Welcome to the Emirates Man weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businessmen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week, Emirates Man speaks to Nitin Nair, Associate Specialist and local Christie’s watch expert. In addition to his reputation as one of premier specialists within the horology space, Nitin has background in journalism, which includes working as a sports writer at a daily newspaper in Bombay and serving as an editor for a watch magazine. Here, Nitin talks about it all, from how he got his foot in the industry to the pieces to look out for in the ongoing Watches Online: The Dubai Edit.
Running until October 19, 2023, the much-anticipated auction featuring one-of-a-kind timepieces including a bespoke Patek Philippe from 1991 estimated at Dhs3,673,000- 7,346,000 approx. ($1,000,000-2,000,000) and an ensemble of Arabic dial watches and day-date Rolexes.
What was your favourite subject at school?
History. I’ve always been curious about the past and have always had a fascination for all things historical.
What was your first job?
I was lucky to be recruited as a trainee reporter whilst still an undergrad. I was hired to cover technology and the IT sector by a tech news portal run by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp. After my graduation, my first proper gig was a sports writer with a leading English daily newspaper in Bombay.
What eventually brought you to Dubai?
An opportunity of a job with a men’s lifestyle magazine in Dubai. I wrote and commissioned longform stories about all the subjects that I had a keen personal interest in – travel, sport and watches.
What inspired you to enter the watch space?
I’ve always been interested in watches – to me they represent the intersection between art, history, and micro-engineering. Over my 7 year-tenure as an editor of a watch magazine, I had the chance to further learn in depth industry insights, review the latest timepieces, visit watch manufacturers around the world as well as build a platform for collectors and enthusiasts to meet and discuss watches at events. And most importantly for me, to cover the horology auctions – my love for vintage watches frequently lead me to Christie’s Dubai where I often had early access to the myriad of modern and vintage timepieces the team consigned and curated for each sale.
Talk us through the concept of Christie’s Watch Online: The Dubai Edit.
Christie’s Watches Online: The Dubai Edit takes place twice a year. It features a carefully curated selection of some of the most collectible modern and vintage timepieces money can buy today. We source these timepieces through our international network of clients. The team curates close to 150 watches which collectively the watch specialist team know to be relevant and interesting to our audience. We believe that there is something in this selection for everyone – whether it’s a first time collector looking for his/her first vintage timepiece or a seasoned collector hunting for his/her sought after and rare reference within the top Patek Philippe or Rolex’s consigned.
What are the key elements of your role?
As a Horology specialist, I support our existing and new client find a watch that they are looking for and also support curate collections for our clients who are based both in the Middle East and internationally. As part of this process, I often evaluate their existing timepieces and advise them on how to shuffle their collection based on their passion for collecting and their personal tastes. Most collectors tend to start off without a clear focus; as watch specialists we advise as to how to fine-tune their collection as well as how to acquire at auctions or via our private sales (a separate and entirely confidential way to buy and sell at Christie’s as opposed to bidding online at an auction which is a significant part of our business).
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Talk us through your daily routine.
The exciting thing about this job is that each day could bring in something new and exciting. Whether it’s serendipitously finding a watch with historical provenance one day or winning a consignment after months of negotiations. There are days when we could jump on a plane and go meet a complete stranger based on a hunch that something exciting could surface at the end of a meeting. I try and keep up with the industry news, so that’s a constant.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Make every effort to learn and pursue your passion early on. It is essential to understand the intricacies of the fine watchmaking process, the engineering and the products. Be a voracious reader and continue to expand your expert knowledge through the watch brands but also to follow the auction houses and social media to see how collections are built.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Never exploit a knowledge gap you notice in a client.
And what is the worst?
“The client is always right.”
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Changing direction from an established 18-year career in journalism (albeit as a specialist horology editor) to join an international auction house industry where I had an entirely new business to navigate and grow my expertise further was not the easiest career move. However, I love watches and I felt this was an opportunity to learn a completely new set of skills which has proven to be hugely positive. The biggest challenge was convincing myself that I could make this transition and this was a risk worth taking. It is always worth taking a risk.
What are your future goals and plans for your career?
I wish I could say something utterly inspiring here that would get the attention of my boss and Christie’s HR team!
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