Moderator Patrick_y summarizes his experience of the Dubai Watch Week 2023 show and why WatchProSite readers should absolutely attend the show!
The site of the Dubai Watch Week - at Dubai International Finance Center.
In the world we live in today, we rarely see a privately held family business reinvest so much time, money, and effort into their passion. Few companies have the vision and the big-picture mentality to take on such a momentous task as to put together a week long trade show - a trade show intended for consumers and not "the trade" where no formal buying nor selling occurs but one to spread knowledge and passion about horology to a wider audience. I’m referring to the Seddiqi family – shareholders of Seddiqi Group which manages multiple jewelry stores and watch stores in the Dubai and Abu Dhabi region. The Seddiqi Group is the sole distributor for Rolex, Chopard, MB&F, Patek Philippe, Urwerk, and Audemars Piguet in the entire Dubai region. The Seddiqi family has turned their business into not only a successful watch retailing business – but also they’ve adopted the role as a steward in preserving the art of haute horlogerie. In addition to such a role, the Seddiqi Group has decided that they need to give back to the community – partnering with the Dubai Ministry of Culture, the Seddiqi Group has become a de-facto educator for watch lovers in the Middle-Eastern region. This entire Dubai Watch Week event, which is held biannually or every other year, is intended to educate clients, enrich clients’ knowledge about horology, and finally to give back to the local watch collecting community.
This is a "classroom" at Dubai Watch Week. Today, eight students and myself had to learn how to make a Bovet Sugar Dial!
This is a Bovet Sugar dial - it is made of sugar crystals!
I add some sugar crystals and paint to my dial - it's definitely not easy!
Dubai Watch Week is all about education about high horology and preserving watch culture. I learned that these sugar dials are definitely very difficult to make!
DUBAI WATCH WEEK IS NOW THE DEFINITIVE WATCH EVENT WORLDWIDE FOR CONSUMERS
The biggest watch events in the world are probably Baselworld and Watches & Wonders. Now that Baselworld is defunct, that title has by default passed to Watches & Wonders. Or has it? Watches & Wonders is really an event intended for jewelry store buyers first, press/media second, and at a distant third the public. This is a strange logic since the public is the most important audience – they’re the end users and consumers of these watches! They are the ones who buy these products in the end – and yet at Watches & Wonders they are almost forgotten. The small amount of public who do attend are required to register and procure their ticket in advance, and are limited to the last three days of the W&W show – after most of the buyers and journalists have left town.
Dubai Watch Week turns this concept upside down; at Dubai Watch Week, the End Users are the most important audience! This event is made for watch lovers first and foremost. It’s not made for jewelry store owners. Its main focus is to give the buying public a great educational experience! The Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, headed by Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, is the Ministry that supports Dubai’s museums and other art and culture projects. This Ministry also sees the Dubai Watch Week as a cultural and educational event and has shaped the event into an education-prioritized and non-commercial event. Not a single watch is sold at Dubai Watch Week – there are no credit card terminals anywhere.
As part of the Journalist Corps at Dubai Watch Week, we journalists are amongst each other 10+ hours a day, attending press announcement meetings together, etc. Amongst ourselves, we all chided together and agreed that this was now one of the definitive shows in the watch industry – and by far the most important multi-brand show for consumers to attend.
BY THE NUMBERS
23,000 Guests attended Dubai Watch Week! That’s huge! To put that in context, Watches & Wonders Geneva had around 40,000+ unique visitors in 2023.
62 brands attended Dubai Watch Week with a booth. This is more than some SIHH and Watches & Wonders shows; for example, the 2023 Watches & Wonders had 48 brands in attendance! In 2024, Watches & Wonders is expecting 55 brands to attend. The brands at Dubai Watch Week include huge brands like Rolex, Bulgari, and Chopard but also include small brands like Akrivia, MB&F, Urwerk, MING, and even up and coming brands like Remy Cools and Vanguart! Furthermore, Seddiqi Group doesn’t play favorites nor intra-brand politics – brands don’t have to be a Seddiqi Vendor to be at Dubai Watch Week! That’s correct, all are welcome! For instance MING doesn’t sell a single watch in a Seddiqi Group store – yet MING had a standard booth identical in size to many others! Bulgari had a huge booth this year – similar in size to Chopard (a Seddiqi Group represented brand) and Bulgari operates stores that compete alongside Seddiqi Group stores. A new in-house brand, Vyntage, was launched as well.
The Vyntage brand watch.
20+ new products were launched at Dubai Watch Week! Most of which were seen as Dubai Special Editions or Middle East Region Special Editions.
35 days of construction was meticulously planned to set up Dubai Watch Week. There were dozens of temporary structures erected for this event, spread on approximately 5 acres of land!
13 days of de-construction started within a day after the closing ceremony.
Hundreds of staff; administrators, security guards, facilities staff, catering, performing artists, and more were hired to put on this event.
The ATTENDEES - CONSUMERS
Individuals from all over the world flew into Dubai, in addition to a plethora of Dubai locals. I met individuals from the Middle East region, India, China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Europe, etc. The furthest travelers came from USA and I heard there might’ve been some guests from South America. Two years ago, in 2021, I flew to Dubai Watch Week during the pandemic, in Economy Class!, it took three separate flights to get there, stayed in a very unpleasant hotel, and I still had a blast! It was absolutely worth it! This year, I faired a little better – and the event was even better than the 2021 edition!
What were these attendees wearing? The attendees were wearing some amazing timepieces – truly extravagant timepieces that I have never seen anywhere else – not even in Tokyo nor Singapore – other cities known for their safety and known for their watch appreciation. Every day you will see several Greubel Forsey timepieces, double digit numbers of Richard Mille timepieces, and a surprisingly large amount of small independents such as MING (very popular among the attendees), MB&F, and Urwerks (I saw multiple 103 models during the six day event). No shortage of amazing pieces and amazing individuals.
I've never seen so many Greubel Forsey timepieces in one place in my life! During Dubai Watch Week I was shocked to see MULTIPLE Greubel Forsey timepieces on owners' wrists EACH AND EVERY DAY!
As mentioned above, all brands are welcome to attend the event – I don’t know how the Seddiqi Group managed to fit in 62 brands. One brand even wanted a booth in a walkway – since there were no booths left – this brand was accommodated elsewhere as the location was deemed a fire hazard.
A sidenote: my message to watch brands/vendors: this is the community you want to be among – the attendees are true enthusiasts, a well-heeled demographic, and the booths are a fraction of the cost of booths at other trade shows in Europe or in America. Definitely get your PR team to research Dubai Watch Week! The ROI at DWW likely exceeds an appearance anywhere else!
Van Cleef and Arpel's booth was so big that it housed a miniature Parisian street inside of it! Complete with buildings!
Many of the 62 brands in attendance were direct competitors to the Seddiqi Group – brands that were not represented in any Seddiqi Group store. Normally due to politics, such brands would not be welcome to attend or exhibit – but the Seddiqi Group accommodated as many of the brands they could. The largest booth in the entire Dubai Watch Week went to Van Cleef and Arpels! No jewelry store nor watch store in the Seddiqi Group retails any Van Cleef and Arpels product. Yet, Van Cleef and Arpels got a booth so large that they built a miniature Parisian street with buildings inside – like a movie set – with a museum, a theater, a park, and a watchmaker’s office. Two years ago, Miki Eleta was invited to attend Dubai Watch Week 2021 despite not being a vendor to any retailer in the United Arab Emirates - another data point that shows DWW has been very neutral in the past. Keeping the Dubai Watch Week as neutral as possible and politics-free is impressive and is to be commended. Hopefully it can stay this way for the future!
Chopard had a large standalone booth - but Van Cleef had an even larger stand-alone booth and Van Cleef & Arpels is not even vendor to Seddiqi Group. This shows no politics are going on behind the scenes.
THE QUALITY OF THE PRESENTATIONS - PUTTING CONSUMERS FIRST
The brands with the biggest stand-alone booths; Hublot, Ulysse Nardin, Girard Perregaux, Chopard, Tudor, Rolex, Bulgari, Chanel, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Audemars Piguet really made wonderful private presentations for every guest who came to their door. Neary every brand focused more square footage to their past products and historical products (that were not for sale) than their current product that was for sale. Every single presentation I received at these booths were from knowledgeable individuals whom were very familiar with the product. The director for the Middle East Region himself gave me a presentation at Audemars Piguet and I mentioned AP reintroduced the tourbillon in 1987 and he corrected me and said it was actually 1986. The individual who gave me a presentation at Ulysse Nardin explained the technical advances of all the different calibers of FREAK timepieces – I was amazed. Van Cleef and Arpels flew in a high-level watchmaker who explained how they conceived their Heures Florales or “Flower Hours” timepiece and how the module worked – this is really an incredible watch but the press doesn’t mention it very much since most of the readers for watches are men – and because this watch is for women it’s underrepresented. I could go on and on. The products are also physically there – Bulgari’s Fabrizio Buonamassa brought out the ultra thin Octo Finissimo and multiple minute repeaters, AP brought half their museum, their CONCEPTs, Super Sonneries, etc. There was no shortage of top product to be shown.
Bulgari gave me a new pet to play with - a very beautiful jeweled snake. I was really annoyed when they asked for their snake back - I was just starting to like my new pet!
Bulgari showed how their dials were manufactured with real bird feathers!
At the smaller booths, you get to speak DIRECTLY WITH THE HEAD OF THE BRAND. Want to speak with Akrivia? Just stop by the booth and most of the time Rexhep is answering questions for enthusiastic watch lovers. Never met Max Busser? He’s there at his booth (surrounded by a ring of fans 3 people deep) – I walked by for three days and finally he spotted me and grabbed me to shake my hand. I told Max I didn’t want to bother him since every day there was a circle of people trying to talk to him! Oh! I forgot to ask about the latest MAD watch in green! Rats! Ludovic Ballouard was there – every day – at his booth showing off his son’s contributions to his watchmaking – a proud dad. This is the only event where consumers can actually speak with the makers en masse and understand these artists and what drives them. If you go to Watches & Wonders during consumer days, many of these individuals are not omnipresent at their booths.
Ressence’s CEO was there every day explaining his creation to attendees and generously gifted a book to a WPS member.
There is no sales pressure – just enthusiastic artists talking to anyone who will listen. Some of these artists were exhausted – by the end of the show many had lost their voice. Rexhepi publicly said, that he had a great time in Dubai but he’s ready to go back to his quiet atelier where he can concentrate on making watches.
This is the backside of one of Rexhep Rexhepi's timepieces. Isn't that wonderful?
Dubai Watch Week brings a lot to the watch community, and I see its importance only growing for the future. As far as I can see, the event is tremendous and I see it will likely outgrow the current space in just a few more editions. There are already a shortage of booths for exhibitors and with 23,000 visitors, with even modest growth, the venue may soon become overcrowded. Will runaway success be a good thing for Dubai Watch Week? Hard to say – Baselworld was a victim of its own success – it became too expensive and too heavily attended to the point that service and quality declined so much that the show simply imploded after a few brands decided to exit. But I can say this much – the 2023 show was just amazing – and I intend to continue attending as much as I can for the forseeable future. Many of my readers are already lamenting that they couldn’t come this year – and I hate to tell you this – but you missed an incredible show. Wished you had come! And for those who made it – I’m glad you came! Will I see you in 2025 at Dubai Watch Week?
A very special thank you to the Seddiqi Family who graciously put on this incredible event filled with passion and education about horology for all who could attend - free of charge. Thank you for your hard work and your contribution to the world of horology - your contributions will help ensure that this art form will stay alive for future posterity!
© 2017 - WatchProZine