brands. That single change might have the biggest impact on the industry overall.
Meanwhile, back at Momentum, 2017 was never going to be an idle year. By the time Ramadan rolled around, we launched the Wissam Shawkat Ramadan Campaign — watches and art, two things which will always go together — after all, life isn’t only about watches. Wissam, a local calligraphy artist, has been a friend for years and we need to remember that people are of the highest value — or it would be a cold, heartless world indeed.
I’m honored to say that all our hard work did not go completely unnoticed. We were graciously recognized at the 2017 Gulf Capital SME Awards, and we were also featured in Forbes Middle East this year. It’s encouraging to see our sphere of influence grow, and we hope to see it accelerate into the new year.
As 2017 drew to a close, the pace didn’t slow down at all — if anything it has been like a sprint to the finish line.
During November, just after the Geneva Auction Marathon Momentum played an integral part in one of the most exciting watchmaking developments in the region — the Dubai Watch Week. Each year the even grows in size and complexity, and there seems to be no shortage of interest. Our session on vintage watches was a huge success and people followed us from all over the world. We are already look forward to the next edition.
During December our activities reached a crescendo as we headed to Yas Marina for the Gulf Historic (in other words vintage) Formula 1 Race in Abu Dhabi to support our friends from GP Extreme. Along with those memorable old racing cars, we showcased some of the most important racing watches in history — and we were track-side as an official partner, you will see us at the race track again next year. That means there was no way the year could end quietly — and I suppose it’s the perfect way to end such a busy period.
All-in-all the year has been a memorable one. As most of us take some time off, and spend a little time with family and loved-ones, it’s time to start thinking about what 2018 has in store for us all.
We at Momentum wish you every success, and a blessed Festive Season.