Dubai Watch Week Talking, touching and teaching watches
The Dubai Watch Week once again lived up to its reputation as an excellent resource for promoting awareness of the Swiss watch industry and its traditions.
In just three years the Dubai Watch Week has established itself as an unmissable event for the watch community, where retailers, press, brands, collectors and curious passers-by mingle. Organisers Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice Chairman of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, took the event to a new level this year, taking over the entire entrance area of Gate Avenue in the Dubai International Financial Centre with nine purpose-built marquees hosting brands, exhibitions, creative hubs and forums.
Since the primary vocation of the Dubai Watch Week is educational, great attention had been paid to the horological forums this year. In a much-improved venue with theatre-style seating for 100 people and a total capacity of 150, visitors were able to both listen to and interact with leading figures from the industry discussing topics such as after-sales service, watch customisation and e-commerce. I attended nearly all of the forums and there was usually standing-room only as the discussions started. It was as rewarding for me as I hope it was for the audience to take part in the panel discussion on counterfeit watches with Mohammed Seddiqi and James Lamdin, founder of AnalogShift. It was also a positive sign to see so many young people in the audience who had sacrificed part of their weekend to deepen their knowledge of fine watchmaking.
From left to right: James Lamdin, Mohammed Seddiqi, Suzanne Wong, Paul O'Neil
Auction house Christie’s had a major presence at the Dubai Watch Week and made a great contribution to educating visitors both young and old. It’s rare at a high-end watchmaking event to see young children being introduced in a playful way to the world of auctions. Many of them had no idea what to expect, but when it came to picking people to take photos and write for the catalogue there was no shortage of volunteers – even for the more daunting task of valuing the objects that were to go under the hammer. Adults had the chance to gain a deeper understanding of the auction world as well thanks to the presence of Remy Julia, Head of Watches, Middle East, India and Africa at Christie’s, and John Reardon, who captivated the audience with a two-part introduction on how to collection Patek Philippe watches. Christie’s even flew in legendary case maker Jean-Pierre Hagman to explain his rare talents.
The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie was also heavily involved with the Dubai Watch Week, laying on three immersive virtual reality experiences that allowed visitors to experience for themselves the importance of timekeeping through the ages. I enjoyed a virtual train journey through the English borders, where I had to ensure my train arrived on time but not too early, to avoid a crash with an oncoming train on a single-track line. Without the virtual Universal Genève pocket watch in the cockpit, this would of course have been impossible.
The FHH also curated the Telling Time exhibition, which debuted at the MUDAC in Lausanne two years ago, as well as a watch knowledge quiz taken against the clock (of course!) on an iPad.
Once again, the creative hubs, which were held in an other-worldly silver cube seemingly floating on a small pond, provided an opportunity for brands to express themselves more freely and launch some new products [see separate article]. In the spirit of education, however, one of the most enjoyable events in this unique space was the “Watch Etiquette” session hosted by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. Those who made it to the early-morning session on Sunday learned a number of do’s and don’ts when it comes to wearing fine watches and were treated to a rare glimpse of part of the personal collection of Mohammed Seddiqi.
A number of master classes allowed members of the public to experience first-hand the challenges of assembling a watch, engraving a case, firing and even miniature painting an enamel dial with the help of renowned experts in the respective fields. Those wishing to admire some of the finest examples of the art of watchmaking could do so in a darkened room where the winners of this year’s Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie de Genève were on display.
We probably won’t see a Dubai Watch Week before 2020, when the country will host the World Exhibition. But that doesn’t mean that watch fans will miss out. Quite the contrary, in fact. To continue their spirit of sharing a passion for fine watchmaking, the organisers plan to take the concept on the road and help to bring the art of fine watchmaking within reach of watch fans even further afield.