Dubai Watch Week, scheduled to open Thursday and run until Monday, is still something of a newcomer in the global watch event universe. Melika Yazdjerdi, the show’s director, explained its philosophy, why it does not focus on sales and how 8-year-olds can bid for watches this year. This interview has been edited and condensed.
What is Dubai Watch Week?
Dubai Watch Week was founded by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the largest distributor of Swiss watches in the Middle East, in 2014. We give collectors, press and the public intimate access to brands through programs, round-table discussions and master classes — without the pressure of sales. The focus is on transferring knowledge of craftsmanship. This year, we will have more than 30 brands and upward of 4,000 visitors.
How is it different from other watch fairs?
It isn’t commercial. We realized that all existing events had a recurring theme, which was mainly to sell watches. We are the only event of its kind in the world, which can make it difficult to get the right kind of buy-in from partners and participants as we are a noncommercial event, but we are growing.
This year, two fairs, Watches & Wonders in Hong Kong and ViennaTime, were canceled. What are you doing to guarantee your event’s future?
Consumers’ habits have evolved, and we have noticed that purchasing power has become much younger and more sporadic. The market over all has had to adapt to a diverse, younger demographic, and we have been catering to a more interactive and dynamic audience through our various programs.
How do you target a young buyer?
Younger watch buyers can sometimes be influenced to purchase based on the image value of a brand, without necessarily understanding why it can be expensive. Often that price is linked to craftsmanship. We’re running watchmaking workshops to allow people to get hands-on with watchmaking, and a horology forum with a diverse range of guest speakers that includes younger digital influencers to communicate this better. We’re also offering virtual-reality experiences, and Christie’s will be hosting two auctions for 8- to 15-year-olds.
How important are watch fairs to the success of the industry?
Any platform that allows brands direct access to their potential customer base without the pressure of hard-selling is important to the watch industry. If you don’t invest in preserving the heritage and legacy of the watch industry, how will future generations understand the desire to acquire brands and timepieces that have been created by craftsmen and women out of the pure passion to create? Watch fairs, both commercial and noncommercial, have a very important role in networking and education.