Watchmakers flock as Dubai climbs ranks of luxury watch sales

Some of the world's largest watch brands have opened boutiques in Dubai in the last nine months
Watchmakers flock as Dubai climbs ranks of luxury watch sales
By Shayan Shakeel
Wed 12 Sep 2018 01:58 PM

Montegrappa will soon become the latest in a line of luxury watchmakers rushing in to Dubai in hopes of appealing to a growing number of tourists flocking to the city.

The Swiss watchmaker joins Mido, Breitling, Rado, Rolex and a number of others all of which have either added to new stores in the city or carved out a new presence entirely in the city this year.

Tourist growth is a significant factor in Dubai’s growing appeal with luxury watchmakers.

The city is on track to exceed over 16 million visitors in 2018–it recorded 4.7 million tourists in the first quarter of the year alone.

Besides Bangkok, Dubai registered the largest year on year percentage increase in tourist numbers globally at 10.9 percent, according to research by payments provider Mastercard.

Not only is Dubai the most visited city in the Arab World, it’s the most visited city outside of Turkey’s Istanbul in all of the Middle East and Africa.

By 2020, it hopes to attract 20 million visitors.

A significant portion of those visitors will come from China, the fastest growing source market for the city’s visitors, travellers who are an important consideration for luxury watchmakers.

Currently accounting for 4 percent of visitor footfall at Dubai Airports, Chinese visitors account for 15 percent of all tourist spend at Dubai Airport, the busiest international airport in the world.

Breitling CEO, Georges Kern, on a visit to the city in March said the city’s growing appeal with Chinese tourists was the key reason behind his decision to reinforce the company’s presence in the city.

After the US and Europe, Dubai is Breitling’s third largest market for sales globally.

“We sell a bit less to tourists because we’re a little weaker in China,” he told Bloomberg. “But tourist inflow from China is enormous… and that’s a business we need to gain.”

For every watch sold in China, “there are four watches sold to Chinese tourists travelling abroad,” he told CEO Middle East in a later interview, adding that the city’s combination of citizens, expats and visitors, made it a necessary market to be in for the brand which this year opened its second boutique at Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest shopping mall.

Along with the city’s growing population, “you have wealth in the region, and you have investments, so it’s one of the biggest, and fastest growing regions in the world,” he said.

Swiss watch movements to the UAE between January and June reached more than $547 million in sales, according to the Swiss Watch Industry Federation.

The 11th biggest destination for Swiss watch sales in the world over the period, the UAE  registers figures double that outrank Spain and Saudi Arabia combined, the next most popular destinations for Swiss timepieces.

The value of watch sales at auctions in Dubai is also registering an increase. In March, Christie’s in Dubai auctioned 191 watches for $7.15 million, including an 18-carat gold Patek Philippe 1518 commissioned by King Farouk of Egypt in 1945.

Estimated to be worth $800,000, it was bought by an unidentified buyer for $912,500.

The surge in interest in swiss watches is also what prompted the world’s most popular watchbrand, Rolex, to open its largest boutique in Dubai.

Attended by tennis legend Roger Federer, the watchmaker’s three storey 850 square metre outlet opening at Dubai Mall , in partnership with official distributor Ahmed Seddiqi and Sons, is designed to replicate aspects of the brand’s design language that are constant across its timepieces.

Ahmed Seddiqi and Sons retails watches from over 70 brands including uber-luxury brands such as Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe .

However chief commercial officer at Ahmed Siddiqi and Sons, Mohammad Abdulmagied Seddiqi said in an interview that he doesn’t expect overall sales at any of the watch brands to taper off

“A Rolex is cash,” he said in an interview with Gulf News. “People will always want a Rolex, no matter what.”

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Last Updated: Wed 12 Sep 2018 02:05 PM GST

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