‘Look behind closed doors’: An interview with Dubai Watch Week’s director
Dubai is bracing for an exciting five days of Dubai Watch Week, an industry-dedicated event that further elevates the emirate’s value as a magnet for international watchmakers reaching out to the region through the city.
With exactly one week left till the event begins, Aficionado sits down with Melika Yazdjerdi, director of Dubai Watch Week and head of Corporate Communications at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the event’s organizer. Yazdjerdi shares the company’s intentions and standpoint on the event and walks us through what’s expected to be the region’s largest watch-related event.
The watchmaking industry is not in its best shape now, yet you’re launching an industry-dedicated event. What’s the logic behind this?
It has been really important to focus on the different agendas of watchmaking. We are firm believers that you need to support the industry that you’re in, whether times are good or bad – and Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons has been doing this for over 65 years.
Irrespective of the situation in the watch industry, it was actually imperative for us to hold the event at this time of the year, because people need to understand the philosophy and history behind the Swiss watch industry and the watch industry at large.
Dubai Watch Week has launched several educational initiatives. Why are you focusing on this aspect?
The watch industry is one of the oldest in the world and time is as old as mankind; they’re both very relative. We’re saying that Dubai Watch Week is cultural and educational, because we’re taking a step back, going really to the beginning of time…telling people what’s been happening in the industry for the past decades. That is really what we want to educate people on.
An event of this magnitude has to be, in essence, cultural and educational. It’s not always about commercial values. When you educate people, you’re empowering them with knowledge and giving them the opportunity to learn something new. That in itself translates into the creation of collectors, connoisseurs and buyers.
There will be numerous collectors and watch enthusiasts at Dubai Watch Week, those who are already familiar with the industry. How are you going to expand the reach beyond these closed circles?
Of course, a lot of the collectors and established connoisseurs who will come are familiar with the spokespeople, but we also want to give the general public an opportunity to learn about this private industry. However, even within the collectors’ circles, they don’t have access to the kind of people we’re bringing to Dubai Watch Week.
We’re giving people the opportunity to learn about something that it always very closed and private, and we’re opening it up to the rest of the world.
Dubai Watch Week is focusing on independent watchmakers. Why?
When we developed the program, we had a vision and an objective in mind, but the support from the industry has been phenomenal. We’ve been constantly flooded with requests and phone calls on opening doors to other exhibitions. However, we had to stay focused for the first edition and it’s not like we’re preferring independents over the mass brands, but we have to start somewhere.
The rebels [independents] are smaller and very niche, so it is easier to start with a smaller topic to educate people. Timekeeping and watchmaking are such broad subject[s] and we don’t want to overwhelm the public with so much information.
We would have loved to have all the rebels with us, but unfortunately, due to space limitations, we could only accommodate ten brands inside DIFC and we have an additional three brands represented inside The Dubai Mall exhibition.
Are all of these associated with Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons?
Throughout Dubai Watch Week, there will an exhibition by independent brands at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and an exhibition brought by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie Geneve (GPHG). We [also] have a third exhibition inside The Dubai Mall.
Many of the brands are not part of Ahmed Seddiqi Group. For example, we opened the exhibition in The Dubai Mall to all watch retailers, but in fairness could only accommodate 18 brands, so it was on a first-come-first-serve basis.
With GPGG, we’re also bringing brands that are not part of our portfolio and we have speakers coming to represent other brands as well. So, it’s really about bringing a 360-degree approach and about giving people the opportunity to look behind closed doors.
How would this reflect on Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons?
It was important for us to create an unbiased, neutral platform. That’s why it’s called the Dubai Watch Week and not the Seddiqi Watch Week. It’s really about Dubai and the UAE.
At Seddiqi, we see ourselves as educators; our official tagline is “the curators of time” – that’s how we really see ourselves. We’re constantly striving to educate people – not to say that people need learning, but it’s such a broad subject and it is always good that you have a focus to educate people, because I think passion starts because someone out there had an inkling or a burning desire to learn about something and, when they found out about the subject, it grew into a hobby, then a passion and that’s how they became established collectors.