Dubai Watch Week 2019: Talking With Hind Seddiqi And Reflections On The Fair

Dubai Watch Week (DWW) is like no other fair. There is no obvious commercial aspect to the event, and watches (and watchmakers) are there for the public’s appreciation rather than that of retailers and distributors (like at Baselworld and the SIHH). The express goal of the Seddiqi family, who is behind DWW’s creation and development over now four ever-increasingly larger fairs, is to further deepen the UAE and Middle East’s knowledge of the artistry that is horology.

Dubai Watch Week 2019 was open until 10 pm

“This event is 100 percent funded by the family,” Hind Seddiqi, director general of Dubai Watch Week confirmed. “And it’s expensive; Dubai is extremely expensive.”

‘State of Affairs’ Horology Forum panel: (L-R) Carlos Alonso, Director SIAR; Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director Baselworld; moderator Ian Skellern, Quill & Pad; Hind Seddiqi, Director General DWW; and Raymond Loretan, President GPHG

Hind Seddiqi has very obviously inherited her father’s love of timepieces: Abdul Hamied Seddiqi is the second-generation head of the Middle Eastern luxury empire, while Hind – the first woman from the family to join the Seddiqi Holding executive board – is the chief marketing and communication officer. She is also now very delightfully the face and mind behind this relatively unorthodox watch fair.

So my first big question was what does Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2020, get from Dubai Watch Week?

“It’s something we give back to the industry,” Hind Seddiqi said. “We’ve always been very well treated by the brands, and when we fly to them they’re more than welcoming. We see a beauty in it that we want others to see, so really we just want to show people why we love what we do.

“I know it’s hard to believe, and I have people saying that can’t be, there must be a hidden agenda. There is no hidden agenda. Why is it so hard to believe that there’s someone who really loves this industry, who wants to serve it and do something for it? It’s our way of giving back. We really love the industry and we want to showcase the best.”

Dubai Watch Week 2019 was held at the DIFC, under and around that large cubic arch left of center

How the 2019 edition has differed from the previous three

Dubai Watch Week 2019 was the fourth edition of this lovely event, and it was much different from the others in both details and feel.

Brand exhibition hall at DWW 2019

Put on right in the center of the architecturally interesting DIFC, for me one of the biggest changes was the addition of the large brand exhibition hall at the center of the goings-on.

Inside the brand exhibition hall at the heart of DWW 2019

Though there was already an exhibition hall at the 2017 edition of the fair, it was much smaller and less prominent. This signified growth to me, though Dubai Watch Week, being privately owned, has no need to release attendance numbers.

Jean-Claude Biver talking to DWW director Melika Yazdjerdi in the Horology Forum at DWW 2019

“It has grown quite a bit,” Hind confirmed to me. “Capacity-wise the size of the Horology Forum has grown with 50 extra seats – not that dramatic – however, the Creative Hub has grown really, really big. And it’s because the brands wanted extra space to be able to design what they want.”

The ‘Apocalypse II’ panel: (L-R) Stephen Forsey, co-founder Greubel Forsey; moderator Gary Getz, Quill & Pad; Benoît Mintiens, founder Ressence; and Lucien Vouillamoz, co-founder HYT, inventor and entrepreneur

The Horology Forum is home to non-denominational (meaning not brand-sponsored) talks and panels, while the Creative Hub is where the brands may choose to hold a talk, have a cocktail party, or introduce a new watch as a paying participant.

Attentive audience at Vacheron Constantin’s Creative Hub presentation at DWW 2019

“And then we have the two venues that are on the water, which are now the standalone spaces for Chopard and Rolex,” Seddiqi continued.

Gaining Rolex as an exhibition partner was quite a coup as the Genevan brand has not yet ever joined any event in the UAE. So, naturally, I was curious as to how Dubai Watch Week was able to convince them.

“I pushed for that,” Hind Seddiqi answered. “We asked all the brands that are not yet with us to please come, and Rolex asked whether they could give something different that no one has done. So we proposed the venue. They also allowed [our] family to showcase the vintage watches that we have in our collection. Rolex appreciates the family and what the family has been doing for the brand – that’s why I think they felt like they trust us and can come with us to a place of quality. We’re really honored and humbled by their presence.”

Buy pre-owned: Watchbox at Dubai Watch Week 2019

One other very large addition to Dubai Watch Week was pre-owned business Watchbox, which was highly visible with two standalone structures: the Watchbox Studios, where watch media star Tim Mosso and his crew spent the week taping live interviews, and a popup boutique with an extremely high-quality selection of pre-owned pieces available for people to peruse (and then purchase at the nearby permanent boutique).

Tim Mosso interviewing Elizabeth Doerr at the Watchbox studio at DWW 2019

This came on hot on the heels of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons’ announcement of a joint venture with Watchbox in the Middle East. And the opening of the previously mentioned permanent boutique in the DIFC.

“We’ve always thought of second-hand watches and certified pre-owned watches, and we have a lot of clients who come to us wanting to replenish the stock that they have, wanting to upgrade the collection that they have, something they bought ten years ago, and now they’re into something else,” Hind Seddiqi explained the reasons behind the joint venture.

“And we were not able to help them, we were not able to tell them, okay give me that watch and I’ll give you something else. When we met with [Watchbox co-founder] Danny Govberg, it just made sense.”

Watchbox’s boutique in Dubai’s DIFC Center

This is indeed a more than interesting occurrence for a traditional retailer, and I was interested in knowing if there had been any pushback from the brands they work with.

“The secondhand market exists, and we are actually creating a safe haven for collectors as well and for people who are interested because we are a trustworthy channel. We own the watches – it’s not a marketplace – and we give two years’ guarantee after clients purchase the watch.”

One of the many hands-on sessions allowing visitors to experience an aspect of watchmaking with a master

The future of Dubai Watch Week

The next edition of Dubai Watch Week will take place in 2021, though Hind Seddiqi and her director Melika Yazdjeri have already announced that there will be a second traveling Horology Forum in 2020 modeled after the two-day event that took place in conjunction with Christie’s in London in 2018.

“I’m not going to make it bigger. We need to be innovative in the way we exhibit the brands, but I don’t think we need to grow,” Hind Seddiqi explained her thoughts about the next edition.

“I know that for 2021 I’m going to have more brands wanting their individual spaces like Rolex and Chopard have; we’ve already received a few requests, and we will look into it, but they have to offer something different, make an effort and show something new? But we cannot grow bigger, we’re not Baselworld, it’s not our mandate.”

However, Hind Seddiqi said that she will welcome everyone.

“We just want to make sure that they understand Dubai Watch Week and they come with content that suits the mandate of it: uniqueness and creativity. And talking to the target audience that we want. Today the general public is very important to us, and the youth are important to us. So that will grow, and the content will change, but size will not.”

Now that the 2019 edition has ended, we return home with positive thoughts and dreams of beautiful limited editions. And a desire to return to the beautiful city of Dubai for the next edition in 2021.

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Dubai Watch Week (DWW) 2019: The Horological World Unites In The U.A.E.

Dubai Watch Week And Christies Take The Horology Forum To London, Where It Looked Very Much At Home (Lots Of Photos + Videos)

10 Highlights From Dubai Watch Week 2017 (Plus Video)

7 Sensational Watches Introduced At Dubai Watch Week 2016

5 Reasons (And Then Some) To Visit Dubai Watch Week 2017, None Of Which Involve Looking At Amazing Watches (Although You Can Do That Too)

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