The five things we enjoyed the most at Dubai Watch Week 2016

Going into the second edition of Dubai Watch Week (DWW), we were certain that event organiser Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons had something incredible in store. The first DWW was a fantastic horological event, and although our expectations were high for the second edition, the Middle East’s largest watch retailer exceeded them all. We’re now 100% sure that DWW has established Dubai as the horological destination to visit, in the second half of the year.

Dubai Watch Week 2016 should be a frame of reference for other retailers intending to create their own horological events.

Dubai Watch Week 2016 should be a frame of reference for other retailers intending to create their own horological events.

Thanks to the interesting discussion panels, the hugely insightful discussions with industry insiders and collectors, watchmaking classes, and the relaxed creative hub sessions, there was an overabundance of knowledge to be gained at DWW. This is brilliant because with most of the watch exhibitions we’ve attended, the focus tends to be on new product launches. That said, Dubai Watch Week had its fair share of new product announcements as well.

In fact there were dozens of watches to experience, interesting cuckoo clocks to watch (at Dubai Mall), stories to tell, and burgers to eat, but rather than produce an 8,000-word article, we reckon it makes more sense to share with you, the elements of DWW we enjoyed the most.

The Mastery of Time Exhibition, part of the DWW roster, can be found at The Dubai Mall.

The Mastery of Time Exhibition, part of the DWW roster, can be found at The Dubai Mall.

But, before you scroll down, keep in mind that these are the parts of Dubai Watch Week that spoke to us the most. There was loads going on over the five day period, and although you’ll find us naming specific elements of the event, as well as particular brands and people, don’t take that to mean that those were the only things worth seeing. The fact is every session we attended, and every person we spoke to helped broaden our knowledge of horology, and the watchmaking industry. And based on feedback from collectors, friends and colleagues who attended sessions that we couldn’t attend, it’s clear that those sessions were also brilliant.

1: The Dubai Watch Week Cafe

This new addition to the DWW event layout at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) was a stroke of pure genius. It offered a decent amount of seating, delicious food and beverages and right from day one, it became the heart and social centre of Dubai Watch Week 2016. Situated next to the prominent information booth, and a stone’s throw away from the GPHG exhibition and discussion panel area, it was the second best place to enhance your horological knowledge (the discussion panels took the top spot).

If you had a bit of free time between sessions, it was well spent in the cafe.

If you had a bit of free time between sessions, it was well spent in the cafe.

At any given point you could find collectors, industry insiders, and journalists having a chat over lunch or a cup of coffee. On one occasion we found ourselves sat at a table with Jean-Pierre Hagmann, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, Vianney Halter and Philippe Dufour. Those are some of the most respected names in watchmaking today, and to be sat at the same table with them, under the blue skies of Dubai, was something we’d have never dreamed of.

This wasn’t an isolated incident either – over five days we had some of the most interesting conversations about watches and horology, with some of the most interesting people in the industry, right at these very tables. It was horological bliss.

2: The ‘Horology’ discussion panels

Running across four days, the discussion panels brought a serious cultural aspect to Dubai Watch Week, and surprisingly, there’s nothing like them at events such as BaselWorld and SIHH. Those events tend to be heavily product focused, which is fine, but we’ve always seen more value in the knowledge gained from speaking or listening to knowledgeable individuals from within the industry.

There were a total of sixteen panels at DWW (four a day), and each had something unique to offer. We spent a chunk of our time listening to what the panelists and moderators had to say, and of the sixteen, we enjoyed the ‘It’s Complicated’ panel the most. This panel was moderated by Marc-André Deschoux of the Watches TV, while the panelists included François Paul Journe (yes, that Journe), Stephen McDonnell (the man behind the Legacy Machine Perpetual’s movement), Philippe Dufour (no explanation needed), and legendary watch collector Claude Sfeir.

The ‘Starting your own brand’ panel was also a lot of fun, despite the fact that it got us off ever wanting to start our own watch brand. Moderated by living legend Aurel Bacs and with panelists Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, founder of Ferdinand Berthoud, Maximilian Büsser, founder of MB&F, Benoit Mintiens, founder of Ressence, and Philippe Dufour, it was an hour that we won’t soon forget.

3: The Creative Hubs

Easily one of the most relaxing and chilled out segments of Dubai Watch Week, the hubs gave brands a platform to engage directly with visitors. Relaxing on the extremely comfortable furniture and enjoying delicious food, we gained insights into existing products, witnessed the unveiling of new timepieces, learned about how to curate a collection (Christies), and had the opportunity to talk to GPHG Jury members.

We enjoyed all of the product-focused hubs that we attended, however the MB&F hub with Maximilian Busser and Stephen McDonnell was the most memorable. We’re massive fans of MB&F’s game changing Legacy Machine Perpetual, and thanks to the hugely entertaining presentation skills of Stephen McDonnell, we enjoyed every minute of what was actually a fairly technical presentation.

4: Professional yet casual

The second edition of Dubai Watch Week brought together some of the best and brightest in the industry – there were CEOs, Creative Directors, watchmakers, world renowned collectors and highly respected journalists, and yet there was a distinctly casual atmosphere. Politeness and friendliness were the order of the day, and even if you bumped into someone as they were rushing off to their next meeting, they always made time to have a quick word before promising to catch up with you at the cafe.

Stephen Forsey has an 'under the radar' Instagram name thanks to his kids. You'll chuckle when you find out what it is.

Stephen Forsey has an ‘under the radar’ Instagram name thanks to his kids. You’ll chuckle when you find out what it is.

This is even more impressive when you consider just how much was going on during Dubai Watch Week. If you so wished, you could pack your schedule with back-to-back discussion panels, hubs, watchmaking classes, and yet things never felt frantic or tense.

One of the things we were really happy about was that despite the depressed market conditions, there was little doom and gloom talk at DWW. It was mentioned from time-to-time, but it never upset the atmosphere, nor did it dampen people’s spirits.

Serious horology was discussed behind wide smiles.

Serious horology was discussed behind wide smiles.

5: The Watches

No surprises here, the second edition of Dubai Watch Week brought together some seriously desirable wrist-wear. You could see everything that your heart desired – entry-level timepieces from established brands such as Baume & Mercier and Corum, to haute horology pieces from the likes of Bovet, Greubel Forsey, Moritz Grossmann and many others.

With the independent brands one of the best things about visiting their booths was the high probability of meeting the founder and/or CEO of the company. Case in point, we spoke to Rexhep Rexhepi (Akrivia), Stephen Forsey (Greubel Forsey), Christine Hutter (Moritz Grossmann), and Edouard Meylan (Moser & Cie) at their booths.

Besides the watches that were launched or on display, there was plenty of cool wristwear to be seen on the wrist of collectors. Several made it a point to double-wrist (wear a watch on each wrist) through the entire week, and the unspoken rule amongst collectors (even those that didn’t know each other) presided at DWW. A simple ‘May I see your watch’ was all it took for the watch to be enthusiastically removed, and placed in the palm of your hands. This is something that has always amazed us about watch collectors – regardless of what the watch means to the person wearing it, never-mind the fact that some of those timepieces cost a fortune, we’ve never ever been denied. Try asking someone you’ve just met for the keys to their Ferrari, and the result will be very different…

To summarise, the second edition of Dubai Watch Week was bigger and better than its predecessor. Event organiser Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons pulled off an amazing horological event, one that rivaled many international events in terms of what it offered to brands, the industry and collectors. DWW 2016 was accessible, and cultural, and further established Dubai-based Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons as true curators of time.

To learn more about Dubai Watch Week, click here.

To learn more about Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, click here.

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