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Events
Dubai Watch Week

Classic or Contemporary? The One Question We Asked the People of Dubai Watch Week

What happens when you take the theme of Dubai Watch Week, turn it into a question, and ask some of the most recognizable names in the watch world? Read on to find out.

By Barbara Palumbo
Journalist

As a kid, my friends and I played those games where we would ask one another to choose between two random things and tell the other they HAD to make a choice, no matter what the options were. It was a child’s game, sure, but you could learn a lot about a person by finding out what decisions they’d make if under pressure. Questions like, “would you rather eat 100 squirming worms or wear earrings made of live cockroaches?” were common, and as a now adult (although that’s pretty questionable these days), I’m taking that skill to the carpeted timepiece halls of Dubai Watch Week to ask some of the most recognizable names in the watch industry if their watch style is either, “classic” or “contemporary”; the two words that sum up the theme of the 2017 Dubai Watch Week. 

Dubai Watch Week 2017

Naturally I started this experiment by going to Alexander Friedman, Co-Founder of Watchonista. First, because I genuinely wanted to know where he stood in his opinion, and second, because he’s bought me more meals on this trip than I can count, so hey, why not pay him back by publicly giving him a shout out. Grazie, Alex! 

Barbara: “Alex, Classic or Contemporary?”

Alex: (with a very Swiss/Italian accent) “Classic, 100%. The thing I love about a classic watch is that it could be from the past or it could be brand new, and it’s still considered classic. For me, the most beautiful watches are from the 1940s and 1950s, and some of the most amazing dials were made in that era. A classic watch reflects how I dress. My style is classic largely because of my obsession with the past. I’m not into modern clothing styles and have very few modern watches. It’s classic, without question.”

Hoping to get an interesting answer, I approached renowned watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht this morning as he attempted to have his breakfast before I rudely interrupted. 

Alexander Friedman, co-founder of Watchonista

Barbara: “Jean-Marc, if you could only own one watch for the rest of your life, would it be classic or contemporary?”

Jean-Marc: “Hmm. That’s a tough one because I’m an old watchmaker with deep roots, but I also make very new things. I had to learn that while I use the traditional skills of my craft, that it was possible to use my knowledge to experiment with movements and do something very different.”

Barbara: “So, what do you think? Contemporary then?

Jean-Marc: “Yes, I believe contemporary.

I also knew that I wanted to speak to the two women largely responsible for making Dubai Watch Week what it is today: Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons’ Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Hind Abdul Hamied Seddiqi, and the company’s Senior Marketing and Communication Director, Melika Yazdjerdi

Kari Voutilainen watch

Barbara: “Okay, I have a question for the two of you for an article I’m writing about the Dubai Watch Week theme. If you were to choose a watch – the only one you would have and wear forever, would you choose something classic or something contemporary?”

Hind: “Oh. Wow. That’s not a question I can answer. I don’t think I can really choose. There are so many beautiful contemporary watches that might actually one day turn into classics, but we just don’t know if that will happen; we don’t know it yet, but there are a few contemporary pieces that have the potential to be classics. If you’re saying I have to choose between the two then I guess I’d go with classic, but only because I have to.”

Melika: “It’s not quite as difficult for me. I say classic all the way. I love everything vintage, I love vintage watches, and while I do have a long wish list of contemporary pieces, a classic, vintage watch – particularly one from the 1940s or the 1950s –just reminds me of when men were gentlemen. The classic styles of that era make me thing of when people sat down at a dinner table every night.”

Another Dubai Watch Week attendee I knew I needed the opinion of was the prettiest man in watches – aka – Charris Yadigaroglou, Chief Communications Officer at MB&F

Barbara: “Okay, my friend... here’s one for you: if you had to pick a watch style, would it be classic or contemporary?”

Charris: (Looking at me like I should already know his answer) “Contemporary. Without a doubt. Contemporary styles make watchmaking move forward rather than doing the same things over and over and over. How many brands do you know that are reissuing or revisiting iconic pieces? Where’s the creativity in that?”

I nearly scared watchmaker Bart Grönefeld out of his wits as I jumped in front of him to ask the question.

The Horological Brothers, Bart and Tim Grönefeld

Barbara: “Don’t you go anywhere! I’ve got a question for you. Watches: what’s your style, classic or contemporary?

Bart: “Contemporary. No. No, wait. Our watches are inspired by classical watches and pocket watches so maybe that’s classic. A wish we have for our watches is that they’re found hundreds of years from now, still in working condition. Is that classic? I don’t know.”

(pauses)

Bart: “Okay, I still go contemporary. Actually, ask Kari.”

The “Kari” Bart was referring to was Finnish watchmaker, Kari Voutilainen, and yes, I most certainly asked him the same question with Bart standing beside us.

Kari: “I definitely say classic. I like things that can be nice today, tomorrow, five years from now or ten years from now, not something that will be dated and easily recognizable as a watch made in a specific era.

Bart: “Okay, I change my answer. I’ll say what Kari said.”

And last but not least, I posed the question to Suzanne Wong, the editor-at-large for Revolution Magazine. 

Suzanne Wong, Revolution Magazine

Suzanne: “That’s an unfair question. I don’t have an answer for that because my style reflects both classic and contemporary. How I dress is classic one day and contemporary the next. I can’t make that choice.”

Barbara: “For the sake of the article, you have to.”

Suzanne: “Well than that’s a loaded question, isn’t it? Because now you’re forcing me to have to say ‘classic’ simply because if I choose to say ‘contemporary’ then I’m forced to dress in a style that compliments that watch the rest of my life. My style of dress is both. I’d have to go with both.”

I’m grateful to my hosts, the Seddiqi Family, and to all the participants who gave me their feedback on this piece and wishing you safe travels after the show closes tomorrow. 

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