Originally from Dubai, 25-year-old Marya Ali has quickly become one of the most respected watch specialists in London for both men’s and women’s watches — counting Floyd Mayweather as one of her regular clients from all over the world!
Not only has she found a niche at such a young age, but Marya has also managed to claim her space in an industry that is inherently male dominated. Her fascination with watches began when the men in her family back in UAE discussed their latest possessions — it instilled a curiosity that she then capitalised on as a career.
Today, she works at a popular pre-loved designer boutique, Love Luxury in London and can offer exclusive tips on how to secure the most in-demand designer watches (from Rolex to Patek Phillipe). Her advice is key when it comes to selecting which models are best to invest in, what to avoid and how to spot a fake.
In a freewheeling chat with Emirates Woman, the young Emirati watch expert talks to us about her journey so far and what it means to get a seat at the table in the boys club.
At such a young age, how did you derive the expertise to take on clients on a global level?
My first job when I moved to London was with a very respected watch dealer. I was handling the world’s most exclusive, sought-after timepieces daily. I was working with watches that could be worth anything up to half a million pounds. It was there I really learnt my trade, working with the most knowledgeable experts in the business. Being from the UAE I also have the advantage of understanding the Arabic market and how we like to do business, which is an advantage when working with international clients.
What first drove you towards the world of watches?
I’ve always loved watches for as long as I can remember. They were always a talking point amongst the men in my family, growing up in the UAE, whenever we had family gatherings the men would discuss their latest purchases and trade information on the latest launches and what they had their eye on next, it always fascinated me.
As one of the most respected watch specialists in London, could you tell us a little about your journey?
Following my time at the watch dealers I joined the pre-loved designer boutique Love Luxury as their in-house Horologist. Based in Knightsbridge, I work from the store every day. Love Luxury has become synonymous with Rolex and Patek Phillipe, so we get a lot of customers that travel to either sell or buy something they’ve seen on the site. I also have a WhatsApp broadcast of more than 200 collectors all over the world, it’s where I let everyone know the watch I have as soon as it comes in, and they get in touch with me privately if they have something to sell or would like me to source something.
What aspect of your job are you most fascinated by?
Seeing new things and learning every day, no matter how long you’ve been in this industry you will always be learning. It’s so fast-paced; no day is ever the same. The people I meet in the store are fascinating, I have collectors coming from as far as China and the US, and it’s not unusual for them to come directly to see me from the airport, pick up their watch and get straight back on a 10-hour flight! Every watch has a story, and no two deals are ever the same.
As you’re originally from Dubai, what made you move to London and how did it accelerate your professional journey?
I originally came to London for education and then stayed for work. I do really enjoy London, but I miss the UAE and will eventually move back to Abu Dhabi where I was born. Love Luxury is currently in the process of expanding to Dubai so I will be fortunate enough to be able to move back and keep the job that I love.
What’s the one thing to avoid while making a luxury watch investment?
Following a trend. Don’t do anything on a whim either, research is key when it comes to making a sound investment. Be aware of the market if you overpay it’s then not an investment. Finding a reputable dealer that you trust means is also important. Be aware that even the smallest of parts of a watch can be fake, a watch which has been fitted with a fake screw or other mechanism can knock off thousands, so always use a trusted authenticator.
What is your favourite timepiece?
I have a new favourite every week but the piece I’m currently loving is the one I sold yesterday actually, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5990/1r. I like big watches; I also love a watch with a good story and brand history.
What are the different factors that determine the value of classic timepieces?
How exclusive they are, as well as what it comes with, having the original receipt, packaging and card can boost the value of a timepiece. Trends will also determine the price, there’s currently a demand in the market for green and blue dials which increases value.
From an assistant to now a professional watch dealer – a pivotal point in your career that changed everything.
Joining Love Luxury has been a pivotal point. Given the chance to prove myself in a store that has a fantastic reputation has been amazing. Knightsbridge attracts a global market of customers and is synonymous with luxury, so it’s been the perfect place to carve out my career.
While this is a majorly male-dominated industry, how did you manage to make a mark for yourself?
New clients are often surprised when they realize I’m a woman. I’ve initially spoken to clients over WhatsApp who come into the store expecting to meet a man! When new customers come into Love Luxury, they often expect to deal with a man, I can see the look of surprise on their faces when I begin to explain in detail about the watches available. Once people get over the initial surprise, I think they actually prefer speaking to a woman, a man often values a woman’s honest opinion, and I feel they let down their guard too and are able to ask questions which they may not feel comfortable with when dealing with a male dealer as they don’t feel the need to act like they know more than they do. They’re not afraid, to be honest rather than putting on a masculine front that sometimes comes with male competitiveness and bravado.
What’s the first thing one should look for when purchasing a luxury watch?
Decide your budget first and stick to it. Then think about if it’s an investment you want to make or if it’s a personal purchase. Shop around and do your due diligence when it comes to choosing a retailer, check reviews and if you can personally meet them then even better.
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