An affinity for timeless watch design and pieces with a strong narrative led watch connoisseur, Osman Bhurgri, to launch Vintage Watch Dubai. Long an avid watch collector of rare workhorse timepieces that he restores and rebuilds, Osman recently launched a small collection for sale through Dubai’s independent concept stores, such as Akin Barber & Shop. His pieces have seen battle and the depths of the arctic seas.
“It’s the story they tell. The collecting of vintage watches are a compelling hobby for men as they are 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 these eras. Back then having an accurate timepiece was an essential part of everyday living. The wonderful character that a lot of these watches portray from pumpkin-colored-patina to faded “wabi’d” lume also draw attention. You just don’t see the same intricacy of detail, artisanal techniques and colours used in modern watches today.”
Osman’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 Troubles’ in the 1980s.
Vintage Watch Dubai started as social media fun but strong interest saw Osman launch the brand with watches for sale, with new 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,” he 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 secured at a Ministry of Defence auction that held a variety of watches 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. Osman ’s first range, which is sold through the likes of curated store, Akin Barber & Shop, have been a hit. He says the Cabot Watch Company watches 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.”
All photography Sandra Tinari, Made Journal