Dubai Watch Week gave an exciting preview of watchmaking in 2024

The recent Dubai Watch Week buzzed with creative energy and gave us a hint of what watchmaking in 2024 will bring

Purple stands at Dubai Watch Week 2023
Van Cleef & Arpels at Dubai Watch Week
(Image credit: Geneva Watch Days)

‘Not just a watch show,’ said the giant hoarding outside Dubai’s DIFC Gate, the venue for Dubai Watch Week (DWW) in November 2023, the latest iteration of the biennial event that’s become a key date on the watch world’s annual calendar, with brands using the show to drop new models and generate a little attention. 

DWW comes complete with a programme of masterclasses, forums and the like, and draws together CEOs, serious collectors and editors from around the globe in a remarkably informal and open set-up. There’s a genuine creative energy that would be impossible to replicate at bigger industry shows such as Watches & Wonders (see our behind-the-scenes foray of that fair’s build) but owes a great deal to the ground rules (essentially, it’s open to other players and there are no sales at the show) set down by the organisers, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the largest retailer in the region.

Two watches side by side, released at Dubai Watch Week

Oris ProPilot x Calibre 400

(Image credit: Geneva Watch Days)

There was a slew of new watch releases at DWW 2023, while brands such as Audemars Piguet, Rolex and Van Cleef  & Arpels chose to show immersive exhibitions rather than new products. But what sets DWW apart is the creative energy generated. Designers, watchmakers and CEOs stepped out of their usual silos to swap notes either through rubbing shoulders around the event or in the forums, which covered everything from how buyouts are changing the game for independent makers, to the vexed subject of waitlists, and the guaranteed watch-party conversation killer, after-sales (discussed with a decidedly un-Swiss openness). 

Black watch

Girard-Perregaux Neo Bridges Aston Martin Edition

(Image credit: Geneva Watch Days)

There was also activity outside the confines of the show. Christie’s showed the OAK Collection, the largest single-owner watch collection ever to go to auction (part 1 of which made over £5 million at the 27 November Hong Kong sale). Meanwhile, the Perpétuel Gallery, just a few minutes away from the show and set up as a lockdown passion project by Hamdan bin Humaid, is a microcosm of Dubai’s evolving watch culture, representing both affordable microbrands, such as Baltic, Excelsior Park and Nivada Grenchen, and more ‘serious’ collector magnets, such as Bernhard Lederer and Roger Smith (it’s not often you get to see Roger Smith chatting with Scottish designer Fiona Kruger).

pocket watch with map on face

Patek Philippe VII

(Image credit: Geneva Watch Days)

That mix of high-end and affordable was also evident in the main show, as the likes of de Bethune and Girard-Perregaux shared space with eco-focused start-up brand ID Genéve, and Doxa and Oris, which presented a ProPilot X fitted with an iridescent laser-etched dial. 

Perhaps the most intriguing stand was that of Louis Vuitton’s La Fabrique du Temps, which was there to preview the forthcoming relaunch of the Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth brands. Louis Vuitton demonstrated that Daniel Roth will be getting as much attention – a showcase of Roth’s output from the 1990s demonstrated exactly why, with the inclusion of an exquisite tourbillon commissioned by Asprey of London. An exciting preview of what we can expect in 2024.

James Gurney has written on watches for over 25 years, founding QP Magazine in 2003, the UK’s first home-grown watch title. In 2009, he initiated SalonQP, one of the first watch fairs to focus on the end-consumer, and is regarded as a leading horological voice contributing to news and magazine titles across the globe.