Hassan Akhras: The Watch Collector you should know
Horology blogger and social media star Hassan Akhras talks to City Times about the world of timepieces in Dubai, his plans for Ironman 2018 and looking beyond the face of a watch to know its worth
This might sound a bit shocking to most of you but. watches aren't just for telling time. These days when it's easier to pull out your phone and look at the digital numbers flashing across the screen, one has to wonder, why bother even buying a watch? Let alone a designer watch?
"Collectors don't buy watches to tell time. Watches are a continuation of our look as men," Hassan Akhras told City Times.
It might seem like an odd statement to many but coming from Hassan it doesn't only makes sense but warrants our full attention. Hassan commands a social media following of over 80,000 followers on his Instagram account Arab Watch Guide and has a YouTube channel which receives 20,000 - 30,000 views per video. Pretty impressive.
Hassan uses these platforms not only to display the interesting collection of timepieces he's collected over the years but also to educate people on the history of horology, brands and time keeping.
The history of time and time keeping is in fact the history of people and societies. There is no way we as a culture would have ever arrived to the technological prowess we pride ourselves with, where time telling is taken for granted at the bottom of our computer screens or on our phones, if it wasn't for those early brands who created the first means for us to record time. Hassan reminds us of this through his passion for horology.
City Times spoke to Hassan about why he started his collection, the importance of watches and his plans to run for IRONMAN in 2018.
When did your interest in watches begin?
I have always been interested in watches, since I was 6 years old. I started by buying Casio, G shock watches at school and since then never stopped collecting, reading and educating myself about that fascinating world. I started my "serious" collection 10 years ago with my first Breitling Chronomat that was my dream watch when I was at university but couldn't yet afford it. I had to wait to get my first paycheck and reward myself with that Breitling. Ever since, the collection started growing and my taste also started changing with time.
Why did you decide to start your Instagram account?
I started my Instagram page three years ago based on an advice given to me by a friend who told me " you have to open a page where you can connect with likeminded collectors in the region and share your passion." So, I decided to do it and share my knowledge and passion hoping I'd meet some interesting people along the way. I was beyond happy when it connected me to my current best friends and even made it possible for me to create my own AWG Club across the GCC countries where many of my followers/friends/collectors are connected together through it sharing their passion and love for watches. I made sure to name it ArabWatchGuide. I wanted to be the first Arab in the region to open such a page and to showcase the world that we are also collectors and knowledgeable about that domain despite what the image is across the different continents.
Why do you think people are purchasing watches when most people depend on their phone to tell them the time?
Collectors don't buy watches to tell time. Watches are a continuation of our look as men. Most of the collectors purchase high end watches or even daily watches for their admiration to the master craftsmanship involved in creating that mechanical piece. The hours spent in decorating every component, the R&D involved in improving the precision of time keeping, the innovation in the materials used to build the components and the casing of the watches, the complications in the movements that provide smart information to its users such as Perpetual calendars, equation of time, celestial charts... all the little details involved in the watchmaking are not just about telling time but how you are telling it and to what level of perfection you are aiming to deliver it.
How would you describe Dubai's horology scene?
There are a lot of huge collectors in the Dubai whether they show it on social media or not. It's a growing community and I can see that the new generation is now becoming more aware and knowledgeable about the subject and is very keen and curious on learning more with the help of easy access to information through Instagram or other channels.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to buy his first high end timepiece?
It is definitely overwhelming these days as there are so many brands and many of them are very good. First decide what you want to use the watch for? Is it a dressy watch? A sporty watch? A high complication watch or a simple hours and minutes? Think about the material of the case that suits your lifestyle the most: do you like steel, gold, platinum or prefer some of the new material coming up? Also beware of any allergies on your skin from some of those. Of course, budget is a key point to think about - how high are you willing to go and what limitations do you have. Finally, choose a brand that you feel emotional about or means something to you - whether because you admire their history/heritage or some sentimental element that is personal to you. I think my main advise, is don't just follow what the people tell you is "hot" today and purchase it for that reason only without getting a personal connection with the watch. Buy the watch you love.
Are you also interested in the history of horology?
I am very interested in everything that has a link to the horology world - from the past to the present - I always ask brands to arrange factory visits for me to learn more about their knowhow and how it evolved from their past. One of the most fascinating facts about the horology world is that until today , most of the hight end brands do all there finishing and assembly by hand. Whether using the latest technologies or not, the personal craftsmanship is essential and is still valued till today. The human element and their precision at work is the most fascinating aspect of horology.
Tell us about your collaboration with TAG Heuer?
Over the year of 2017, I will be partnering up with Tag Heuer as their friend of the brand supporting my journey to IRONMAN 2018. We'll be working together covering my trainings and preparations for IRONMAN as well as my different participations of Triathlons leading to the big day. It's a great honor to have them believing in the potential and the messages of this project. It's a journey that we are going to take together to showcase motivation, inspiration and optimism to our generation following my progress.
You're also well known for your style. What are the style tips that you think most men should follow?
I would say it is always good to look different, so don't be afraid to stand out from the crowd whether you wear different colors or you have an eccentric style. It doesn't matter as long as it portrays your own style. I personally like to mix different styles and color combinations with the shirt, jacket and pocket squares. Accessories are very important and also add a very nice touch and style that could make a whole difference. Also, pick the right shoes for the right ensemble.
How would you describe Dubai's horology scene? Is it growing?
There are a lot of huge collectors in the Dubai whether they show it on social media or not. It is a growing community and I can see that the new generation is now becoming more aware and knowledgeable about the subject and is very keen and curious on learning more with the help of easy access to information through Instagram or other channels.
What hobbies do you have outside of horology?
I am huge sports fan - I like Tennis, fencing, mountain climbing and soccer. I also love traveling a lot and discovering new countries and cultures. I love music and dancing of all kind although i was never able to keep up with any dancing lessons such as Salsa and Batchata.
We know you are also involved with Charity work. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
The first time I got involved in charity work that I lead myself was 2 years ago when I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and I raised over 15,000 usd for Syrian Refugees through UNICEF. Since then, I decided that I would love to give back more to my community and help as much as I could whenever I can leverage Arabwatchguide social influence to raise awareness and push people to donate to a specific cause, For this project, I will a set up a permanent link for donations open all throughout 2017 and also on separate activations during the year, I will work with Tag and other partners to come up with innovative ideas to raise funds and help out as much as possible.