Time is of the essence.

Position:DETAIL: Luxury Watches - Buyers guide


"The moving finger writes: and having writ, Moves on, nor all thy Piety nor Wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a word of it ..."

Omar Khayyam

The popularity of expensive watches as collectors' items is on the increase in the Middle East as demonstrated by the uptake at the Sotheby's special luxury goods sale in Doha recently, where Middle Eastern buyers accounted for more than 25% of the total watch sales, spending in excess of 160,000 [pounds sterling] on just a few choice items by Audemars Piguet, De Grisogono and Breguet.

The trend towards high-end timepieces was also reflected at the 19th Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie held in Geneva earlier this year, which ended on a note of satisfaction all round for the exhibiting brands; despite visitor numbers being down, the event reported positive sales results. Clearly, the current economic climate has not tarnished the appeal of many luxury items, among them fine watches.

Timepieces are a legacy of the Arab world. The Sumerian civilisation (approx 2000 BC), which grew up around present-day Iraq, introduced the sexagesimal system based on the number 60: 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and so on. It was the Ancient Egyptians who, in around 1500 BC started to measure the passage of time with a sundial system. The most precise time-keeping device of the ancient world was the water clock, or clepsydra, one of which was found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep I (1525-1504 BC). During the era known as the Golden Age of Science, in the 12th century, the Arab scientist Al Jazari wrote his treatise on mechanical instruments in which he gave detailed instructions on time-keeping devices, including improved hydraulic clocks.

These days, fine watches are crafted to combine aesthetic innovation with cutting-edge technical advancement and unique craftsmanship. The ultimate luxury is provided by the jewelled mechanisms and the flamboyantly elegant settings. Without exception, the beauty people perceive in precious stones lies in the art and craft of the jeweller. It is when such skills are blended with the technical ingenuity of the watchmaker that masterpieces are born.

Capturing the zeitgeist is an integral part of new launches: Van Cleef & Arpels have launched a range called "Une journee a Paris", encapsulating the magic of this most romantic of cities. The multipart dial follows the passage of time and...

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