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In Conversation: Hind Seddiqi at Dubai Watch Week

by Peter Chong on November 28, 2019

Dubai Watch Week is one of the most interesting watch events in the horological calendar. This is the fourth time this event was organized by probably the Middle East’s most prominent retailers – Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. We attended the event last week, and had a conversation with Hind Seddiqi, Director General of Dubai Watch Week, and Chief Marketing & Communication Officer of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons.

As usual on our In Conversation series, we will paraphrase the discussion we had. We sat down with Hind Seddiqi for this conversation on November 24, 2019. All photographs were also taken during the session.

Hind Seddiqi, Chief Marketing & Communication Officer, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons

The firm of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons is a retailer in Dubai which began with one man’s passion some 60 years ago, in a single shop in Dubai’s souk to a formidable network of elegant stores. Today the firm is one of the foremost watch retailers, with more than 60 luxury timepieces and jewellery brands across 51 destinations in the United Arab Emirates.

Hind Seddiqi. Photographed in Dubai, November 2019.

Hind Seddiqi is the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Sediqqi Holdings. She is responsible for developing integrated marketing strategies for each business unit within the group, as well as internal and external executive communication tactics and plans. Hind also leads the customer relationship management (CRM) communications for all business units, including Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons and Seddiqi Properties.

Dubai Watch Week

We began the discussion with the idea behind Dubai Watch Week, we postured to Hind that the immense time and cost of organizing an event like this in Dubai surely must mean that the intent is not pure profits. And she agreed, “The idea of Dubai Watch Week came about because for years, we have been bringing our top clients to visit the watch manufactures in Switzerland. ” To see how the watches are made. Each time they did these tours, the clients gained an an appreciation of the craft and engineering that goes into each fine watch. Not only was each trip greatly appreciated, and well received by the clientele, over time this has contributed to the development of fine watchmaking in Dubai.

But as we can’t fly everyone to Geneva, we said let’s bring the things that people need to see to Dubai. And that’s when we started the Dubai Watch Week.

Hind Seddiqi

Another motivation was that as the major retailer in the region, Seddiqi worked with many brands, and they realised that many of the brands do not talk to each other. This gave rise to the idea of a forum to share ideas, talk and to collaborate.

The first Dubai Watch Week was in 2015, and showcased independent brands and in collaboration with GPHG. The format of the show is a main tent exhibition area where the brands can showcase their watches, and the Horology Forum which was a series of panel discussion, hosted and participated by a host of industry luminaries.

The shows were held again in 2016 and 2017, each year growing rapidly both in terms of size and reach. But for 2018, the DWW continued in London with only the Horology Forum.

The show returned in full force in 2019 to Dubai. And not only includes the popular Horology Forum (now in its fifth edition), but also a series of Masterclasses and a Creative Hub. The main tent is larger than ever, and they now have two brands taking up individual pavillons – Rolex and Chopard. Seven new watches were launched in the show, some for the global market, but a few special editions for the Middle East Market. Pre-owned watches also had a prominent showing with WatchBox having not only their own pavillon, but also brought their video studio to the show.

Inside the main tent exhibition hall. The independent watchmaking brands were in full force, with the big groups still largely absent. Richemont only had IWC at a booth, and VC did an evening launch event during the show. The Swatch Group was not present at all, as the group was represented by the Rivoli Group. Rolex and Chopard had strong showings with their own individual pavillons.

The intent of the show format now looks like 2020 on will be a traveling Horology Forum on the even years, and a full show in Dubai for the odd years. Next year’s Horology Forum location is not yet announced.

Hind Abdul Hamied Seddiqi CM&CO & Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi, COO at the opening of the Dubai Watch Week 2019.

Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons

As Chief Marketing & Communications Officer of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, we discussed with Hind how the Middle East and UAE markets have changed over the last decades, and where it is headed for. As well as how the Seddiqi firm is addressing those changes.

Hind Seddiqi, photographed at the grounds of Dubai Watch Week at Dubai International Financial Centre. November 2019.

The Dubai and UAE market

We talked about the characteristics of the Seddiqi’s home market, and Hind gave us excellent insights. The market is maturing, and the purchasing power of the collectors are also very high.

Interest in watches are also high among the ladies and young collectors, as well as the traditional men’s market. We noted that many of the young collectors buy their watches while sponsored by wealthy parents, but there is a growing number who have made their money at a young age, and are independent buyers.

Dubai sunset, photographed from the 30th floor of the Waldof Astoria Hotel in Dubai, November 2019. The dominating structure on the right of the frame is the Burj Kalifa. Rising a total height of 829.8 m, the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest structure and building in the world since its topping out in 2009.

Hind noted that the average collector in their client list buys about 6 to 8 watches a year. Which we think is extremely healthy for an avid collector.

The interest in watches in the region is widespread, covering all spectrum of the watchmaking world, from fashion brands like Fossil to industry staples like Rolex, and the top houses like Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe and many top independents are represented by Seddiqi & Sons in the UAE. They currently have about 70 points of sale in the region, including multi-brand boutiques as well as mono-brand boutiques. Seddiqi currently operates the largest Rolex mono-brand boutique in the world. And have gone into partnership with WatchBox to also dabble in the pre-owned market for the region.

Seddiqi marketing

Our attention then turned on the spend of the Seddiqi holdings on advertising and marketing, as this is an area of special interest to a web only site like Deployant. Hind told us that they are all set to take advantage of the digital wave. And have been focussed heavily on the mobile market with apps and have a strong presence in social media. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat are popular among the younger collectors, while Twitter and LinkedIn are strong with the professionals. As English is the lingua franca in Dubai and the UAE, access to international material is also free and easy.

On her wrist that day, is the ultra rare Rolex Daytona “Rainbow”.

We asked if the firm is still allocating budget to print media, and Hind’s reply is that they are. This is because some brands, she did not name them, are still resistant of the digital platforms, and still prefer print. She did also emphasized that Seddiqi will need to work with them to help facilitate a mindset shift for these brands. But perhaps that will take some time.

Currently other than some of the brands who insist on print advertisements, she also noted that outdoor ads are gaining strength, both with digital displays and print.

Parting thoughts

With that, we had come to the end of our allocated time, and we wrapped up the discussion. We were impressed with Hind Seddiqi, who came across as very intelligent, and who was not in her position by virtue of family relationships, but as a strong manager and visionary who is very capable. And being a woman in a male dominated industry, operating in a highly male dominated market makes this even the more impressive.

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