Discreet Luxury

Ainsely Duncombe has earned a reputation as a master of discretion when it comes to buying and selling ultra-luxury properties in Dubai. Is his taste in timepieces similarly secretive?

Ainsely Duncombe has earned a reputation as a master of discretion when it comes to buying and selling ultra-luxury properties in Dubai. Is his taste in timepieces similarly secretive? We find out…

The Founder of Off-Market Listing Dubai is known for closing seemingly ‘impossible’ deals. The epitome of discretion, it’s not easy to find out how Ainsley does what he does, but as we find out in this interview, he is a man who will (quite literally) cross oceans to market his clients’ properties – and always with a great watch on his wrist!

What are your earliest memories surrounding watches?
When my best friend turned 18, his dad gave him a Breitling watch that had been handed down from his father before him. That’s really stuck with me. I’ve always seen watches as more than just something you wear on your wrist to tell the time. The whole experience planted a seed in my mind and I told myself that one day I would invest in a nice watch that I could pass on to my own kids to mark a milestone in their life.

Can you recall your first watch? What was the story behind it?
I remember watching films when I was a teenager and noticing that the successful character always wore a Rolex. So for me, that was the goal from an early age. I’ve always been driven and ambitious when it comes to my career, so when I received my first significant bonus, I used some of it to acquire a Submariner – a model I had been wanting for a while. To this day, it’s a much-loved watch in my collection. Of course it’s a great looking watch, but it’s also a reminder of how far I’ve come since those early days when I was just starting out, so it really means a lot to me.

Your business is super-discreet – is your taste in watches similarly subtle?
When it comes to watches, I’m drawn to interesting, eye-catching pieces that spark a conversation or invite curiosity. At first glance, that seems the total opposite to my business, which is all around guaranteeing the utmost discretion at all times. But the way a great watch can invite curiosity and spark a conversation is very similar to the way I do business. In fact the whole idea for Off Market Listing Dubai was inspired by a chat with friends when I took my daughter for a playdate at their villa. They had just refurbished their property and put it up for sale on one of the online portals but the first people who came to view were their next-door neighbors. They had zero intention of buying and just wanted ideas for their own renovation – the wife turned up with her phone in hand, videoing the entire house! My friend went on to tell me they had taken the property off the market as a result, and that’s what gave me the idea for a business that enabled people to sell their property discreetly. So I suppose you could say there are some similarities between my taste in watches and the way I do business – it’s all about genuine curiosity and a willingness to start up conversations and see where they lead.

Would you call yourself a watch collector? Or are you more of a casual appreciator?
I would say I’m a casual appreciator. I have a lot of respect for the skill that goes into making a fine watch, from the creative craftsmanship to the technical mastery. Whenever I see a nice watch, I’ll make a mental note of it for when I’m next on the lookout to add to my collection.

Can you share the top three timepieces in your collection with us?
My Rolex Submariner definitely has to be in my top three. It was the first significant timepiece I bought and it holds a lot of meaning for me, representing a big turning point in my career. I am also fond of my Hublot Big Bang, which was given to me as a gift by a good friend. It has a really iconic design that I think stands the test of time while still looking contemporary. The final watch in my top three, and perhaps this is a bit of a curveball, is my G-SHOCK. I do my fair share of travelling with my business – just recently I was asked to market a property where the seller gave strict instructions not to take a single photo of it! The property had a really distinctive feel to it, and the style really reminded me of the Maldives so within 72 hours of being instructed, I’d pulled together a film crew and hopped on a plane to the Maldives to shoot content that resembled the property we were selling back in Dubai. In moments like that, the G-SHOCK is my go-to ‘grab and go’ watch. It’s perfect for travelling or going to the gym because it combines durability with design.

What’s the favourite watch that you’ve ever owned? It could be special to you for any reason.
My favourite watch is my Rolex Yachtmaster in steel and platinum. It was the first watch I purchased after successfully selling my first property. I wanted a watch to mark the deal and to have it as a reminder of my achievements when times are challenging.

Do you have a ‘grail watch’ – a timepiece you’ve got to get your hands on? Why do you lust after that watch in particular?
I would really like to get my hands on the latest Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. There is one with a green strap that I’ve seen worn by the British boxer Anthony Joshua. I saw him with the watch and loved the look of it. I knew straight away that it was one that I want to add to my collection one day. These days, my time is focused on growing my luxury property business in Dubai. Things are going well and I’m excited about what the future holds given all the exciting opportunities in Dubai so I’m planning to treat myself with a new watch when we reach our next big milestone at Off Market Listing. I guess it might be time to start thinking of myself as a collector and not just a connoisseur!