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Editorial - London Horology Forum

Editorial London Horology Forum

Dubai Watch Week once again blazes the trail in horological education and exchange.

After the 2017 edition of the Dubai Watch Week, the Seddiqi family decided to make their comprehensive cultural exhibition and educational forum a bi-annual event. Nevertheless, they were keen to keep the momentum of their widely acclaimed formula going in 2018. Thus the Horology Forum was born in London in association with auction house Christie’s. With a more compact format that consisted of back-to-back panel discussions with a couple of insightful presentations, members of the watch industry ecosystem from watchmakers to brand CEOs, collectors to journalists, were once again given an independent forum for discussion that is so desperately lacking in the industry, as the numerous issues discussed and questions raised during the panels showed.

The two-day forum kicked off with a panel entitled “The Battle of the Soothsayers”, which attempted to take a glimpse into the future of the watch industry. The presence of Aldis Hodge, a 32-year-old home-schooled designer with some high-calibre watch designs in his satchel (who you may recognise as MC Ren from the 2015 film “Straight Outta Compton”) was a genuine breath of fresh air. Here was someone who had taught himself watchmaking, has a background, an image and a charisma that appeal to a demographic that possibly nobody else in the industry could ever hope of reaching and, to boot, could talk with an eloquence that could make even the most seasoned of journalists and public speakers blush. I will be severely disappointed if I don’t see him exhibiting at the SIHH or Baselworld in the next few years. 

London Horology Forum

Aldis Hodge

The “Cultural Clout – The iBuyer Cult” panel left me with an identity crisis. Intended to consider the role of the online buyer in today’s watch industry, the discussion inevitably digressed to discuss aspects of online retail and the “influencer” – a term that, like “blogger” has now become derogatory for many stakeholders in the watch industry. Fortunately, I do not consider myself to be either, but with alternatives such as “editorialist” and “advertorialist” being offered up during the discussion, it left me wondering whether I fitted into any of these pigeonholes at all. 

There was a welcome emphasis on British contributors to the watch industry, in the form of expatriate watchmakers such as Peter Speake-Marin and Stephen Forsey, designers like Fiona Krüger or home-based talent like Roger Smith and relative newcomers like Rebecca Struthers and Richard Stenning of Charles Frodsham. “The British Watch Industry – Colonizing Greenwich Meridian” looked at how the watch industry has developed in the country despite a chronic lack of educational and training options. 

“When David Clocks Goliath” segued nicely from this topic to look at the wider context of small independent brands versus the large groups. In addition to the obvious advantages (no stock exchange pressure, greater freedom) and disadvantages (lack of budget, difficulties with communication and awareness), interesting points were raised about side issues such as the Swiss Made legislation, which poses a risk to innovative companies like HYT (whose CEO, Grégory Dourde, was on the panel), which rely on importing high-technology components from the west coast of the USA. 

George Daniels was rightly given a prominent place in the forum as part of a discussion about his and Gerald Genta’s legacies, which looked at the different perspectives of a watchmaker and a designer. A number of personal anecdotes from people who worked very closely with both personalities (not least Roger Smith, George Daniels’s apprentice) shed new light on these legendary figures.

To conclude the discussions, the Dubai Watch Week set the bar higher and once again showed the way forward for all other watch-related events and exhibitions. In a fast-paced thirty-minute session entitled “British Roast”, the audience were given carte blanche to ask any question they liked of the all-British panel. They took the organisers at their word, subjecting Stephen Forsey in particular to some tough questions. My favourite was which cheese the panellists would use to make a watch, given the choice. It was one of a number of questions that raised a laugh and brought a much-needed touch of humour to the industry. Ironically, it was Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie. (the first watch brand to produce a watch made of “cheese”), who had bemoaned the lack of humour in the industry earlier in the day. 

London Horology Forum

British Watchmakers: (left to right) Peter Speake-Marin, Rebecca Struthers, Richard Stenning, Roger Smith, Stephen Forsey and moderator Dr Andrew Hildreth.

The Dubai Watch Week has once again proved that it is the example all other industry events should follow. But don’t just take my word for it. You can watch all the panels on the Dubai Watch Week Facebook Page.

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