Brands taking part in Dubai Watch Week rarely arrive empty-handed – their way of showing how important the Middle East in general, and the United Arab Emirates in particular, are to the industry. And when it comes to watches, nothing says UAE more than Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the region’s leading retailer and organiser of the event which, once again this year, features its share of exceptional timepieces. Speaking on the opening day, Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi announced that seven limited editions would be presented during the week. These are watches destined for collectors, a community whose favours everyone hopes to attract, not least the smaller, independent brands.
A hat full of rabbits
“When I found out who had bought our watch at this year’s Only Watch auction, I was thrilled,” says Marco Borraccino, co-founder of Singer Reimagined and designer of the Singer Track1, its famous chronograph with central hands, created by Agenhor and the brand’s debut collection. “That the winning bid was made by a renowned collector has huge implications for us. It means the efforts we have made to make ourselves and our products known are starting to pay off.” One can imagine the time and energy the brand has deployed to explain a watch that challenges the conventional chronograph display, and make clear the major technical advances behind it.
“This is one of the reasons we have just the one product in four versions,” adds Borraccino. “We can’t move on to the next stage until our first watch has reached maturity. Especially as we don’t have unlimited finances, as you can imagine. Having said that, we plan to reveal our new watch in the spring of 2020, with the same philosophy of revisiting a classic genre and again working with Agenhor for the engineering.” There can be no doubting the enthusiasm driving Singer Reimagined, with its three and a half workstations, nor its affection for Dubai Watch Week, its first ever fair in 2017 and which this year has the honour of one of the special editions Mohammed Seddiqi mentioned. The Singer Track1 Emirates, a 25-piece edition, puts the accent firmly on contrasting colours and materials. It is, says Marco Borraccino, “a rabbit out of a hat” – another of those “little miracles” a young watch company must produce in order to survive.
The right size
There is more magic in the air at De Bethune, a brand that owes its revival, two years ago, to Pierre Jacques and watchmaker Denis Flageollet, one of the original co-founders. “During the two years prior to my return, the brand had ceased all communication. Prices had risen by some 30% with no real justification and production was slated to increase to between 500 and 1,000 watches a year,” comments Pierre Jacques. “It was madness. We’ve restored the fundamental values of De Bethune, which has always had a loyal following. Our first task was to bring the brand back to a manageable scale and allow Denis Flageollet to work his magic, after being away from the bench for far too long.” At its lowest point, De Bethune was making 30 watches a year. Now the brand is back on a growth track, having reached its breakeven point of 110 watches in 2018, then 160 this year. The objective for 2020 is 200 watches at a “reasonable” average price (currently CHF 90,000).
“Once we have reached that size, we’ll want to keep it there so as not to make the same mistakes as in the past. We must stay small and show our faith in the collectors who support us. It’s also a question of good management. Any increase in volumes creates inertia that makes it even harder to adapt production to the economic situation. But beyond any of this, our objective will always be to make beautiful watches.” It’s a sentiment borne out by this year’s releases; the likes of the DB28GS Grand Bleu, the first ever dive watch from the brand, or the DB28 Yellow Tones whose unusual colour is achieved through thermal oxidation of titanium. Not forgetting the DB21 Maxichrono with its five central hands, whose long-awaited entry into the regular collection came more than a decade after its launch. The cherry on the cake served at Dubai Watch Week is Dream Watch 6, a one-of-a-kind clock designed by Jörg Hysek and equipped with a constant-force mechanism and a moon-phase display that is precise to 5.7 seconds per lunar month or one day in 1,225 years. The recently released Dream Watch 5, another unique piece whose stunning engraved decoration is the work of Michelle Roten, based on a drawing by comic-book artist François Schuiten, also left for Dubai in the run-up to the fair. Clearly this is a week of horological magic.