How to Make a Living [Episode 2]: The Vintage Watch Restorer

In Episode 2 of Interesting Airbnb Guests Series, I will share with you a story of a European traveler that booked and stayed in my apartment in KL for a week. He is a vintage watch restorer on the move to find the best suppliers for his business, and here is his story on how he changed his career to make his living out of his passion:


This one time, I had a Turkish-German man in his late 30’s who booked my apartment on Airbnb for a week. He arrived at the guardhouse, and I assisted him in bringing his large rolling luggage bag and one backpack to his studio. Let’s call him Asif.

Asif seemed like a man in his late 30’s or early 40’s. A pleasant and soft-spoken guy. He was also slightly shorter than me at probably around 165 cm.

We had some small talk and mentioned that he was a chef at a hotel in Munich, Germany. But he told me that he was sick of the working hours and he’s trying out some other things.

I usually am very interested in entrepreneurial topics, but I don’t know why I wasn’t excited to chat at the time. I showed him to his room and that was it. The check-in was, for the most part, uneventful.

Change of Towels

3 days later, Asif WhatsApped me and asked for a change of fresh towels and several new rolls of toilet paper for his remaining days.

I said sure, and within a few minutes, I was at his studio to deliver what he requested.

Me: “OK here’s your extra toilet papers and the fresh towels that you ordered. Can I swap these with your old towels please?”

Asif: “Sure.”

Asif went to fetch the old towels in the bathroom while I waited at the front entrance. I noticed that he had a desktop monitor and full keyboard setup to his laptop on my dining table. I was curious, why would anyone travel with a full-blown desktop monitor?

Asif was traveling and had something like this setup in my studio.

He passed me the old towels, and I placed them in my large, IKEA blue bag.

Me: “Thanks, hey… what’s all this?” (Pointing at his setup).

Asif: “Oh, all this? This is for my new business venture I told you about”. 

Me: “Really? OK, sorry, but what is it again?”

Asif: “My brother and I are really into vintage watches that we decided to make a business out of it. We buy damaged vintage watches for cheap, fix it up, and then sell it online for a profit”.

Me: “Wow, that’s amazing that you can make a living out of this. But why do you travel with a huge desktop in your luggage?”

Asif: “Oh! Haha! I just don’t like laptops, the screen’s too small.”

Asif then showed me his website and Facebook page, where he sells his watches (sorry I didn’t get the link).

Apart from his own website, Asif advertised his restored watches on a niche watch website. It looks like Amazon.com, but they only sell watches in Europe.

If I can remember correctly, one of the website that he lists his watches is called Chrono24.com (no affiliation):

www.chrono24.com

Me: “Wow. this is a whole spectrum of the marketplace that I had no idea even existed.”

Asif: “Yeah, pretty cool stuff. It’s too expensive to buy vintage watches and restore them in Germany, which is why I travel the world to find cheap suppliers and restorers”.

He made it sound like he’s Indiana Jones on a treasure exploration. But he’s just traveling to buy damaged old watches.

Me: “So, where do you buy damaged vintage watches?”

Asif: “I found out that Japan was the cheapest country to buy vintage damaged watches. I don’t know what it is, nobody wants damaged watches over there. I always get them for next to nothing.”

Asif: “Unfortunately, fixing it up in Japan cost me almost the same as it would in Germany. So the next order of business is to find someone who can restore these damaged watches for cheap. That place for us is India.”

Me: “Wow, you are one street smart SOB! You have your own supply chain going on here”

Asif: “So what I do is to constantly source for cheap damaged watches mostly from Japan. I then ship them directly to our restorer in India, and after it’s done (around a month later), it’s shipped back to Germany, where I sell them worldwide on my website to European & American clients.”

Asif: “This is how we make a living now. I am in charge of sourcing the watches and logistics. My brother is in charge of marketing & sales in Germany.

Absolute mad lad. What a way to live!

What Inspires Me About Asif

  • If you’re not happy with your life, do something about it!
  • I like that he figured out a way to turn his passion into a business.
  • I like that he’s adventurous to go and source for the best deals himself.
  • His idea came to fruition with the help of the internet and digital marketing skills.
  • It’s good that he can work together with his brother. Shows he has a healthy relationship with his family. Not everyone is blessed with one.

Other Airbnb Guest Episodes

Episode 1: The German Coder & His Xiaomi Phone
Episode 2: The Vintage Watch Restorer
Episode 3: The Truth About Digital Nomads From a Dane

Helmi Hasan

Hi, I'm Helmi Hasan, the founder, and writer for the personal finance blog, Balkoni Hijau. Read more in the 'About Me' page or follow me on Twitter.

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