Why Dubai Watch Week Is an Event Like No Other

 Between educational panels and interactive exhibits,  DWW 2017 was about so much more than selling watches.

Last week, Analog/Shift founder James Lamdin returned from Dubai Watch Week, a five-day celebration of all things horology. Organized by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the Middle East’s foremost Swiss watch retailer, the third year celebrated not just by showcasing new releases from a bevy of luxury watchmakers, but also by hosting educational programs, panels hosted by The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and so much more.

That's not to say that fine watches weren't the focus. For proof that manufacturers are invested in the market, look no further than IWC Schaffhausen's Portugieser Tourbillon Middle East, a limited edition of 25 pieces launched exclusively for the event in partnership with Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons.


IWC Schaffhausen's Portugieser Tourbillon Middle East (IWC)

This edition has a deep emerald dial and is animated by a flying tourbillon at 9 o’clock. The manually wound manufacture 98900 caliber, visible through the transparent sapphire crystal case back, supplies a power reserve of 54 hours and features IWC’s signature indexless balance.

Audemars Piguet, meanwhile, used the event as a platform to announce some stunning new pieces of their own. Among them, a new line of women's watches from their Millenary line, first launched in 1995 to celebrate the new millennium. Two of these timepieces feature the Polish bracelet, an intricate, handmade threaded design that adds to the vintage value of the pieces. 

Webp.net-resizeimage-63.jpgAP's Frosted Gold Millenary timepiece (Courtest of AP)

 AP's Frosted Gold design has returned, more subdued than some collectors might expect, as part of a collaboration with the jewelry designer Carolina Bucci that debuted on a Royal Oak piece from last year. Manufactured using an ancient gold hammering procedure called the Florentine technique,  the bezel, the inner bezel, the top of the lugs and the case’s sides at 9 and 3 o’clock have been frosted. This timepiece also marks the first time an opal dial has been used in the Millenary collection.

Despite these big announcements, 30 brands and upward of 4,000 visitors, Show Director Melika Yazdjerdi reminded The New York Times what sets DWW apart from other watch shows. "We give collectors, press and the public intimate access to brands through programs, round-table discussions and master classes — without the pressure of sales," she said. "The focus is on transferring knowledge of craftsmanship."

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This was evident through "Telling Time," an exhibition hosted by The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie that "invites visitors to Dubai Watch Week to think again about our perception of time, its vocabulary and what the passage of time actually means," the FHH said in a statement. "Telling Time considers time from a different perspective through an original juxtaposition of 10 video works by international artists and a selection of 29 fine watches, each of which, in its own way, reinterprets the traditional vocabulary of time."

They also incorporated virtual reality, allowing visitors to pilot a Grumman F6F-5 through storms using a flyback chrono, operate a marine chrono on the deck of a three-master, or drive a steam locomotive from London to Edinburgh using a Universal Genève railroad watch.

IMG_6416.jpg(l-r) James Lamdin, Mohammed Seddiqi, Moderator Suzanne Wong, Paul O'Neil (Courtest of DWW)

We were most excited for FHH's panels, though, which ran all five days and included such highlights as "The Modification Question" and "Icons & Classics."  "Counterfeit Culture — Understanding the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" that featured our own James Lamdin, Founder of Analog/Shift, in conversation with Mohammed Seddiqi. As both the SVP of Sales and Retail at the family business, Seddiqi & Sons, and the CCO of Seddiqi Holding, Mohammed remains a power broker in this region for the watch business and a major force behind DWW. Paul O’Neil, editor in chief of WorldTempus, rounded out the panel, which was moderated by Suzanne Wong, editor at large of Revolution.

Asked what constitutes a counterfeit watch, Lamdin acknowledged that the question was subjective. Beyond the man with watches lining trench coats, he said, are the "Superfakes," higher quality counterfeit watches, made to a higher standard, that can only be deduced as fakes when taken apart by experts.

IMG_6363.jpgPanelist James Lamdin (Courtesy of DWW)

The counterfeits Lamdin deals with most, he said, are of the "Frankenwatch" variety, "using a mix of genuine and aftermarket components, often in vintage, which can make it very complicated to determine the originality of the watch."

"We have witnessed a lot of cases in our work where we see clients being cheated," Saddiqi said. He told a story of client coming in, boasting that he purchased a watch they were selling for $100,000 for just $20,000. Saddiqi had to break the bad news to him. “That’s why we are investing and opening stores for you, to come in here and make sure," he told the man.

IMG_6209.jpgPanelist Mohammed Seddiqi (Courtesy of DWW)

Saddiqi also explained that with vintage watches, the movements are often changed. With the recent fame of the logo dials, he said, counterfeit dials are an emerging problem, and very difficult to distinguish from real ones. 

Through these panels, DWW showed that they care just as much about the information their visitors take away from the event as they care about how much success their exhibitors have. "It isn’t commercial," said Melika Yazdjerdi. "We realized that all existing events had a recurring theme, which was mainly to sell watches. We are the only event of its kind in the world, which can make it difficult to get the right kind of buy-in from partners and participants as we are a noncommercial event, but we are growing."

Justin Joffe
Justin Joffe

Justin Joffe is an award-winning arts and culture journalist whose work has appeared in several outlets including Vulture, The Observer, Noisey, Spin, Flaunt and the print quarterly journal of American Roots music, No Depression. He has recently written the liner notes for the recording of a Leonard Cohen tribute show, out now on the Royal Potato Family label.

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