“Nice to finally meet you in person,” I say heartily to my newly minted friend, also a fellow member of Watch Media. I’ve followed his work online for a while and we’re already friends on social media but never met in real life until this encounter last weekend at Horology Forum in New York City. It’s a happy feeling to shake hands and smile at a name that until now was just pixels on the screen. Much of my life revolves around watches (slight pun intended), and while having access to so many different and unique timepieces is an undeniably enjoyable experience, what I personally find most rewarding are the people you meet along the way. Brand managers, PR representatives, fellow media members and enthusiasts — it’s one big passionate and welcoming family, and nowhere is that spirit more evident than at this eighth edition of the Horology Forum.
The Horology Forum originally started under the auspices of Dubai Watch Week, a biennial event created by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in 2015. The Seddiqi family has been an institution in the luxury watch world with a veritable who’s who of watch brands in their retail portfolio for the past 70 years. Their aim in creating Dubai Watch Week is to foster a friendly and educational environment where watch enthusiasts from around the world can meet and interact with each other. Although the first horology forums coincided with the main Dubai Watch Week event in the United Arab Emirates, the Seddiqi family wanted to experiment with a more mobile, active version of the forum to balance the bi-annual schedule. Hind Seddiqi, Director General of Dubai Watch Week further explains: “We are positioning the Horology Forum as its own pillar, its own entity. When Dubai Watch Week takes place, the Horology Forum takes place during Dubai Watch Week. But I think we still have the traveling edition because it gives us access to different demographics and different communities. London hosted the first Satellite Horology Forum a few years ago and this year, it’s Manhattan’s turn. This approach makes a lot of sense: Dubai Watch Week and the Horology Forum, by extension, are both completely open to the public. One only needs to register and show up. While the United Arab Emirates isn’t necessarily the most convenient or cheapest place to get to, having a more accessible, tour-like conference allows for more community engagement, which is the whole point of Dubai Watch Week.
As its name suggests, a key element of a horology forum is conversation. To that end, the weekend in New York City was filled with several panels, covering topics ranging from the current state of American watchmaking to the influence of culture and media on luxury products. A pair of talks were also held to discuss whether family-led brands are inherently better or worse than brands that look outside their firms for talent, along with the creation of entirely new watchmaking entities and the industry’s revival of heritage names. . Discussions were lively and continued well after the hour-long sessions were over, because if there’s one thing enthusiasts love to engage in, it’s endless debate. An adjacent room is dedicated to a more interactive educational experience, where attendees join masterclasses on watch photography, as well as the opportunity to participate in the famous Zenith El Primero movement.
What makes the Horology Forum and Dubai Watch Week stand out from many other large watch conferences is that there is no mention of sales or products outside of an educational context. The priority here is community, not commerce. According to Seddiqi, this was completely intentional. “This is not a trade show. It’s about community building and encouraging collaboration. In the watch industry, you see people who come to enjoy, not to sell. So their mentality is different, their approach and their discussions. It’s night and day,” she said. That feeling will be more evident during the weekend. The camaraderie at a horology forum actually has a different tenor than the kind you’ll find at a tradeshow, and that’s largely due to the egalitarian ethos of the event. Anyone can attend, and the barriers that often exist in the notoriously insular watch industry are absent here. This is an encouraging dynamic to observe. As Seddiqi says, “It’s like a reunion. You will see old friends and meet new people who share the same passion. This is what Dubai Watch Week is all about.” If the number of smiles and great conversations over the weekend were any indication, the Horology Forum certainly hit the mark this year and promises to do so in its future iterations, whether in Dubai or elsewhere. In the meantime, here’s to making the watch family a little bigger and shaking hands once in a while.