Dubai Watch Week is back for a second installment and took place in two locations this year: Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and The Dubai Mall. The theme “Masters of Time” was the prevalent programme running across several exhibitions, workshops, forums, watchmaking master-classes and exclusive VIP events in both venues.
Being a full-fledged watch geek, there was no way I was going to give Dubai Watch Week a miss. When it comes to watches, I am a 6 year old and Dubai Watch Week is my Disneyland. I founded the Singapore Watch Club a year ago to meet more like-minded people and attending this international convention is an opportunity to do just that, and more.
This was my first major watch exhibition, quite frankly, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve heard amazing stories from Wee, who was here last year, and they made me really excited to experience it for myself. There wasn’t many events lined-up on the first day of DWW but it was by no means uneventful. We arrived at about noon to pick up our event passes.
Huge thanks to Melika of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons for enrolling me into the VIP Program. The staff at the collection booths were friendly and helpful, their impeccable hospitality made us feel right at home.
Our first stop was the Grand Prix D’Horlogerie De Genève 2016 winners’ exhibition. Seeing those exceptional watches all in one room was an unreal experience. I was particularly fond of the Legacy Machine Perpetual by MB&F and the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie by Audemars Piguet. Interestingly, the first person we ran into stepping out of that hall was Mr. Maximilian Büsser (the MB of MB&F) himself! I’ve had the pleasure of Max’s company on multiple occasions but running into him was something else. We were shortly joined by Mr. Hassan Akhras (@ArabWatchGuide) who I’ve known for awhile now but first time meeting in person. The esteemed Mr. Michael Tay (of The Hour Glass) and the learned Su Jia Xian (the SJX of WatchesBySJX) came along and I felt really fortunate to be in this little horological village, rubbing shoulders with all the who’s who at the apexes of their fields.
The next exhibition hall we walked into was equally exciting. The brands on display were all familiar to me, but seeing the rare pieces in the metal was nothing short of magical.
We’d also spent a great deal of time at the H. Moser & Cie booth. Being a long-time fan of their work, it was especially gratifying to explore their more exclusive timepieces in person.
Another highlight getting acquainted with the prolific collector that is Mr. Edward Scheckler. Double-wristed with two stunning pieces and a bag full of horological goodies, we shared an interesting confabulation which I thoroughly enjoyed.
To end the day on a high, we actually ran into the living legend that is Mr. Philippe Dufour. Arguably the most revered figure in watchmaking today, his purist approach to finishing and decoration is respected and admired by all. He was kind enough to spare us his time, educating us on his vision, motto and values.
My first schedule for the day 2 was a private session with master watchmaker Mr. Vianney Halter! I’ve been a huge fan of his work for a long time now. His wacky timepieces pushed the boundaries of artisanal watchmaking, and arguably spawned the genre of avant garde independent watches with the release of his Antiqua in 1998. Of course, I strapped on my Vianney Halter Classic for the occasion.
I’ve heard so many stories from friends who knew Mr. Halter personally, mainly about his ingenuity and colourful character. It was a great pleasure to finally experience this for myself. Mr. Halter and us chatted about everything under the sun, from his love of aviation and his adventures in the air to his collection of antique mechanical crafts. He shared with us a great deal on his vision, values and dreams.
Grateful to have spent some quality time with one of my top horological heroes, and I guess this is the magic of Dubai Watch Week!
Next up, watchmaking class with master watchmaker Andreas Strehler!
Ensconced comfortably on the watchmaker’s chair, we embarked on our maiden journey into watchmaking at the Dubai Watch Week Watchmaking Masterclass, instructed by the esteemed Andreas Strehler.
As watch collectors, we have always been aware of the intricacies of watchmaking – the tiny screws and bridges, how each gear is perfectly aligned and the impeccable finishes each watchmaking painstakingly adds to the watch. While the finishing of a movement may not have high functional value (a point that may be argued!), it plays a pivotal role in the poetic perfection sought by watchmakers and collectors alike. Today, we begin to understand the simple, yet tedious, process of finishing screws.
Participants marvelled and bemoaned at how delicate each screw, at no more than 5mm long and 1mm wide, was and how hard it was to pick up. As our dexterity picked up, students begin to deftly handle the screws with tweezers and screwdrivers, while taking care not to scratch either the screws or the base plate. Upon the first announcement of a lost screw by a fellow participant, Mr. Strehler teasingly shared, “young watchmakers often spend most of their time below the table than they do on it”.
Once the screws are firmly attached onto the plate, we begin to polish the screws on polishing paper, with a dash of diamond polishing paste. As we swirl the screws in a figure of 8, Andreas came over to each table to individually guide us on the correct pressure needed and taught us how to evaluate our results.
After some cleaning up, our screws were finally ready! Well, not quite black polish quality, but certainly flat with most scratches removed! Finally, we affixed Andreas’ signature Papillion (French for butterfly) case onto the plate with our personally polished screws – a beautiful take-home souvenir to commemorate our experience.