On November 20-24, 2019 the next annual Dubai Watch Week will begin – representing a major collective of the most important names and personalities in the global luxury timepiece industry and consumer outreach networks. Just four years old now, Dubai Watch Week continues to expand and refine itself with each ensuing iteration – edging closer and closer to its goal of making a serious impact on the global industry far outside of the Middle East. I was there in 2015 at the debut Dubai Watch Week, and soon I will be joining them again in 2019. Here is why I am excited to attend…
la Dubai Watch Week is different than most watch shows because it isn’t about helping watch brands get orders from retailers and it isn’t about selling timepieces directly to the public. Rather, it is sees itself as a summit of the most important minds in the timepiece industry space – gathering them together in Dubai to exchange ideas, share concerns, and show off their latest and greatest crafts and innovations. It’s the type of event the watch industry needs because it is about dialog and sharing best practices… and its the type of event that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
Dubai Watch Week is a bastion of liberal ideas and open conversations – especially when compared to the typically conservative context of the watch industry which itself is mostly based in and around Switzerland. While Dubai and the UAE is not typically known for its liberal policies in the West, regionally in the Middle East it is a hub of new ideas and economic opportunities. It also happens to be a serious traditional hub for high-end watch purchases.
While the Dubai government is a collaborator in the event, Dubai Watch Week is the brainchild of a family business – a company known as Seddiqi Holdings, which wears the crown as the most important distributor of fine timepiece in the region. Between the many Seddiqi and brand-labeled stores the family operates in the region, they naturally have the power and pull to attract the world’s most important timepiece makers and their followers.
I first visited Dubai Watch Week under the impression that Dubai Watch Week was an attempt to draw luxury brand and consumer attention to the region in order to sell more watches. What I learned is that Dubai Watch Week is an olive branch to an industry in distress, run by isolated traditionalists in small European towns unable or unwilling to adapt to a globalized, rapidly changing world marketplace. The Swiss often believe that because they produce the watches that feed the watch industry they alone are the industry – but they are wrong. The modern luxury watch industry for the last 40 years was developed and promoted by the people selling and distributing watches outside of Switzerland.
Ushering the luxury wrist watch industry into the next era will probably once again be a function of those entities which market, distribute, and sell watches – and not the companies which produce them. Dubai Watch Week in one sense is a wonderfully restrained message to the Swiss that their industry is beyond them, and that a complex, diverse, and sometimes combative ecosystem of entities are necessary to manage and cooperate with in order to have a functioning global wrist watch industry.
A major focus of Dubai Watch Week is to create both formal (for example through its organized Horology Forums – one of which I will be moderating) , and informal conversation opportunities from various members of the watch industry who rarely have a chance to share a dialog in the same room. Myself and other guests of Dubai Watch Week appreciate how the event is at the same time both organized (with plenty of events to attend) but also free-form, allowing guests to meander as they wish to those areas and conversations that interest them. Whereas more traditional timepiece industry trade shows such as SIHH (now “Watches & Wonders”), and Baselworld are larger, busier, and broader – they do not serve as effective venues for talks across companies, across professional roles, and across regions with people being asked to compare and contrast their experiences with those of colleagues in the same space.
Watch brands eager to make an impact with Dubai Watch Week guests are starting to take notice. Rolex – the world’s most important traditional luxury watch brand – will have a dedicated presence at Dubai Watch Week 2019, along with other brands such as Japanese Grand Seiko, Chopard, Bvlgari, and others. The event further seeks to include both major industry names as well as important independent watchmakers and their crafts. Those who appreciate the complex diversity that represents today’s dynamic watch industry surely appreciate the skilled curation effort put forth but the Dubai Watch Week organization team.
Another new feature at Dubai Watch Week 2019 will be the inclusion of WatchBox – a pre-owned watch platform with a growing global footprint, will focus on producing voluminous amounts of video content through the WatchBox TV platform. This is part of a larger effort by Dubai Watch Week to invite media professionals to come to Dubai, experience the event, and tell their own story of what happened there. Such a nurturing attitude toward media coverage and independent thought help to define the overall goals and purposes of the event.
Dubai Watch Week 2019 has elements which are open to the public and elements which are available exclusively to members of the watch industry. The unspoken truth of the show is that it represents a regional interest (Middle East watch sales) taking upon itself the responsibility to help the larger global watch industry’s needs. As a 12 year veteran of luxury watch media and industry analysis, I think their efforts are starting to have real effect.
Author: Ariel Adams. BlogtoWatch.com