Time is money for UAE Ironman Hassan Akhras
Closing in on a million YouTube views and nearing 100,000 Instagram followers, one man’s passion for watches has led him to become one of the UAE’s most recognized influencers.
Hassan Akhras, founder of Arab Watch Guide (AWG) has become the go-to man for watch brands with his daily content creation around timepieces. His road to success began in a coffee shop after being encouraged to share his knowledge of watches with those outside his circle of friends.
A keen sportsman, he’s big into fitness, which means he’s regularly in the swimming pool or out for a morning run – and he has a watch to suit whatever sporting activity he’s doing.
Earlier this year, Akhras teamed with TAG Heuer for Dubai’s IRONMAN70.3, the UAE’s ultimate endurance race, which required a year of intense preparation. The event itself sees competitors complete a 1.9km swim in the Arabian Gulf before jumping on a bike to cycle a whopping 90km loop along Umm Suqeim, followed by the final hurdle – a lung-burning 21.1km run along Jumeirah’s public beach. Not only does an Ironman take incredible physical ability, it also requires participants to be focused and disciplined with the event beginning at 5am. What’s more, there’s no time for messing around as athletes have a maximum of an hour and ten minutes to complete the first leg of the course. Akhras’ preparation for the event saw him working only with experienced Ironman trainers, to prepare him both mentally and physically for the challenge ahead.
“IRONMAN70.3 was my 2017 target of the year, I started by hiring a three-time Ironman coach to teach me the different disciplines (running, swimming and cycling) to get me on the right path”, he tells Sport 360. “It took me over eleven months to get in shape for my first IRONMAN in Bahrain and the second one in Dubai. I did both in around 6 hours 40 mins, which as this was my first year as a triathlete, was quite an achievement”.
The Syrian-born watch mogul has managed to turn his passion for timepieces into lucrative income, having starting his AWG blog in 2014, he now has brands clambering to be a part of his social media movement. “I never thought this would ever lead to becoming a source of income – it all came to me gradually while my platform was growing and social media was becoming more and more prevalent. I started being approached by brands for collaborations and I also started thinking of different type of projects that would set me apart from other social media influencers in the watch space.”
While he has other income sources, thanks to investments, a large part of his business now comes from his online watch content, including his popular YouTube channel, which has amassed over 800,000 views – quite the number for someone who used to work 15 hour days as a strategy consultant. In fact, despite being tremendously passionate about watches, he only began thinking about them as a possible business opportunity after people encouraged him to share his knowledge with a wider audience. “The Arab Watch Guide platform started by coincidence while out with a bunch of friends. They suggested I share my excitement for watches so I started an online blog first and then an Instagram account”, he recalls.
With a plethora of social media influencers now flooding online platforms, especially in the UAE, the key to a successful online brand is bringing something unique to the market. “I believe you need to set yourself apart with your own style of content, messaging and avoid following the crowd or just repeating what’s out there”, he advises those looking to get ahead online. “There are too many people on social media now and if you want to be successful you need to create original content and be true to what you write and share”.
As you’d expect with a watch connoisseur, his collection boasts some of the most sought-after timepieces out there. In fact, he rarely travels with less than three watches at one time, which he alternates during the day. Some of the most valuable, among the forty watches he owns are his Patek World Time, Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic, Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre, Vacheron Constantin Historique 1942 and HYT H0. He doesn’t reveal the value of his collection, as he doesn’t know the exact amount, plus and doesn’t ever intend on selling any of the pieces he owns.
Unless you know a thing or two about watches yourself these brand names may well just go over your head, which is why Akhras also keeps in the loop with the more affordable watches, notably the Apple Watch. “I like the design and all the options it provides in terms of cases and straps”, he says. “I think it’s slick and, as an Apple user, the apps are very easy to manipulate and to operate on the watch. I don’t mind smart watches in general, but I don’t use them for anything other than sports monitoring activities. For the IRONMAN I wore a TAG Heuer Connected watch”.
Sports fans have many options when it comes to choosing sport watch, depending on whether it’s just being used to tell the time or monitor your pace/distance in a race. “A G-Shock is extremely robust and convenient and will survive most sporting activities,” Akras affirms. “An Apple Watch has practical applications for tracking and also looks slick. Suunto and Garmin watches are more specialist watches used by athletes.”
When he’s not using a watch to monitor his sporting performance the Syrian will still be wearing some form of wrist clock to match his outfit if nothing else. He insists all the watches he buys are ones he feels a connection to, and doesn’t buy any for the sake of it. With that said, he has picked up some rare limited edition watches, and like many in his collection, he expects only to go up in value. He offers advice to those seeking to make a few dirhams in the watch game, “Always go for Patek Philippe, and some vintage Rolexes”, as they perform very well in Auctions. So if you fancy yourself as the next watch influencer, Akras has written the blueprint, and with such a buzz around social media, for those inspired to get involved themselves now’s the time to get started.
WATCHES IN HIS COLLECTION
Patek World Time
Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic
Vacheron Constantin Historique 1942
SOCIAL MEDIA STATS
92,1k Instagram followers
816,000 YouTube views