An evening of Haute Horology with Al Manara International Jewellery

On December 7 Abu Dhabi luxury watch retailer Al Manara International Jewellery invited Horology Middle East, and other regional bloggers for an evening of ‘exceptional timepieces’. The location was the Al Hosen Suite at the St. Regis – Corniche, Abu Dhabi, and boy was it a night to remember.

How’s this for an attention-getter? Two exceptional Milles, a taste of things to come.

Before we talk you through the evening, we reckon we should acquaint you with our gracious host, Al Manara International Jewellery. Al Manara was founded in 1973, and has since established itself as the premier retailer of luxury watches and jewellery in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. The company was acquired in 2012 in a joint venture between the Middle East’s largest watch retailer Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, and the Hasan Abdullah Mohammed Group (HAMG Group).

Today the retailer has more than 14 stores across the Emirates that it serves, and represents several brands including A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet, Bovet 1822, Breitling, Bvlgari, De Bethune, H. Moser & Cie, MB&F, Richard Mille, Tag Heuer and others. For the full list of brands click here. With that out of the way, it’s time to talk you through the evening.

It isn’t packed to the brim but there’s plenty of haute horology on display.

Since we’re environmentally friendly (also lazy), we hitched a ride down to Abu Dhabi with members of the Dubai Watch Club (thanks Adel). We always have interesting conversations about watches with the guys from the Dubai Watch Club, so before we knew it we were at the door of the suite, rubbing our hands in anticipation.

The suite was massive and well appointed, and in the main lounge area we spotted a case filled with watches that made our vision go all wonky (we weren’t tearing up, honest!). The case wasn’t filled to capacity as the other guests had already taken out watches to shoot for their Instagram accounts etc., but even then, the remaining watches got us thinking about grabbing the case and legging it back to Dubai… for macro photographs of course. (WHAT? We’d bring the case back in a few days damn it!)

MB&F or Romain Jerome?

Sitting inside the case was a great selection of old (but still awesome) and new, and with the exception of a few pieces, what we saw could easily be described as exceptional. We spent some time talking to our hosts (thanks especially to Alex for the invite) and some of the other guests, and were then summoned to sit down for an exquisite dinner. The starters and main course were spectacular but it was the dessert that blew our minds, and tickled our horological senses.

You see, depending on where you were sitting at the dinner table and the watch that sat in front of you, Al Manara had arranged for a customised dessert. We sat down with the limited edition (250 pieces) 2016 Heuer 02 Black Phantom Titanium, and were served a couple of wonderful chocobar icecreams, and what looked like (we were already stuffed and couldn’t eat anymore) an Oreo with the face of the Heuer 02 on it. It was epic.

Dessert was delicious but our camera was more interested in the Heuer 02 Black Phantom ;).

As for the 45mm Black Phantom Titanium (based on the standard Calibre Heuer 02 T), we reckon Tag Heuer has done a great job with this timepiece. It’s seriously masculine and has oodles of wrist presence, it has a nice symmetrical dial, and you get a chronograph and tourbillon complications for about US $22,000. Sure it’s more expensive than the standard Heuer 02 T (approximately US 16,000) but it’s still excellent value for money (it also has a 65-hour power reserve), and we seriously hope we’re able to procure one for a long term review in the near future (hint, hint Tag Heuer ;)).

Once we finished dinner we got down to business with some of the other incredible timepieces that Al Manara had brought to the event. The next watch we fondled strapped to our wrist was the ridiculous Richard Mille (RM) RM36-01 G-Sensor Tourbillon Sebastien Loeb that was introduced at SIHH 2014.

Come to daddy you gorgeous thing!

RM only produced 30 of these incredible timepieces and the party piece is a mechanical G-Force sensor. The watch can measure up to 6G, which is said to be the maximum that a Formula 1 car can generate, and for this watch, Richard Mille actually redesigned the way you use the G-sensor.

When it was first introduced the reset button for the sensor sat on the case at the nine o’clock position but on this piece, it sits dead centre of the dial, and protrudes outwards from the sapphire crystal. The sensor can now also be manually rotated to line-up with the direction of your movement, and all this can be done by turning the handsome brown ceramic bezel. The idea behind this is that you can now accurately measure movements when you’re in your super car and you’re cornering and/or braking. We doubt anyone will actually use this complication but it’s cool as all hell.

The RM36-01 seriously elevated our wrist game and judging by all the comments we were getting on our Instagram stories (@HorologyME), it’s popularity is universal.

Measuring 47.7mm in diameter this is a chunky watch that probably looked silly on our 7.2-inch wrists. However, this watch has so much character and swagger that we fell completely in love with it – in fact after just five minutes we had convinced ourselves that we looked good wearing it. Just as we were about to yell ‘bill please’, we got an uppercut of reality when the price tag came into view…. It costs an arm, a leg and an eye or about $610,000. Moving on swiftly…

We next turned our gaze on a 2016 novelty, the Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon (GDMT). We fell in love with this watch when we saw pictures of it earlier in the year, and boy does it deliver in the metal. The watch charmed the pants off us (figuratively speaking) with its nautical inspired looks, and the dial – in case you’re wondering – is the result of hand-crafted marquetry, and creates the style of teak wood that you’d find on the bridge of a ship.

We can’t tell you how happy we were to see the Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon.

The rest of the dial is just as impressive – you have an oversized jumping hour aperture below the 12 o’clock position (it can be quick set by hitting a pusher above the crown), and a retrograde minute hand. The ‘minute hand’ resembles the boom of a ship, and it is guided along the bluish horizontal minute track by a series of boat-style pulleys and small wires (the latter are said to be less than 0.05mm thick).

The dial is incredibly legible, it’s symmetrical and balanced, and although the GDMT as a whole is quite ‘out there’, it’s far from ostentatious. Hell, it’s downright beautiful in our opinion. The problem is it’s limited to just 18-pieces worldwide, and we reckon the piece that Al Manara has will be sold long before we save up $287,000. Damn it…

The ultimate yacht owner’s watch? We certainly think so.

After we handed the Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon to another guest, we turned our attention to a brand that will always be close to our heart – MB&F. On the evening Al Manara had seen fit to bring along a platinum Legacy Machine 1 with that oh-so-sexy blue dial, and a Horological Machine 3 (HM3) MegaWind. Both are distinctive and tempting timepieces, both have tons of character but whenever we start dreaming about buying our first MB&F (when we win the lottery or finally pull one over on those bloody Wall Street institutions), we always find ourselves coming back to the Horological Machines (HMs).

The HMs are the timepieces that put MB&F on the radar for so many collectors, and with good reason – they are unlike anything else on the market, and continue to push boundaries in terms of design and engineering. The great thing is that no matter which HM you have or are considering, you get the full MB&F experience – a brand whose signature is that it doesn’t have any DNA, which allows Founder and Creative Director Maximilian Büsser to create varied and wonderful three dimensional art that gives time.

Wind me up Scotty ;).

The HM3 MegaWind is based on the original HM3, and its calling card is the gigantic titanium and gold battle-axe winding rotor. A portion of the rotor can be seen on the top of the watch, and it spins so fluidly that you begin to wonder if MB&F has crammed a perpetual motion engine into the case. The watch on the whole is recognisable from miles away, and while the avant-garde looks can be polarising, we absolutely love the thing.

Underneath the distinctive case sits a horological engine designed by highly respected movement specialist Jean-Marc Wiederrecht/Agenhor (the company he and his wife own). The movement, in this timepiece, actually sits upside down in the case, which is why you’re able to see that glorious rotor on the ‘dial’. The regulator is also on the dial side, and to ensure that power is transmitted efficiently to the revolving hour and minute cones, MB&F deployed two large ceramic bearings.

Perhaps this is what it means to see a watch ‘in the wild’? You can see that massive rotor and a portion of the balance wheel.

It all works brilliantly and watching the HM3 MegaWind on your wrist is like watching a living machine going about its business. It’s incredible and of the three MegaWind editions that MB&F created, this one with its white-gold and titanium case is the one we fancy the most. The cost of this piece? A cool US $90,000 and yeah, you’ll find us justifying the spend all day long.

Unfortunately time really does fly when you’re having fun, and as the night began drawing to a close we decided to take up speed-dating for watches – handle and photograph as many as we could. Well, that was the plan anyway, but since someone had the idea of doing the mannequin challenge, and after a subtle hint that we’d be left behind in Abu Dhabi if we didn’t participate (thanks again Adel..), we did as we were told ;). If you want to see that video (we’ll admit it was fun), check it out on our Facebook page by clicking here. Please give our Facebook page a ‘Like’ while you’re at it.

Mannequin challenge discussions.

Below you’ll find a gallery of images that we grabbed on the night, and we really recommend that you click through because there are some serious watches in there.

If you’re interested in any of the watches that you’ve seen or read about in this article, get in touch with Al Manara International Jewellery on +971 2 627 2222 or via their Instagram account (click here). We’d recommend the latter because their account is very active and knowledgeable.

To learn more about Al Manara International Jewellery, click here.

Horology Middle East would like to say a big thank you to Alex Rose of Al Manara for the invite. He and his team put together an epic event, and gave all the guests unbridled access to some serious horology.

Howdy! Want to discuss something? Leave us a comment.