October 5, 2022
by Ed Rhee
“It’s nice to finally meet you in person,” I say warmly to my newly minted friend, who also happens to be a fellow member of the watch media. I’d followed his work online for some time, and we were already friends on social media but hadn’t ever met in real life until this encounter at Horology Forum in New York City last weekend. It’s a gratifying feeling to put a handshake and a smile to a name that, up to this point, has only existed as pixels on a screen. Much of my life revolves around watches (minor pun intended), and while having access to so many different and unique timepieces is an undeniably enjoyable experience, what I personally find the most rewarding is the people you meet along the way. Brand managers, PR reps, fellow media members, and enthusiasts — it’s one big passionate and welcoming family, and nowhere is that spirit on clearer display than at this eighth edition of Horology Forum.
Horology Forum originally began under the auspices of Dubai Watch Week, a biennial event that was created in 2015 by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. The Seddiqi family is an institution in the luxury watch world, having curated a veritable who’s who of watch brands in their retail portfolio over the past 70 years. Their aim in creating Dubai Watch Week was to foster a convivial and educational environment for watch enthusiasts from around the world to gather and interact with each other. Though the first Horology Forums were held in tandem with the main Dubai Watch Week event in the United Arab Emirates, the Seddiqi family wanted to experiment with a more mobile, agile version of the forum to balance out the bi-yearly schedule. Hind Seddiqi, Director General of Dubai Watch Week, explains further: “We’re positioning Horology Forum as a pillar of its own, as its own entity. When Dubai Watch Week takes place, Horology Forum takes place at Dubai Watch Week. But I think we’ll still have a traveling edition because it gives us access to different demographics and different communities.” London played host to the first satellite Horology Forum a few years ago, and this year, it’s Manhattan’s turn. This approach makes a lot of sense: Dubai Watch Week and Horology Forum, by extension, are both completely open to the public. One only needs to register and show up. But as the United Arab Emirates is not necessarily the most convenient or cheapest place to get to, having a more accessible, tour-like gathering provides the opportunity for more community engagement, which is the entire point of Dubai Watch Week.
As its name suggests, a key component of Horology Forum is conversation. To that end, the weekend in New York City was filled with numerous panels, ranging in topics from the current state of American watchmaking to the influence of culture and media as it pertains to luxury products. A pair of debates was also held to discuss the pros and cons of the industry reviving heritage names versus creating entirely new watchmaking entities, as well as whether or not family-led brands are inherently better or worse than those that look outside their organizations for talent. The discussions were lively and continued well after the hour-long sessions were over because if there’s one thing that watch enthusiasts love to participate in, it’s endless debate. An adjacent room was dedicated to a more interactive educational experience, where attendees joined masterclasses on watch photography, as well as an opportunity to go hands-on with the famed Zenith El Primero movement.
Part of what makes Horology Forum and Dubai Watch Week unique from many of the other large watch gatherings is that there is hardly any mention of sales or products outside of an educational context. The emphasis here is on community, not commerce. This is fully intentional, according to Seddiqi. “This is not a trade show. It’s about community building and encouraging collaboration. You see people in the watch industry who are here to enjoy themselves and not to sell. So their mindset is different, their approach, and their discussions. It’s night and day,” she says. That feeling is more than evident throughout the weekend. The camaraderie at Horology Forum does indeed have a different tenor than the kind you find at, say, a tradeshow, and that is largely due to the egalitarian ethos of the event. Anyone can attend, and the barriers that often exist in the notoriously insular watch industry are nonexistent here. It’s an encouraging dynamic to observe. As Seddiqi puts it, “It’s like a reunion. You see old friends and meet new people who share the same passion. That’s what Dubai Watch Week is all about.” If the number of smiles and great conversations over the weekend are any indication, Horology Forum certainly hit the mark this year and promises to do so in its future iterations, whether in Dubai or elsewhere. In the meantime, here’s to making the watch family a little bigger, one handshake at a time.