Places make us.
We are the first vintage watch dealer in the UAE. When we opened our store in Dubai in
2011, the global vintage watch market was still quite young, and few here were familiar with what we did. But word of mouth moves fast, and it didn’t take long before things started to happen for us.
Soon enough, people were coming to the store to see our watches and show off their own collections. Many of their watches had belonged to a father or grandfather, their value largely
sentimental. But now there was a growing audience for vintage watches, and Momentum gave owners a stage.
We became an open museum of sorts; along with our own inventory, local collectors acted
as our curators. And from this passionate core a community of enthusiasts emerged. People
came to appreciate our watches, but they stayed to hear the stories each watch told. And
although these stories were tied to individuals, in sharing them we were enriching our
common history. We were adding new shades of meaning to the nation’s past by highlighting
the many people who helped create it.
Moments shape us.
The most beautiful watch I have ever seen was a 1971 Rolex GMT Master, with the symbol
of the UAE Ministry of Defence on the dial. It was a gift from a young Sheikh Mohammed bin
Rashid to one of Dubai’s local merchants. This merchant’s son brought the watch to our
store around seven years ago to have it serviced. It was four decades old by that point, yet
perfect in every way. After our initial meeting, I said that I’d be willing to buy the watch if he
ever considered selling. We said our goodbyes and that was that, for the moment.
Three years later he took me up on my offer. It was our largest transaction to date, and I
needed time to arrange the funds. He was more than understanding and offered to leave the
watch with me while I figured things out. He took no receipt and made no requests; instead
he chose to simply trust me. His actions made clear that he wasn’t assessing me as
Momentum’s managing partner, but as a member of his community. That sentiment raised
the stakes for me personally, because I was being trusted with what was both a prized family
heirloom and national treasure.
As it turned out, it was the watch that raised Momentum’s status in the global watch
community. It caught the attention of top dealers in watch fairs in New York, Munich and
Geneva, and helped put Momentum on the map.
So it was that within a few weeks of embracing Dubai as my community, I earned global
recognition from another. The watch itself came and went, but it changed my life’s trajectory
for the better.
Memories define us.
One afternoon, I received a short message from a long-standing client. The message said
nothing more than, ‘I need your help, Tariq’. Sensing that the message was the end of her
story, I asked for a beginning and middle.
It begins three decades ago, with her father and elder sister. This sister was to be married,
but her father didn’t have the money to pay for her wedding. So he sold one of his most
beloved possessions, his watch, to pay for it. His daughter’s marriage came to be, and
shortly thereafter the father’s fortunes turned. He and his family have prospered since, and
today they are one of the most respected families in the city. But the story of his watch
ended that day, and his daughters, now incredibly successful in their own right, asked me to
help write a new chapter for him.
The two sisters described the watch from memory as best they could. It wasn’t much, but it
was enough to guide me. After a month of searching, I found it, and a few weeks later the
sisters had it in their hands, just in time for their father’s birthday.
Not long after that, I received a letter from the sisters. It was four pages long, a meandering
thank you note covering all the reasons why this watch meant something to their father and
It was incredibly touching, and it reminded me that our work in the UAE is about so much
more than keeping time. Through vintage watches we are able to chart the histories of the
women and men who owned them. Each watch is a record of a life lived, of a person’s
successes and tribulations, of the impact they had on our world. Our job is to ensure those
lives are not forgotten.
Time reveals all.
Each of us has a role to play in this nation, and that role is shaped by our relationship with
time. There are those who tie themselves to the here and now, who work hard so that we
can live out each day in comfort and peace. Then there are those who commit themselves to
the future, and spend their lives dreaming up new paths for the rest of us. Finally, there are
people like me, who trust in the present, believe in the future, yet devote their life to making
sure that the past is not lost to the passing of time.
The celebrations around the Year of the 50th show us that the past, present, and future
depend on each other entirely. And in embracing all that has been, all that is, and all that will
be, there is no limit to what we can achieve together.
Tariq Malik is the co-Founder and Managing Partner of Momentum, a vintage watch
specialist based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).