Baselworld is the year’s largest watch and jewellery fair – and it’s widely acknowledged as the best. A time for watch manufacturers and store buyers to meet, what would a knowledgeable collector make of the experience? This year Behbehani Luxury, Kuwait’s leading watch dealer, took passionate collector and valued client Dr. Hussain AlTarrah along for the ride. Passions Arabia’s Simon Balsom caught up with him in the exhibition halls.

Firstly, introductions – Dr. Hussain AlTarrah is a passionate and knowledgeable collector; and a man we soon discovered to be as amiable as he is eloquent. As a surgeon at Kuwait’s Amiri Hospital, he’s also well accustomed to making precision and time the cornerstones of his life. 

Shahzad Gidwani is a walking reference for luxury watches. Respected within the business for many years, he counts the world’s leading watchmakers, as well as renowned collectors, as his personal friends. 

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Left: Shahzad Gidwani, General Manager at Morad Yousuf Behbehanl, with Dr. Hussain AlTarrah, watch collector and surgeon

It’s Dr. Hussain’s first visit to Basel. His thoughts? “I came here with no expectations, simply to discover. And what discoveries I made! The only thing I haven’t been able to do is that I wanted to visit every brand to see what they’re doing. It wasn’t possible to do everything I wanted during this short visit – everywhere is so busy!

“I was particularly looking forward to meeting Hublot. I’ve been discussing the possibility of a couple of special watches with Hublot for the past three years, and now they’ve made one that I’ve been asking for – the red ceramic. As soon as I saw it today, I ordered one”.

It truly is a remarkable piece – it is one of our ‘Stars of Baselworld’ – and, although it’s not the first red ceramic to be produced, it surely is the first time it has been created in such a striking way.

It will fit in well amongst Dr. Hussain’s collection – “I go for sporty watches, pieces that are a little different from the rest. I like catchy colours that attract attention. Key brands for me include Hublot and Panerai”.

This year Hublot, along with Omega, have particularly impressed Shahzad. “Hublot amazes every year, and this time Omega have really surprised me with their use of new materials”, he notes.

The 42mm Hublot Big Bang Unico is 2018’s big news, along with a favourite of Shahzad’s – the Big Bang Referee 2018 World Cup Russia (shown below, appropriately accompanied by a matryoshka doll). With only 2018 pieces being made to celebrate the World Cup, he’s been quick to pre-order one for himself – Dr. Hussain ordered one too.

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Shahzad is excited at the proliferation of exotic materials across previously traditional brands – including Omega. “For the first time they’re mixing titanium with gold, they’re trying things we wouldn’t normally expect – but people are tired of seeing the same every year. The reaction to these new developments is very positive”.

The extraordinary Omega Titanium Tantalum Limited Edition is shown below left – the metal’s blue-grey tones offer a subtle contrast to the grade 2 titanium and 18K Sedna™ gold, which are used for the other features of the watch.

Dr. Hussain is keen to stress that, as a collector, he buys his watches to wear rather than to have them sit as museum pieces. Such is the depth of his collection, it is indeed the envy even of the manufactures he buys from.

His advice to collectors is first and foremost to buy what you like, what you want to see on your wrist. He backs this up with sound investment advice too – “Panerai. Omega. You may not make money, but you won’t lose”.

Whichever business you’re in, the nature of retailing has rapidly evolved over recent years. The watch business has changed. Yet Dr. Hussain chooses to add to his collection directly from the Behbehani network of watch boutiques in Kuwait. “I’ll tell you why. They give me the opportunity to buy exactly the watch I want, not merely what they have in stock” – which is typically the only option in greyer markets. “They treat me and their other clients very well. I’m happy to say that I’ve introduced many new customers to them – many of my colleagues at the hospital are now proud owners of Hublots and other watches”. 

To use a couple of medical methaphors – it’s a contagious habit, and Dr. Hussain’s knowledgable enthusiasm is highly infectious. 

As this year’s Baselworld memories begin to fade, Dr. Hussain AlTarrah is already planning to return in 2019. You too?

The Behbehani Group presents a world of luxury with prestigious brands in all the right places: Salhiya Mall; Souk Sharq; Behbehani Complex; The Avenues Mall; 360 Mall; Marina Mall; Al Hamra Luxury Center Kout Mall; Gate Mall