In a clever multi-room build-out along Washington Street in NYC’s Meatpacking District, Dubai Watch Week hosted the “Moves New York” Horology Forum this 24-25 September. A gathering of diverse, thoughtful minds in watchmaking and the watch industry at large, the pop-up event aimed to share information, increase access and encourage dialogue. Open to the public, it was friendly and inclusive (words not often associated with horology), and a mirrored subway car selfie station and temporary time-themed sandwich shop underscored playful intentions. It was here that we sat with Hind Seddiqi, the Director General of Dubai Watch Week and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Seddiqi Holding, the family-owned luxury conglomerate that includes leading United Arab Emirates watch retailer Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. With Seddiqi’s insight, we learned of her broader mission for the week and why it’s touring the world.
Before we discuss Dubai Watch Week, would it be possible for you to share with us the moment that you fell in love with watches? You grew up with with a watch industry family. Was it one particular watch?
It was the day that my dad came home with a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watch. He used to come home with different watches to say, “This is a new brand we have” or “This is a new watch I bought,” but that one watch was the most fascinating for me. You could turn the case over so that it doesn’t look like a watch. I loved that mechanism. I will never forget the moment that I first saw it.
Today it’s very hard to impress kids, but as a child I remember being so impressed by that watch. I would go to my dad’s bed stand and open the drawers and play with it. Obviously, I got into the business. I started visiting manufactures and meeting the watchmakers. I became fascinated by their stories. That was sort of the inspiration behind Dubai Watch Week, that experience that I had received. We wanted to share it with everyone in the world.
Did you always know you wanted watches to be your future?
No. Never. I never thought I’d join the family business. I studied mass communication with a concentration in public relations. I was working for the public relations agency that was managing the company business. I was working on the PR side. There were gaps where we couldn’t get enough of the right information to service them well. When I spoke to my father and uncle and told them they needed to hire someone they said, “Why don’t you come and try it.”
In your time in the watch industry, have you seen more women successfully enter the work force?
More so in the past few years. Yes. But we need more women in the industry. They bring a different touch, a different perspective, especially in how to tell the story of the brand. When I first started, it was very male-dominated for sure.
What’s the mission behind Dubai Watch Week? Has it changed over the years?
The first founding mission was to focus on transmission of knowledge and keeping the industry moving forward, surviving. We wanted to do it through the people behind the watch industry: the watchmakers, the designers, people you were not hearing from back in 2015. These were the people who made us love watches. We wanted to bring them into the spotlight.
We also wanted them to talk to one another. The Swiss watch industry, it’s only one industry but the people inside are really protective of their brand. It is siloed. One CEO wouldn’t speak to another CEO, even though they shared the same problems. We said to them, “Let’s sit together and discuss these problems and help the industry.” We encouraged discussion and even collaboration.
Collectors are an integral part of the watch industry—and watch events. Can you tell us about how you work with collectors?
When we first started, in the Middle East region it was very difficult for us to bring collectors out to talk about their collections because they are very discreet. We still see very serious collectors who do not want to come into the spotlight. But then you have people who are interested in collecting and want to enter the world but they don’t know how. We are there to help them.
Collecting doesn’t have to be owning the most expensive watch
That’s why we have partners like Christie’s who are there to talk to people about auctions, evaluating your watches, what to think about when you want to collect… Collecting doesn’t have to be owning the most expensive watch. You might like a specific movement or a small, independent watchmaker. You can be a collector with your own style and your own voice.
What is intention behind touring Dubai Watch Week? Your first touring horology forum was in London. New York is now your second.
Our mission is an international one. We host the big event in Dubai because that’s our hometown and that’s where we feel we’re most in control of our vision. We used to have Dubai Watch Week every year and then we decided we couldn’t because it was becoming too big so we created a gap year. In the gap year, we didn’t want to be absent because there are always so many things to talk about so we thought, “Let’s take the horology forum out of Dubai and explore other markets and introduce them to Dubai Watch Week,” but also let’s tap into the watch industry within that city.
London was very successful because there are amazing British watchmakers who were not getting the right amount of attention. When we brought them out and people started listening to them, our audience was fascinated. This allowed us to create a community of people in the industry: if they need help from one another, they know who to talk to. Now we are in New York. There’s a nice watch community in New York. It’s also young. We felt our spirit and voice would match the city and the people who were interested. We also wanted to find out about American watchmakers and what they’ve got going on.
How did the programming pieces come together?
We thought of New York and what the city needed. We didn’t want to disappoint the crowd. We changed our format. The panel format for New York is the classic format but we added a debate element because it felt very American. We wanted to try that. Then the masterclass element, which we did not take to London, we thought people here would love to join that. There are topics that are relevant to the market and the industry, but altogether we are bringing something that has never been done before in this retail space before.
Can you distill Dubai Watch Week for us?
It’s definitely the place to be if you’re passionate about watchmaking and you want to meet people who really care about the industry. There are people who can help you make decisions about purchasing or even researching. I like to call it the Disneyland for people who love watches.
We also try to create content that isn’t intimidating. We want our content to be engaging for people that don’t know everything. There are also a lot of inside jokes and stories around the industry that you usually learn at exclusive cocktail parties. We want to break that ice and bring those here, to everyone.
Images courtesy of Dubai Watch Week