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What’s New In Luxury In The Middle East? Casino, Cocktails, Christie’s

Welcome to Pursuits Middle East, a biweekly column that takes you inside the fast-growing luxury lifestyle market in the region.

This 1953 Patek Philippe 18K gold chronograph is estimated to sell for $200,000 to $300,000 at the Christie’s watch auction in Dubai that ends May 4.
This 1953 Patek Philippe 18K gold chronograph is estimated to sell for $200,000 to $300,000 at the Christie’s watch auction in Dubai that ends May 4.

The semiannual watch auction at Christie’s in Dubai is underway, and timepieces have already gotten bids as high as $800,000 with several days left until the online sale wraps on May 4.

The total low estimate for the 136 lots is $9.4 million. The most valuable of the bunch is a Richard Mille timepiece, the RM-69 Erotic Toubillon, which has a high estimate of $1.2 million and displays suggestive messages, as seen when the same model watch was worn by Drake. 

This Patek Philippe offers two complications in one: a chronograph and a perpetual calendar, for a high estimate of $440,000.Photographer: Lisa Fleisher/Bloomberg
This Patek Philippe offers two complications in one: a chronograph and a perpetual calendar, for a high estimate of $440,000.Photographer: Lisa Fleisher/Bloomberg

During a preview Tuesday at the auction house’s showroom in the Dubai International Financial Center, I was lucky enough to try on a few: a 1953 Patek Philippe 18K gold chronograph, with an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000; a Rolex Day-Date ref. 1803 gold automatic wristwatch with an Arabic-language calendar, estimated at $20,000 to $40,000; and a Patek Philippe platinum perpetual calendar chronograph once owned by the boxer Mike Tyson, estimated at $240,000 to $440,000.

Remy Julia, the head of watches in Dubai for Christie’s, reflected a bit on how the Middle East watch business has changed since he arrived about a decade ago: People who live in the Gulf used to favor more bling and newer watches, but they have developed an appreciation for older timepieces. And local customers more frequently sell pieces from their collection; when he arrived, only 10% of the watches at auctions were sourced from the region, and now it’s a “healthy mix.”

But these auctions are global events, and there’s only slightly more Gulf area participants in the Dubai auction than others in Asia, Europe and the US, he said.

Read more: Even Emirati Royals Can’t Always Buy Ultra-Hot Rolexes in Dubai

The Next Big Hotel Opening in the UAE: The $3.9 Billion Wynn

The public got its first look this week at the Wynn project in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates of the UAE and about a 1½-hour drive north of Dubai. The Las Vegas-based casino company revealed the first images for the project and at the same time dropped a bombshell price tag: $3.9 billion, or about three times what the Atlantis the Royal hotel reportedly cost. The Wynn hotel plans on having 1,500 rooms.

There’s been no definitive sign that the government will allow gambling, but that’s what Wynn is banking on. There are casinos in Muslim-majority countries such as Malaysia and Lebanon but none in the UAE.

Wynn Resorts Chief Financial Officer Julie Cameron-Doe said to expect gaming revenues taxed at a “reasonable” low double-digit rate, according to Hotelier Middle East. “UAE’s annual gaming revenue could be as high as $6.6 billion, if its receipts reach 1.6% of GDP, like in Singapore. which caters to high-end clients,” Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Angela Hanlee and Rebecca Ziye Wang wrote, “A casino-related tourism industry could emerge as an important driver of UAE’s economy as the country tries to reduce its heavy reliance on oil.”

Read more: What It’s Like to Stay at Dubai’s $1.2 Billion Ultraluxury Hotel

Stars and Now Toques for Dubai Restaurants

There’s another batch of awards out for Dubai restaurants. This time, it’s the second annual local edition of the Gault&Millau guide, which gives restaurants not stars but toques—one to four, on a point-based system. Two restaurants got four toques in the awards gala Thursday night: Al Muntaha at the Burj Al Arab and Ossiano at the Atlantis. The Gault&Millau UAE event was held at the Burj Al Arab and open only to 200 industry insiders.

The restaurants are rated by more than 10 anonymous “investigators” who aren’t in the industry and aren’t journalists—except for the lead investigator, Paul Clifford, an editor at ITP Media Group, which publishes the guide in the region.

“I spent 10 days in France being trained by the G&M France lead investigator, eating, tasting etc.,” he said in an email to me. The other investigators undergo similar training, book reservations under assumed names, pay for their meals and are reimbursed by the guide. A full list of toque-worthy restaurants is here.

Takahisa at Caesars Palace got two toques, the same as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Atlantis the Royal and STAY by Yannick Alléno, which has two Michelin stars. Here’s part of Takahisa’s omakase I had in December.Photographer: Lisa Fleisher/Bloomberg
Takahisa at Caesars Palace got two toques, the same as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Atlantis the Royal and STAY by Yannick Alléno, which has two Michelin stars. Here’s part of Takahisa’s omakase I had in December.Photographer: Lisa Fleisher/Bloomberg

Gault&Millau joins Michelin, 50 Best, Time Out and other local awards. These lists can be great if you live here, because you have the time to try a bunch of restaurants over the course of a year.

But if you’re just visiting Dubai, my advice is to pick a restaurant that, first, fits into your itinerary. Then figure out which cuisine you’re in the mood for and check out the chef’s Instagram page to get an idea of the vibe.

How do you pick restaurants when you go places? Are friends’ recommendations the way to go? Are these lists helpful? Let me know—DMs are open. Michelin, by the way, returns to Dubai on May 23. The gala event will be at the Atlantis the Royal, minus Beyoncé.

Arrivederci, Dario!

He’s only been in the UAE since 2020, but Dario Schiavoni and his mustache have become instantly iconic in Dubai’s cocktail scene. This week, the bar director poured his final drinks at the Bulgari Bar—which made the World’s 50 Best Bars list last year—before heading to the Edition’s upcoming hotel in Singapore.

Dario posed with me as I donned a chocolate mustache that garnishes his signature drink, the Mustacchioni: tequila reposado, Campari, tawny port and Mancino Chinato.Photographer: Lisa Fleisher/Bloomberg
Dario posed with me as I donned a chocolate mustache that garnishes his signature drink, the Mustacchioni: tequila reposado, Campari, tawny port and Mancino Chinato.Photographer: Lisa Fleisher/Bloomberg

Schiavoni says it will be interesting to shift to a country with a more built-in drinking scene. Singapore’s hotel lobbies are prime places to have cocktails, unlike the lobbies in the UAE, where people prefer to lounge with tea or coffee. The Edition, expected to open this fall, will have at least five restaurants and bars.

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More Luxury News From the Middle East

  • The Five hotels brand is starting a record label (Time Out Dubai)
  • The Maine, a favorite oyster bar and restaurant in Dubai, will open in Ibiza (What’s On)
  • Saudi Arabia is building more hotels than the UAE for the first time (Hotelier)
  • Part of the ancient Unesco Hegra site in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, will become a Chedi hotel (Hotelier)

(Republishes story that appeared on Bloomberg terminal for use on web sites.)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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