Dubai's thriving watch community
The life of a Dubai watch collector used to be a lonely one, especially if you weren’t lucky enough to have links to the inner circles of the watch world in Geneva, New York or London.
Back in the day, it could be compared to an underground society, but instead of needing to know a secret handshake – there was another requirement – an interesting watch on your wrist, and a passion for timepieces.
But that’s ancient history, as far as collecting is concerned. Big changes are afoot, and Dubai is no longer on the forgotten fringes of horology. It has become a focus point for watch enthusiasts, a hub for the Middle East, and further afield, and it’s growing steadily.
When I first decided to open the vintage watch shop Momentum back in 2011, there was no local collecting community to speak of. Although there was some interest in watchmaking, it was like an iceberg, with 90 percent hidden under the surface of the water. It took some patience and dedication, carefully tending the sparks of interest and fueling the fires. But I never suspected just how big it could become, or just how quickly it would reveal itself.
Now, five years on, there is a thriving collector’s community.
What surprised me most was the interest generated among young watch enthusiasts. It was obvious from the beginning that this wouldn’t be the domain of old men with old-fashioned ideas.
Like their New York counterparts, (the watch geek community known as Redbar), these groups of dedicated fans meet regularly to discuss all things related to fine watches. It’s lively, and trend-setting.
They chat, compare, enjoy, and exchange opinions about the focus of their passion – their beloved collections. It’s no longer necessary to be a lonely hermit in Dubai just because you love fine watches.
Events such as the hugely successful Dubai Watch Week in 2015 added more fuel to the fire, and coaxed more of those secret watch nuts out of the woodwork. Building on last year’s success, the upcoming event from November 15 to 19 this year promises to be bigger than ever.
According to Melika Yazdjerdi, Director of Dubai Watch Week, “Following the unprecedented success of our inaugural Dubai Watch Week, we are delighted to see a shift in the trends in the regional watch industry.
The horology market is evolving and consumers are engaged beyond the pure aesthetics of a timepiece, now keen to learn about timepieces from a cultural and historical aspect.
The market is now interested in the experiences and individual stories behind each brand; including the technical movements, materials, and mechanisms employed.”
Watch collecting is an obsession in the best possible sense. It brings people together, and lasting friendships are formed through similar interests. Fellow collectors stay in touch via social media, and the inspiration keeps coming as dedicated fans post some amazing photos on forums like Instagram and tofo.me.
One of the most dedicated communities is the Dubai Watch Club (#dubaiwatchclub). It’s a young and vibrant collector’s forum, one that celebrates all things horological, and all things Dubai. Some of these groups meet almost every day. With hundreds of shares and likes, each new piece that is put up online for display is examined in detail, and members can become quite lyrical in discussing the finer points of embossing, engraving, technical details – but most of all just the sheer beauty of it.
The interest is spreading outwards, with dedicated interest groups now appearing in other major hubs in the region. I recently heard of a new club springing up in Kuwait, for example, and that’s not the only one.
When we got the ball rolling back in 2011 we couldn’t have imagined how quickly it would gather momentum (if you’ll excuse the pun). I would like to think that we’ve helped change the way people think about luxury watches, and I look forward to how it will evolve in the future.
Tariq Malik is the managing partner and co-founder of Momentum watch shop, DIFC, Dubai. momentum-dubai.com