Pandemic Truths – Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi of Seddiqi & Sons

A retailer on disruption, and enduring relationships.

Everyone in watchmaking has been affected by the pandemic, brands and consumers alike. But in between the two are the retailers. To find out how the situation in unfolding for the key intermediary between brand and consumer, we spoke with Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi.

He is the Chief Commercial Officer of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the luxury-watch pioneer established in 1950 that is now the biggest retailer in the Middle East. Beyond being a retailer, the Dubai-based company is also widely known for organising Dubai Watch Week, the biannual fair that brings watchmakers and industry personalities to the Emirate.

The interview was edited for clarity and length.

First, how did Seddiqi get through the lockdown?

It all happened very fast and came as a shock at first. The UAE government applied very strict rules immediately to protect the population and support the economy.

We underwent a strict lockdown of 40 days. For security reasons, we moved our inventory out of the malls into our headquarters. We quickly found out it was a good idea! Indeed, no matter that the whole state was in lockdown, people still reached out to us for watches. We started sending pictures to them and organising home deliveries. At the beginning to middle of March, we did one delivery a week, then it turned into a daily challenge.

What is amazing is that we did not get any order cancellations during the period. On the contrary, we saw people were getting bored at home, so online shopping increased. But we do not have an e-commerce platform at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, so we created a dedicated team for home delivery. You could say the lockdown sparked our e-commerce! It came together so fast. The mood was very pragmatic, the decisions were taken within a few hours. And it worked very well.

As everyone is talking about “phygital” [physical and digital], what are you working on for e-commerce?

As you can see, our vision is that it is a bit early for pure e-commerce in the region. People like the luxury of actually going into a store and getting spoiled. We are trying to bring that experience to the consumer with our home delivery service, which is more of a 360-degree concierge service really. It starts over the phone, then with an e-catalogue. But in the end, people want to touch and feel the watches, especially for a high-end piece.

How is your reopening going?

Malls reopened three weeks ago but sanitary measures are still stringent for the healthy of our staff and our customers. We have heat detectors at the entrances of both the carpark and the mall, social distancing of 2 m is strictly enforced, and mask-wearing is mandatory.

What is great to see is that demand for watches is still very strong, even though the in-store traffic is restricted. By next week, business will be back to normal, as malls be open at full capacity.

Now, it is just up to each individual to take responsibility and continue to respect the common-sense rules of social distancing.

Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons owns the Rolex boutique in Dubai Mall, which is the world’s largest at over 9,000 square feet. Photo – Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons

The UAE is a destination reliant on travellers. Did you rely more on tourists or local clients before the shutdown? How is that going to play out in the future with international travel restricted until the end of the year or even until 2021? 

We are a growing city that’s very cosmopolitan. So obviously, we had a lot of tourists visiting us and that will impact our business to some extent as they represented 50% of our business. But we have always developed our business by focusing on our local community. 

This is our strength: our dedication to the family business and to our community. This is how we have built our business for the last 70 years. Now is the time to focus on them even more. We will educate more, present more, offer more services as well.

Have brands taken any steps to help you as a retailer?

We have great relations with our partner brands and they have all been very supportive. They agreed to delay payments when needed, to hold shipments if required. It is normal that everyone is very cautious about expenses in such an uncertain period, but it helps that our ties with our partners are very strong.

We even managed to get some deliveries during the lockdown. To be honest, our issue now is that we do not have enough stock for some brands since the re-opening.

The Hublot Classic Fusion Special Edition Bronze Anticlockwise, a limited edition made for Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in 2019, which has hands that turn anticlockwise. Photo – Hublot

How do you see demand for mechanical watches at the moment? Do you see any developing trends for the future of retail?

Demand is surprisingly strong. It seems people still want to treat themselves and enjoy great watchmaking, which is great news!

We see the trend of the growing interest for independent watchmaking. Collectors enjoy more and more seeing the effort behind the product, meeting the man behind the watch. The success of Dubai Watch Week has helped a lot.

If you think about it, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe were independent watchmakers themselves when they started 150 years ago. They started with passion and know-how. Who knows who the next great ones will be? It is incredible if you are able to say that you actually worked with the founders when they started.

We have always favoured the human aspect of our business whether with our customers or our partners. This is what it is all about. This is how we are able to create a special edition with MB&F and H. Moser & Cie. that just launched last week to celebrate our 70th year of existence.

The LM101 MB&F x H. Moser with a pale blue dial made to mark the 70th anniversary of Ahmed Seddiqi & Son. Photo – MB&F

What do you see the retailer’s role evolving with the direct-to-consumer approach by many brands?

The market today is just one big worldwide playground. I have to admit that brands opening their own boutiques is a big challenge for retailers everywhere.

But, as our founder, my grandfather, always said, “To be relevant in this business, you have to be king in your own country.” We have built our business for 70 years now. We know our customers. We have strong relationships with every single one of them. We have deep and large networks. We have built trust – this is key.

The information we have gathered and the experience we offer is priceless. We have built many brands in the region and we believe human relationships and people are what really matters in the end.

It is true that it is a business and it is about numbers, but we never want to lose sight of this fundamental human aspect. This is what Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons will always stand for. We are convinced this is how we will remain relevant.

Correction June 23, 2020: Mr Seddiqi is the grandson of Ahmed Seddiqi, and not his son as stated in an earlier version of the article. We are sorry for the error.

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Up Close: Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 6007A “New Manufacture 2019”

Casually dressed and modern.

Unveiled just a day ago, the Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 6007A “New Manufacture 2019” is a commemorative edition for the completion of the brand’s huge headquarters in Geneva. Though it is a just time-and-date watch, the ref. 6007A has a few interesting details that set it apart from the typical Calatrava, and all the details come together nicely for a refreshingly modern – and expensive – Calatrava.

While the launch of the ref. 6007A was largely a surprise, in some other ways it wasn’t. When Patek Philippe debuted the Calatrava ref. 5212A Weekly Calendar a year ago, it was a quirky outlier amidst the formality of the Calatrava line.

But insiders revealed that the Weekly Calendar was a hint about the Calatrava’s future. While endowed with such a long history that “Calatrava” is almost a synonym for a thin, classical dress watch, the Calatrava line was getting old fashioned. Featuring hand-writing inspired markings on the dial, the Weekly Calendar marked a new design direction for the line. At the same time, the Calatrava collection has been trimmed significantly, leaving just four men’s Calatrava references (the refs. 5196, 5227, 5297, and 6006), and now the ref. 6007A.

The Calatrava ref. 6007A “New Manufacture 2019”

The Calatrava ref. 5212A Weekly Calendar

Initial thoughts

I like the look of the ref. 6007A. It doesn’t look like yet another silver-dial dress watch, which makes is especially appealing for anyone who already has a silver-dial dress watch. The dial is an appealing, metallic grey-blue that’s restrained, which also makes it hard to capture correctly.

A couple of features should have left out, namely the date and the faux-fabric, embossed-leather strap, and other elements should can be improved – shrinking the size of the basketweave pattern – but it is a handsome watch with a relaxed aesthetic that contrasts with the formality of most Calatrava watches.

On the wrist, it’s thin, light, and a good size at 40 mm and thin. The guilloche also gives it a distinct look even at arm’s length. And unusually for a watch of this type, it has excellent nighttime legibility thanks to generous Super-Luminova.

In the usual Patek Philippe style, every element of the watch is done well. No single element is best in class, but all of it is executed consistently to an excellent standard, albeit one that’s not exceptional. While technically refined, the movement in the ref. 6007A is not as highly decorated as a Lange caliber for instance, but the dial on the ref. 6007A is more elaborate than the typical silvered Lange dial. Put everything together and the ref. 6007A as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

That said, it is expensive for what it is, overly expensive if considering on its tangible features. With a retail price of 25,000 Swiss francs, it is priced far steeper than the competition.

But it’s a Patek Philippe, which like Hermes and Ferrari, is the most valuable in its industry. A good deal of that is the consequence of the careful and rigorously consistent development of the brand by its owners, the Sterns. The 600 million franc investment in the new factory that this watch commemorates illustrate the Stern family’s dedication to not just making watches, but building the brand and business.

Automative lineage

At first glance, the dial seems like a stark departure from the traditional Calatrava look. But the design is in fact modelled on the ref. 5000 launched in 1991.

With a stark, speedometer-like dial, the ref. 5000 was actually a departure from the prevailing aesthetic of the 1980s. According to someone who was working at Patek Philippe at the time, the design was automative inspired, having been created for a potential collaboration with Ferrari.

The Calatrava ref. 5000G. Photo – Sotheby’s

The Ferrari tie up never went ahead, because the two brands could not come to an agreement on certain specifics of the design (and Ferrari then struck an agreement with Girard-Perregaux in 1994). The ref. 5000 lived on as a limited edition and it turned out to be enough of a success that three variants were made, in white, yellow, and pink gold.

Then in 2005, Patek Philippe launched the enlarged version of the watch, the ref. 6000, which also incorporated a date function. And three years ago, the further-enlarged version, the ref. 6006, made its debut.

All shared a similar dial style that is now found in the ref. 6007A. All of the key elements are there, but rearranged and modified for a far more contemporary look.

The hour markers, for example, are the same radially-positioned Arabic numerals, but enlarged white gold appliqués instead of printed. And instead of the pointer date found on the refs. 6000 and 6006, the ref. 6007A has a date window at three, which sadly does get in the way of the dial symmetry.

And unlike the its predecessors that were mostly in black, the dial of the ref. 6007A is blue. It’s an appealing colour, but blue is fashionable at the moment, which makes this a little faddish too. But in time blue will not longer be the flavour of the day, and then this dial will seem a little more timeless.

Classical basketweave

Patek Philippe describes the guilloche in the centre of the dial as “carbon style”, and it’s the same motif found on the dials of the unique refs. 5208T and 5004T made for the Only Watch charity auction.

The pattern works better here than on the pair of one-off watches, because the ref. 6007A is a simple, modern-looking watch, whereas the two Only Watch examples had the “carbon style” motif retroactively added to the design.

Despite the name, the pattern is actually an old one, and usually known as basketweave. Widely found on watch dials, the pattern is used often by Breguet while American engine-turning specialist Joshua Shapiro has created his own proprietary variant that’s a nested basketweave.

While it origins lies in classical watchmaking, the scale of the pattern is modern and too large; the size of the basketweave is out of proportion with the other elements on the dial. Each “square” within the basketweave is almost as tall as the hour numerals. This was probably done to give the watch a more contemporary look by avoiding the Breguet-esque pocket watch style, but it comes at the expense of its aesthetic refinement.

The pattern is stamped, rather than engine turned, but it is neatly done. Doing it manually with a straight-line engine would have added another level of artisanal finesse to the watch, as well as 50% to the already-high retail price, so it is what it is.

More impressive are the hour numerals, which are applied and in 18k white gold. The hands are also solid gold, but lacquered in white, giving them excellent legibility. The gold hands and indices are fancy detail that elevates an entry-level steel watch, albeit an extremely expensive one. More importantly, applied Arabic numerals in gold are not usually found on entry-level watches of comparable brands. Instead, hour markers tend to be printed, or simply shaped if applied.

The case

At 40 mm in diameter, the ref. 6007A is the largest Calatrava in the range (along with the ref. 5212A that’s the same size). Though large by Calatrava norms, it’s a moderate size by modern standards, and it works well with the dial.

Importantly, the dial is smartly laid out, so the dial proportions look correct relative to the largish case. Filling the space between the date window and the edge of the dial with a wide minute track gives it a relatively balanced face, even though the movement is small compared to the case.

The case form is identical to the ref. 5000 and its descendants. Because it’s an extremely simple form, it still looks good despite having been enlarged from the 33 mm of the ref. 5000 to its current size.

The simple form is also a weakness because it’s, well, simple. It’s stamped and lacks any sort of flourish, but the case is robust for a thin case, which is always something Patek Philippe excels at.

But the strap is a letdown. Embossed to resemble fabric, the strap is actually calfskin. It’s thin and not particularly good looking, but fortunately the easiest bit to swap out.

The movement

The movement inside is a cal. 324 S C that sits under a display back but isn’t easily examined because of the logo on the sapphire window. Patek Philippe isn’t in the habit of engraving any marks on the rims of its display backs, hence the printing, which is too big and rendered in unattractive typography.

In case you forget the occasion

It’s a standard cal. 324 S C, a long-lived and reliable movement that’s been upgraded over the years, most notably with a Spiromax silicon hairspring. That said, using the new cal. 26-330 (a further upgraded version of the cal. 324), would have been a welcome bonus.

In terms of aesthetics and decoration it is similar to other industrially finished, high-end movements in the price range, like those made by Audemars Piguet for instance. Everything is taken care of – right down to polished countersinks and chamfered spokes on wheels – but mostly by machines, with a handful of flourishes like sharp outward corners on some bridges.

Intriguingly, the movement finishing is better than examples of the cal. 324 from several years ago. Specifically, the anglage, or polished bevels, on the bridges is rounded and smoother. While faint machining marks on the bevels can be discerned up close, they are not as apparent as on earlier examples. Similarly, the countersinks appear wider and more polished.

The four-armed Gyromax balance wheel

The emblem of the Patek Philippe Seal engraved on the bridge for the fourth and escape wheels

Notice that the edges of the recesses on the base plate are also gently bevelled

All of the jewels, screws, and pins sit in prominent, polished countersinks

The large Calatrava cross engraved in a CNC mill – the milling marks are visible within – but it is beautifully done

Concluding thoughts

For anyone who wants a Calatrava that’s a bit livelier, and sporty-ish without being a sports watch, then the ref. 6007A makes sense – price aside. Relative to its intrinsic qualities, the price is high.

But this is a Patek Philippe and a limited edition of just 1,000. By the benchmark of rarity and desirability, it’s a compelling buy.

Key facts and price

Patek Philippe Calatrava “New Manufacture 2019”
Ref. 6007A-001

Case diameter: 40 mm
Height: 10.34 mm
Material: Steel
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Cal. 324 S C
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 45 hours

Strap: Calfskin with embossed motif

Limited edition: 1,000 pieces
 At both retailers and boutiques
Price: 25,000 Swiss francs; 37,400 Singapore dollars

For more, visit

Correction June 23, 2020: The Ferrari-Patek Philippe collaboration did not take place as both brands could agree on certain design elements, and not for reasons related to branding as stated earlier.

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