There was plenty to see and do around Dubai Watch Week 2023, which just concluded last weekend. Wandering around the glittering hall with showcases full of new releases, and you might run into Rexhep Rexhepi, Maximilian Büsser, and Kari Voutilainen. Punctuating all of this, however, were the insightful panel discussions that happened over the course of Dubai Watch Week (DWW), which was organised by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the largest watch retailer in the Middle East.
Covering a wide array of topics and including speakers from an even wider background, it was possible to dip in and out of these discussions throughout the fair. Luckily, they were all recorded and are now available on the DWW YouTube channel. So if you weren’t able to attend the show, or you found yourself stuck between one booth and the next, you can catch up on them at any time.
The best session of the fair was undoubtedly the in-depth talk given by talented watchmaker, Stephen McDonnell that we quickly recommended in real time. Mr McDonnell provided incredible detail about his work and philosophy in a talk that summarised his horological mind. But we wanted to give some more highlights from across the programme beyond Mr McDonnell, as there is plenty to dig in to.
The first talk of the show focused on a hot button topic, the role of retailers and the allocation of popular watches.
Moderated by British journalist Robin Swithinbank, it featured Mohammed Seddiqi, chief commercial officer of Seddiqi Holdings; Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President of Chopard; and Patrick Chalhoub, Group President of Chalhoub Group, a luxury fashion distributor in Dubai.
Having the voice of a retail expert from another luxury sector that isn’t watchmaking brought an interesting dynamic to this discussion. It brought another perspective to what can often be an echo chamber of complaints when talking about waitlists and allocation.
When the familiar “For Exhibition Only” topic came up, Mr. Scheufele was quick to point out that maintaining staff levels of highly trained watchmakers is not easy, and without a rise in the number of people able to make complex watches, the supply can never reach demand. Overall, an interesting discussion for anyone who has found themselves on the wrong end of a waitlist, with perspectives from inside and outside the industry.
Another worthwhile discussion arising from a topic that often heightens emotions was Spare Me: Is Aftersales and After Thought? The sessions provided insight into how after-sales service currently works, and some ideas about how it may improve.
It included interesting mix of panellists that spanned the breadth of this issue. The session was moderated by Nicholas Towndrow, General Manager of independent workshop Swiss Watch Services, and he was joined by Rexhep Rexhepi of Akrivia; Jean-Claude Eggen the chief executive of La Joux-Perret; and Pascal Ravessoud, who leads the Fondation Haute Horlogerie (FHH).
During this hour-long discussion, Mr. Eggen revealed the process of developing a new movement often includes very little, if any, thought to servicing and ensuing spare parts. Some brands, however, do take the long-term view. He added an anecdote that a La Joux-Perret client recently placed 150 orders for spares for a particular movement for economies of scale.
Hearing perspectives from those who work on mass-manufactured movements contrasted with that of Mr. Rexhepi, who makes very few watches and sees only a handful of them come back for servicing each year. This juxtaposition of perspectives enriched this discussion, which is well worth a watch.
Another excellent panel examined the current state of independent watchmaking and how it might be at risk of falling victim to big money buyouts, or the “Walmart effect”.
Moderated by Gary Getz, an enthusiastic collector, it included Edouard Meylan of H. Moser & Cie.; Amr Al Otaishan, a board member of music-box maker Reuge; and Mishal Kanoo, a prominent Emirati businessman. They four covered an interesting topic, one that brings up a lot of questions about how the segment will grow.
There are plenty of other discussions which took place over the week and I encourage you to go through them all as there is plenty to discover. The entire programme displayed great ambition and promises even more in store for 2025, when the next DWW will take place.
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