Dubai Watch Week : Dubai Or Not To Buy

My Dubai Watch Week impressions. This is not a complete write up about what DWW has to offer and is – just my personal impressions on sessions I visited and my own 2cents.

First and foremost – I cannot thank the lovely Seddiqi family enough for organizing this educational event, making it free to attend and assembling such a high profile attendee list. It’s absolutely amazing how the Dubai Watch Week has evolved in its 4th year! Thank you from the UAE watch lovers!!

The typical watch fair is usually a B2B affair with the B2C aspect bolted on. It’s mostly an event for watch manufacturers to sell, maintain relationships and meet their distribution network.

The Dubai Watch Week (DWW) though is purely focused on B2C and as a by-product on B2B, relationship building and sharing of ideas.

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Access & Location:
The DWW is free to visit – no tickets needed. However, if you want to attend the forums, workshops, etc you need to register as capacity is limited for these events and courses. You can register at the event but most likely the seats are all taken already – so better to use the online ways to get a head start. Registering can be done conveniently via their app or the website. I recommend the app as it also contains your QR code as well as reminders to the sessions. The Dubai Watch Week takes place at the DIFC, the Dubai International Financial Center. All of the show halls were purpose-built in this location that is an amalgamation of arts & culture, food, and money. While there is a lot of conference room and facilities available in Dubai – the DWW chose to be in an operating environment in the midst of daily life and not hidden away in a hall of a conference center with dull carpets and bad lighting. The quality of the built-up facilities was absolutely top-notch.

The Brands:
One of the, if not the largest retailer of luxury watch brands in the UAE is The Seddiqi family. They are the official retailer for Rolex in the region and responsible for the best performing and also the largest Rolex showroom in the world. The DWW features the brands they represent (it’s a lot) but of course, they welcome other brands as well and they turned up. The large exhibition floor was lined with small, independent brands as well as heavyweights showcasing their watches.

The brands attending also had not only very knowledgeable people on the stands that really knew what they were talking about, but some brands also had their owners and CEOs there too. How many chances does the normal watch nerd have to just walk up to the CEO of H. Moser and have a nice chat? I did and we had a pleasant chat about the brand for a couple of minutes. Other people I saw walking around the show floor were: Mr. Dufour the CEO of Rolex, Mr Forsey of Greubel Forsey, The man himself,  F.P. Journe, Phillip Dufour, JCB, Tim Mosso, CQ, and Michael Manjos, Brian & Danny Govberg and so many others I forgot.

Then of course the watch media, Nithin from WatchTime Middle East, Marc Andre from thewatches.tv, Adam Craniotes (Revolution Editor and CEO of RedBar) – all three easy approachable and it was lovely to chat with all of them.

One of the biggest news of this DWW was the collaboration/Joint Venture announcement of the WatchBox with the Seddiqi family and opening of a WatchBox shop in the shopping mall of the Dubai International Financial Center.

The Shop itself is well designed – offers a great selection, knowledgeable staff (shout out to Alaa Din!) who have a strong passion for their business. Plus of course, the opportunity to get ANY of their inventory from around the world delivered there within 2-3 business days and the easy process of trading in your watch. While we have a couple of established pre-owned players in the region, the addition of a great name like WatchBox will surely lift the pre-owned market as a whole to the next level.

If you buy a new car you can usually trade in your used one, regardless of the brand. Now this will probably be available for all brands Seddiqi represents – a great convenience factor.

The Horology Forum:
This is the largest auditorium-style area where panel discussions, interviews and “speeches” happened. It’s hard to choose which ones to attend – they are all so interesting. I attended the panel discussion of “Making the waitlist” with a great panel.

Highlight here was that for the first time – as much as I can recall – a major Rolex retailer has gone on record confirming how the waitlist system works:
• The brand is not involved
• The retailer uses its own CRM and rules to move people up and down the list
• Previous purchases with other retailers of the same brand count for nothing
• If you have no record of buying watches – your chances are pretty low to get anywhere to the top of the waitlist, other people will slot in ahead of you if they have a purchase history.
• VIP means VIP – you “earn” your way onto the list

The example of a person was mentioned who is on the waitlist for a Nautilus – he is on the list for 2 years but their system showed he has never bought any watch from them before – hence he will probably never get this watch, as preference will always be given to customers with a better sales record.

Another incredible panel discussion was “Making a master” with Philippe Dufour, Izu Ani and Michael Clerizo, moderated by Stacy Perman. Very inspiring to hear that these respective masters of their fields had to say – how they became masters of their craft. Writing, cuisine, and watchmaking. Once the videos will be made available you should give this one a listen too.

The last “discussion” was the man, the guru of the watch world, Jean Claude Biver – as usual full of energy and a lot of common sense JCB shook up the audience!

Part 2: Creative Hub
A smaller venue with no separation between the presenter and the audience – great for explaining and interaction – I only attended one session here from the lovely chaps of Charles Frodsham – Philip Whyte and Richard Stenning who presented their double impulse chronometer and told intricate details about the movement itself, how it came to be, the history of this 185-year-old company and much more.

Part 3: Watchmaking Masterclass
Ever wanted to lay hands on a movement yourself? Here you can do that under the watchful eyes of some of the best watchmakers, everyday sessions were on offer for multiple disciplines, from painting your own dial, to working on movements on proper watchmaker benches. Unbelievable what you can take away from these sessions.

Part 4: Christie’s Auction Room
Guess what – pretty self-explanatory but Christie’s did a fabulous job of creating this experience for kids (yes you read that right) there you go, while you take a stroll and look at watches your kids will spend all your money on an auction…. Really well done, the kids had so much fun. Of course, this wasn’t the only event taking place at this venue.

Part 5: Cocktails
If you were fast enough you were able to secure your spot to one of the evening events to mingle with journalists, enthusiasts and industry people at one of the brands cocktail receptions at the Cipriani pop up restaurant. Besides lovely drinks you would get to see some interesting things – I visited the Grand Seiko cocktails and witnessed one of their best master craftsmen assemble a Spring Drive movement in front of our eyes. Hard to beat that while sipping a Bellini or having a Peroni.

Rolex and Chopard had their own exhibition “buildings” outside of the main exhibition hall, they opted for even more extensive purpose-built separate areas to host their showcases of historic watches and new launches.

Another “brand” that had not only their own lounge but also a complete studio setup there was the WatchBox – they brought all their heavyweights to the show, Amanda Ellison (President and COO of Watchbox, thanks for the lovely chat and insights), Danny and Brian Govberg, their studio crew, and of course the public figures from their YouTube channels: Tim Mosso, CQ, and Mike Manjos were all there and open for chats and talks, besides filming and recording shows right in front of you, it was lovely to meet all of them and have a chat.

This 4th Dubai Watch Week was a great success – the feedback in the media and from attendees was absolutely amazing – a homerun for the organizers. The atmosphere was relaxed, the organization was perfect, plenty of dining options on the show and close by, lots of places to mingle

Was there anything negative at all during the watch week? Yes, there was – a minor complaint – some brands were not there. I don’t know if that has to do with local rivalries, budgets or something else but I would have liked a few more of the Swatch Group brands to be represented as well – Omega, for example, was missing…. But that’s a minor gripe on an overall amazing event – can’t wait for the next one!!