Judge not a man by the expense of his timepiece



I have uncloaked a secret society in my office. The members recognise each other by a sign on their wrist. The giveaway is generally round, and often quite large. As far as I can tell it is an exclusively male group, although there are rumours that a few women are tempted to join. This band of brothers swaps strange words such as "Panerai" and "Omega" or even initials such as "IWC". They are not talking Greek, nor in code. But those co-workers who I thought were spending hours peering at their computer screens in search of enlightenment or checking for infelicities in my copy, are in fact looking at websites devoted to collecting timepieces.

My colleagues would have been horrified to observe, as I did one evening in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier, two Englishmen playing conkers with their Rolexes. The loser was the one whose watch fell apart first. Absurd? Of course, but so perhaps is buying something that tells you something you can get for free - and which you risk leaving behind in the gym. Most of the watches drooled over vicariously in the office cost upwards of US$5,000 (DH18,365) and that's just the entry level. One beauty, a 1933 gold Patek Philippe sold at Sotheby's in 1999 for $11 million, although I am not sure that even the salary of the chief sub editor stretches to that.

I rely on an old Longines that would probably not impress the watch aficionados, but it was my grandfather's, so for me it is priceless. Watchmakers must be worried now that more people will rely on their grandparents' hand-me-downs: if any industry is under threat, watchmaking must be at the front of the queue. I met a lawyer the other day, who told me she switched career when she was made redundant from a luxury goods firm in the recession in the early 1990s. Imagine being so scarred that you resolve to become a lawyer for the rest of your life!

The past 10 years have been good to watchmakers. As people grew richer, their tastes became more eclectic. There have been experiments with different shapes, round, rectangular, even triangular; both watches and bracelet covered in platinum or diamonds; and new technology, best typified by Hublot's giant watch "Big Bang", the Breitling "Bentley Flying B", or anything by Franck Muller. What future now for these garish beauties?

My guess is that those that can afford them will continue to flaunt them, although the style is likely to be more sombre. The Panerai that I covet is so subtle that it does not even carry its name or logo on its face. Gianna Agnelli, the Italian who was head of Fiat for many years, was more exuberant: when travelling he wore two watches, one strapped on each cuff, so that the faces were always visible and he knew what time it was in Turin.

When I was on my way to Jordan a few years ago, I had an hour or so to kill at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, so I browsed the kiosks selling watches. I settled on a simple watch with an extremely large face that cost me about $100. I could not I have made a more popular choice. Wherever I went in Amman everyone was terribly impressed by my watch. It turned out that the King of Jordan had one that was similar. "You must be very rich," they said.

Hardly. It is a mistake to judge a man by his watch. James Bond wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, but he often used them as a pair of knuckledusters when the opportunity arose. A few weeks ago I had the occasion to meet Baron David de Rothschild at his offices in Dubai. A suave man in a neatly cut charcoal suit and a plain tie, he wore an impressive looking watch with a black face. I tried to catch a glimpse of what make of watch it was, but was too embarrassed to ask him.

It was intriguing: what watch would a man whose name is synonymous with riches, dynasty, taste - the French talk of "le gout Rothschild" - a man who, let's face it, can probably afford any kind of watch, wear? A Patek Philippe perhaps? An Omega? I thought I recognised the last letter of the Greek alphabet on his watch, but I was not sure. After the interview, on the drive back to Abu Dhabi, I sent an e-mail to my contact. "Unusual question, I know, but what sort of watch does the baron wear? The editor would like to know."

There was some amusement among the Rothschild staff that I should ask such a question, a delay, and then came the answer: a Swatch. I was tempted to question the response - I felt sure it was an Omega - but in an age where a man's word is as important as his bond, especially in financial circles, I have no choice but to take his word for it. A Swatch. The cheapest Swiss watch you can buy, one that retails for less than $50.

Among all the reasons for the longevity of the most famous name in banking, perhaps this finally is the Rothschild's dirty secret. They know that time is money and don't want to waste it. They don't care what they wear on their wrists, as long as it is accurate and inexpensive. The Rothschilds care nothing for tourbillons, split-second hand oscillators, and minute repeaters: they know life is complicated enough. A lesson for us all, although I doubt if I will be able to wean the watch lovers in the office off their favourite pastime.

rwright@thenational.ae

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Company name: Letstango.com

Started: June 2013

Founder: Alex Tchablakian

Based: Dubai

Industry: e-commerce

Initial investment: Dh10 million

Investors: Self-funded

Total customers: 300,000 unique customers every month

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Author: Mohsin Hamid 

192 pages 

Published by: Hamish Hamilton (UK), Riverhead Books (US)

Release date: out now in the US, August 11 (UK)

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Director: Nayla Al Khaja

Starring: Jefferson Hall, Faten Ahmed, Noura Alabed, Saud Alzarooni

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ICC Awards for 2021+

MEN

Cricketer of the Year+– Shaheen Afridi+(Pakistan)

T20 Cricketer of the Year+– Mohammad Rizwan+(Pakistan)

ODI Cricketer of the Year+– Babar Azam+(Pakistan)

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WOMEN

Cricketer of the Year+– Smriti Mandhana+(India)

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T20 Cricketer of the Year+– Tammy Beaumont+(England)

Essentials

The flights
Emirates flies direct from Dubai to Seattle from Dh6,755 return in economy and Dh24,775 in business class.
The cruise
UnCruise Adventures offers a variety of small-ship cruises in Alaska and around the world. A 14-day Alaska’s Inside Passage and San Juans Cruise from Seattle to Juneau or reverse costs from $4,695 (Dh17,246), including accommodation, food and most activities. Trips in 2019 start in April and run until September. 
 

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October 9, 2022: Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose recovers drugs worth $17.8 million from a dhow in Arabian Sea

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Uefa Champions League final:

Who: Real Madrid v Liverpool
Where: NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine
When: Saturday, May 26, 10.45pm (UAE)
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Types of bank fraud

1) Phishing

Fraudsters send an unsolicited email that appears to be from a financial institution or online retailer. The hoax email requests that you provide sensitive information, often by clicking on to a link leading to a fake website.

2) Smishing

The SMS equivalent of phishing. Fraudsters falsify the telephone number through “text spoofing,” so that it appears to be a genuine text from the bank.

3) Vishing

The telephone equivalent of phishing and smishing. Fraudsters may pose as bank staff, police or government officials. They may persuade the consumer to transfer money or divulge personal information.

4) SIM swap

Fraudsters duplicate the SIM of your mobile number without your knowledge or authorisation, allowing them to conduct financial transactions with your bank.

5) Identity theft

Someone illegally obtains your confidential information, through various ways, such as theft of your wallet, bank and utility bill statements, computer intrusion and social networks.

6) Prize scams

Fraudsters claiming to be authorised representatives from well-known organisations (such as Etisalat, du, Dubai Shopping Festival, Expo2020, Lulu Hypermarket etc) contact victims to tell them they have won a cash prize and request them to share confidential banking details to transfer the prize money.

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Company name: ASI (formerly DigestAI)

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Founders: Quddus Pativada

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Artificial intelligence, education technology

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Investors: GSV Ventures, Character, Mark Cuban

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Transmission: Seven-speed auto

Power: 165hp

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On sale: now

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  • Avoid rush hour – between 9.30 am and 4.30 pm – to explore the artwork at leisure
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Saturday (UAE kick-off times)

Watford v Leicester City (3.30pm)

Brighton v Arsenal (6pm)

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Sunday

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Aston Villa v Chelsea (7.15pm)

Everton v Liverpool (10pm)

Monday

Manchester City v Burnley (11pm)

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