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Dubai Watch Week Insiders Share Tips and Tricks for the Fair

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When Dubai Watch Week debuted in 2015, organizers and brand executives alike said they thought it was time for the region to have a major event on the world horology calendar.

And this year, with 68 brands scheduled to participate in the event Nov. 16-20, it seems they were right.

Watches are not sold at the fair, often called D.W.W., but many brands have come to see it as a horological moment, and about 20 new models are scheduled for presentation at brand boutiques and special events throughout the city, the largest in the United Arab Emirates.

Among those introductions will be timepieces from Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux.

Patrick Pruniaux, chief executive and co-founder of Sowind Group, which owns both brands, wrote in an email that the fair is a good venue for the debuts. “We’ve been a long-term partner of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons and are very familiar with its professionalism and the company’s extraordinary eye for detail,” he wrote, referring to the organization that founded the fair, a major watch retailer in the region. “We recognize the importance of Dubai Watch Week on the world stage, hence we chose this year’s event to reveal our latest models.”

With a series of panel discussions, master classes and debates, the fair is also known as a good source of horological learning and enrichment. “Dubai Watch Week is the place to be if you’re into watches,” said Mishal Hamed Kanoo, who has been a speaker at the fair several times over the years. (The fair, founded as an annual event, moved to a biennial schedule in 2017.)

The Times asked eight collectors, industry executives and watch journalists for their impressions, and suggestions about where to find all the action in Dubai.

Hassan Akhras, the founder of the watch website Arab Watch Guide, as well as the Arab Watch Club.

Founder of the watch website Arab Watch Guide, as well as the Arab Watch Club, which has collaborated with brands on 19 special edition watches since its establishment in 2015.

Why D.W.W.? “You can have coffee with an idol of yours and have a discussion,” said Mr. Akhras, who said he has attended the event since its inception. “It’s a very open kind of platform.” He said it is also a good event for watch newbies: “It offers a great start for someone who doesn’t know much about watches and wants to learn and understand what’s happening in our world.”

He’s looking forward to In addition to attending lectures and networking, Mr. Akhras said he will cover as many new watch events as possible for the Arab Watch Guide, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. He is especially anticipating meeting collectors to deliver the latest Arab Watch Club special-edition watch — born out of a collaboration with the Swiss brand Oris and the retailer Seddiqi, and based on Oris’s Big Crown Pointer Date model. Already sold out, the 50-piece limited edition has a purple dial with the Oris name in Arabic.

Top tip Dune bashing, going to the desert in 4x4s with a guide. “You wander around the desert, camp for a nice dinner and then come back. It’s beautiful and a lot of fun.”

Favorite eating Gaia, Zuma, LPM Restaurant & Bar and The Arts Club, all in the Dubai International Finance Centre (D.I.F.C.) mall, where D.W.W. is staged.

On his wrist will be A bespoke Cartier Crash with a green dial that he said he picked up late last year.

Anish Bhatt, a watch collector and the founder of the marketing communications company Watch Anish.

A watch collector based in Cyprus and the founder of Watch Anish, a marketing communications company specializing in watch brands.

Why D.W.W.? “I remember when I was younger, I’d look in the window of different Rolex boutiques and would never be brave enough to go through that door,” he recalled. “Dubai Watch Week’s casual atmosphere allows people to do that — to get people over that first hurdle of wanting to ask questions and not feel silly. We all start somewhere.”

He also said that he thinks that the region’s strict laws and severe penalties are a big deterrent to luxury robberies: “Which means that people feel very safe wearing their watches and jewelry in Dubai. In the end, it’s kind of a big reason why we make these purchases — to be able to buy, enjoy and wear them.”

He’s looking forward to The fair as a prime networking opportunity. “I meet friends that I might see only once or twice a year at big exhibitions like this. You’ll interact with people that share the same passion for watches. Sometimes it takes a big event like this for people to travel.”

Top tip Get a local SIM card with a lot of data. “There are so many fun things to see, you’ll want to document everything and share all your experiences. I’ve had bills of like 2,000 pounds just for over a week at Dubai Watch Week. Spend $30 or $50 on a local SIM card and you can do as much as you want and not run out of data.”

For art lovers The 37xDubai, a digital art space in D.I.F.C.’s Burj Daman tower, which was slated to open Nov. 1. “Dubai has so many venues that are always outdoing each other, so it takes something really special to make you go ‘wow.’ This is one of those rare occasions — it’s such a cool space.”

On his wrist will be “It’s an emotional decision on the day. A watch is a small extension of your personality and I never really plan what to wear in advance at all.”

Jean-Claude Biver, a watch world power player who recently founded Biver Watches with his son, Pierre.Credit…Anders Modig Davin for The New York Times

The watch world veteran recently founded Biver watches with his son, Pierre. Their new brand is scheduled to make its D.W.W. debut next week.

Why D.W.W.? “I believe — and I’m probably the only one — that Dubai Watch Week is a kind of replacement for Basel,” he said, referring to the Baselworld trade show that held its final edition in 2019.

He’s looking forward to Being at the Biver stand and meeting customers. “It might be an end customer that doesn’t buy today, but might buy tomorrow, or in three years or 10. The more impressions of the end user you can get, the better.”

Top tip The desert experience, which he called an “experience of life as well as kindness and love.”

Favorite eating Zuma, in the D.I.F.C. mall. “It’s my favorite restaurant, not only in Dubai.”

On his wrist will be The Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon Biver in titanium with a sodalite dial.

Misha Daud, a co-founder and co-host of the podcast Luxury Unedited, and owner of a luxury boutique in Oman.

A co-founder and co-host of the podcast Luxury Unedited, and owner of a luxury boutique in Oman.

Why D.W.W.? Ms. Daud notes that this will be her first time at the fair — it had clashed with her travel schedule in the past. “I’m really looking forward to getting the feel of it — to feel the essence and seeing how they approach people, rather than just the watches,” she said, referring to the fair’s organizers. “For me, it’s always about the conversations and interactions.”

Her plans? Ms. Daud will be working on her podcast, infusing it with what she called “the Misha way of watch buying.”

“I always tell people, ‘Buy what you love’ — like art. I have to love what I see. It’s the same for watches.”

Top tips Ms. Daud suggested planning ahead, as restaurants and desert excursions get booked up. And bring a jacket or sweater. “As warm as it is outside, everything from cars to malls to restaurants blast air-con, so it’s absolutely freezing inside.”

Favorite eating At the LPM Restaurant & Bar, in the D.I.F.C. mall, the escargot with garlic butter and pain perdu with spice ice cream are her go-to orders. She also recommends the beachside restaurant Shimmers: “It’s a beautiful setting, but be warned lunch will last till sunset with the right friends, and much laughter.”

On her wrist will be A yellow gold Rolex Daytona Ref. 116508 with a green dial, generally known as the John Mayer (after the singer-songwriter, an avid watch collector, voiced affection for the model during a 2019 video interview with the watch publication Hodinkee.)

Laetitia Hirschy, founder and chief executive of Kaaviar PR, and co-founder of Watch Femme, which supports women in the watch world.

Founder and chief executive of the public relations agency Kaaviar PR and co-founder of Watch Femme, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization that supports women in the watch industry.

Why D.W.W.? The Seddiqi family and especially Hind Seddiqi, director general of the fair, have long been what Ms. Hirschy called “staunch supporters” of Watch Femme. And at the fair, she said, “the panels are so well curated and always feature speakers you’re not going to find at any other event.”

She’s looking forward to The Watch Femme Watch Speed Dating event, scheduled for Nov. 18, in which participants will form small groups and each group member then can try on about 10 watches. “The goal is to experience different watches in a fun way. It’s super interactive.”

Also, Watch Femme is holding its first live Tick Talk, a series that features women working in the industry and previously had only been held on Zoom. Ms. Seddiqi is to speak at the event.

Top tip Despite being in the city, she said, Dubai has amazing beaches. “If you really want to treat yourself, spend the day at the Bulgari Resort on an island in Jumeirah Bay.”

Favorite eating Al Mallah, on the 2nd of December Street about a 10 minute drive from the D.I.F.C., for authentic Lebanese food. “It started as a juice stand on the street 40 years ago and they have amazing watermelon juice and shawarmas.”

On her wrist will be A Frederique Constant Highlife in steel with a pink dial. “It’s perfect to match my black and pink Missoni dress.”

Mishal Kanoo, the chairman of The Kanoo Group, a United Arab Emirates-based business conglomerate.

Chairman of The Kanoo Group, a business conglomerate based in the United Arab Emirates, with interests that include shipping, travel, energy and construction.

Why D.W.W.? For Mr. Kanoo, who will be speaking on a panel examining how independent brands can navigate corporate buyouts, seeing the watches on the wrist is key. “Trying on the watches and the touch and feel is the enjoyable part.”

He’s looking forward to Finding out what the independent brands like MB&F and Czapek & Cie. (he is an investor) have in store. “They can come up with new, interesting watches you probably wouldn’t think of.”

Top tip “You need two things: comfortable shoes and a fat wallet.” Then, he added, “Your fat wallet might become thinner by the time you go back — and not necessarily for watches.”

For art lovers The art district of Al Quoz, in western Dubai, for contemporary art, especially Alserkal Avenue, which has many small galleries.

On his wrist will be “I still haven’t decided. It will depend how I’m feeling on the day.”

Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi, chief commercial officer at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, has been involved with Dubai Watch Week since its inception.

Chief commercial officer at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, which represents more than 80 watch and jewelry brands in more than 50 boutiques in the U.A.E.

Why D.W.W.? Mr. Seddiqi, who has been involved with the fair since its inception, said D.W.W.’s focus on education and craftsmanship is what makes the event stand apart. “It opens a new gateway for the end consumer to understand the steps for creating a timepiece,” he said, adding that the event has the kind of “casual conversation that has been missing at other exhibitions or fairs.”

“People mingle with one another. You will suddenly see the C.E.O. of Audemars Piguet and the C.E.O. of Rolex sitting and discussing something. A lot of ideas come up,” he added, citing as an example the Legacy Machine FlyingT Allegra, a 2021 collaboration between MB&F and Bulgari that germinated during the 2017 D.W.W.

He’s looking forward to Seeing clients, especially if he “can change the mind of a client that maybe hates a certain brand,” he said. “You listen to him or her and then you end up sitting with the C.E.O., or the marketing or creative director, of that brand. You open a totally new page for the client — to understand the brand’s direction, why its movements are done a certain away — and the client ends up changing his or her perspective.”

Top tip The Gold Souk in the Deira neighborhood of Dubai. “It’s an amazing experience and you never know what you might find.”

Favorite place XVA Gallery in the Al Fahidi district of Dubai’s old town. The building was once the home of Mr. Seddiqi’s paternal grandfather, and the family business started there more than 70 years ago. His father and other relatives also grew up there. “It is a very sentimental place for us.”

On his wrist will be “Stay tuned, it’s a surprise across all five days of the event.”

Rolf Studer, the co-chief executive of Oris. Oris has been working on a collaboration with the Arab Watch Club, and will be bringing those timepieces to D.W.W.

Co-chief executive of Oris, which is to participate in D.W.W. for the second consecutive time.

Why D.W.W.? Mr. Studer likened D.W.W. to a family gathering, calling it “one of the nicest” events in the industry. “It’s great food, great people, great watches. What else could you ask for?”

He’s looking forward to Seeing collectors get their Arab Watch Club collaboration watch (“We wanted to do something in the region and Hassan was the perfect person to do a watch collaboration with. We started talking pre-Watches and Wonders 2023 and met in Geneva.”) and presenting Oris’s own models, scheduled to be unveiled on Nov. 16. Mr. Studer said he didn’t want to give too much away, but said that one is “very conceptual, technical and beautiful — the same as Dubai Watch Week.”

Top tip He name checked the Dubai Frame, the museum and observatory that has become a local landmark, and the old gold and spice souks as must-visits. He also encouraged a bit of retail therapy, even if just for the experience: “Shopping is an art form in itself in Dubai.”

Favorite eating Alongside Gaia and Cipriani (“the old classic where everyone hangs out”), Mr. Studer said he wants to try the Italian restaurant Chic Nonna, also in the D.I.F.C. mall. But, really, anywhere outdoors will suit, he said: “It’s November and the weather is fantastic. We get five bonus days of summer.”

On his wrist will be The Oris ProPilot X Kermit Edition, ”which has a green dial, naturally, but its most entertaining feature appears on the first of every month, or ‘Kermit Day’, when Kermit’s cheery face pops into the date window.”

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