10 Highlights From Dubai Watch Week 2017 (Plus Video)
by Sandra Lane
The panel discussions, workshops, and watchmaking classes that underline Dubai Watch Week’s educational purpose were, once again, a great success – so much so that it’s a wonder every watch event doesn’t do them. Well, in fact many do – but we know of no other event where the mix of topics, the stature of panelists and watchmaking (and also, this year, métiers d’art) tutors, and the relaxed ambience combine to such great effect.
Several of the panel discussions got pretty lively, especially those on counterfeiting, third-party modifications, and grand complications (specifically: should complications remain the preserve of men’s watches and why aren’t more being made for women – which, in its funniest moments, veered into a debate about feminism versus misogynism).
Aside from the “main agenda” highlights, there were many smaller, often unexpected high points. Here are ten things that caught our eyes at Dubai Watch Week 2017.
#1 Urwerk engraved unique piece UR-210 Dubai
For a few years now, the master gun engraver Florian Güllert has been collaborating with Urwerk on a series of exceptional pieces, and the latest was unveiled at Dubai Watch Week 2017.
On the UR-210 Dubai, conceived as a tribute to the Emirate city and to Dubai Watch Week, Güllert has decorated every millimeter of visible metal – both case and bracelet – with scrolls and motifs in his rich, signature style.
#2 Socks that rock
You’re wearing a De Bethune DB28 on a stage at a serious watch fair during a watch event and what happens . . . ? A watch guy posts a picture of your Armin Strom socks.
But then, said watch guy – Miguel Seabra (Facebook) or @miguelseabra (Instagram) – is a self-confessed strap nerd, so he does tend to notice accessories. And this photo was seen everywhere.
#3 Planes and trains
One of most popular and fun activities at Dubai Watch Week was the The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) virtual reality experience in which participants learned to use a flyback chronograph pilot’s watch in several extreme situations: to fly a World War II plane over the Pacific Ocean in search of a stricken ship; to drive a steam train and time crossings, with trains coming from the other direction; or to navigate a sailing ship using a sextant.
Broad smiles all around and a fun way to learn.
#4 Auctions are kids’ stuff
It’s never too soon to get kids into watches, it seems. Christie’s children’s workshops, introducing them to the auction process, were a huge hit. Full of enthusiasm, the participants chose objects to “sell,” photographed them, and made catalogue pages, complete with price estimates.
Then to the auction room, where Nick Martineau of the Christie’s Hong Kong office “sold” the lots – struggling at times to keep up with the fierce competition among the pint-sized bidders. This beats the regular babysitter hands down.
#5 Christie’s John Reardon unlocks the secrets of Patek Philippe
It was standing-room only at John Reardon’s talk about how to build a Patek Philippe collection, an area in which the Christie’s New York man is probably the world’s greatest expert.
Those who came hoping for a run-through of Patek Philippe’s greatest vintage hits would have been disappointed – but what Reardon shared was way more interesting, including deep insight into some lesser known pieces that he considers key to any serious collection and an analysis of why prices of those pieces still represent tremendous value.
#6 Into the blue with the H. Moser Endeavour Tourbillon Concept
Given that it’s November, several brands took DWW as the opportunity to introduce pre-SIHH models. First off the blocks was H. Moser with its Endeavour Tourbillon Concept.
Moser’s newest movement, HMC 804, is equipped with a double flat hairspring; designed to provide a significant improvement in accuracy and entirely produced in its own manufacture, it is becoming a key Moser signature. Technical elements aside, though, the way the flying tourbillon visually “pops” against that blue fumé dial – free of all distracting text and indexes – makes this a winner.
Saturday night saw many of the Dubai press pack head out of the city to a redeveloped industrial quarter that’s become a booming art center. It is the location of the MB&F M.A.D.Gallery Dubai (see MB&F M.A.D.Gallery: An Artful Meeting Place In Dubai).
The surprise is just how well the kinetic art-filled M.A.D.Gallery concept, which was conceived and tested in Geneva, looks so at home in ultra-modern Dubai.
#8 Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic
While not new for Dubai, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic was a highlight for our technical editor, Ian Skellern. While he has appreciated (and lauded) its technical aspects ever since handling it at Baselworld 2017, he wasn’t keen on the design, saying, “It didn’t work for me and I thought that the all-grey look was a bit boring.”
What changed his mind? Moderating a panel on which Fabrizio Buonamassa, Bulgari’s head of watch design, was a speaker. “I was continually distracted by how good it looked on Fabrizio’s wrist. I then tried it on myself and the clouds parted and the angels sang: I now love the watch and have started saving to buy one.” Good result.
#9 Zenith springs forth
At first, hearing “Zenith Spring Water” sounded like a brand extension too far to be an early April Fool’s joke. But there’s a good story behind it: as work began on renovating the original “Zenith house” in Le Locle, converting it into a guest house for visitors to the manufacture, workers noticed an apparent leak in the basement.
Said leak refused to be repaired because it is actually a freshwater spring that had been hidden beneath the house for more than a century. Logical solution: embrace the problem and bottle the water. But, no, you won’t be finding Zenith Water on a supermarket shelf near you – the distribution will be much more exclusive than that, we are told.
#10 Moritz Grossman gets wild with ‘Extreme Dubai’ special edition
Collaborations between traditional and avant-garde designers and makers could be a recipe for disaster (bad mash-up warning). But when they’re good, they are very good – witness Urwerk’s Only Watch collaboration with Laurent Ferrier. And so to Moritz Grossmann, maker of watches so discreetly elegant that many watch enthusiasts still don’t know of this brand’s existence.
That’s why the Extreme Dubai special edition came as such a surprise with its oxidized steel case, “distressed” finish on the bridges and plates, and absence of a dial (instead, a web of fine lines on the sapphire crystal give the impression of shattered glass). Industrial salvage meets extreme refinement – with a sense of humor – and it totally works. The entire 17-piece edition was pre-sold before DWW, where the watches were handed over to their new owners.
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