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Tucked away in a corner of the Dubai International Financial Centre, near the Ritz-Carlton, is Perpétuel Gallery, an unassuming 1,200-square-foot boutique displaying some of the world’s most important independent watchmaking. During Dubai Watch Week—a biannual event run by the Seddiqi family, the most prominent watch retailers in the U.A.E.—the shop, just a few minutes’ walk from the fair in the DIFC, held its own exhibition that was filled to the brim with the watchmakers themselves, from Roger W. Smith to Simon Brette to Rémi Maillat of Krayon. There, holding court, was Hamdan Bin Humaid Al Hudaidi, a distinguished collector who founded Perpétuel in 2021, in the middle of the Covid pandemic. 

“I never thought I would take my passion professionally, ever,” he tells Robb Report. “Everyone was against the idea because they were very certain this would fail.” How wrong they were. Instead, Perpétuel has become one of the most significant global players in connecting and brokering deals between collectors and their indie idols. As a serious client himself, Al Hudaidi has unique relationships that allow him to create limited editions exclusive to the gallery—quite a feat when you consider the waiting lists for some of the watchmakers in question are a decade or more long. A recent collaboration of 15 limited-edition Krayon Anywhere watches with desert-orange accents sold out to clients—not just in the Middle East, but also in Australia, the U.S., and South Africa. 

The Perpétuel Gallery in Dubai

The Perpétuel Gallery in Dubai

Courtesy of Perpétuel Gallery

It’s proof positive of the area’s booming and influential watch scene. Many credit Dubai Watch Week—and by extension the Seddiqi family—for the fervent local interest in watch collecting. When the event launched in 2015, it was small, hosting just 15 brands, mostly independents. “It was really a project to give back to the industry,” says Hind Abdul Hamied Seddiqi, director general of the event and CMO and communications officer for Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, “but also to educate the general public that the watch industry is not as intimidating as you think.” It’s a strategy that has paid off. Last year’s edition ballooned to 60 brands, including big-name players such as Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Van Cleef & Arpels, along with nearly 24,000 attendees, the largest crowd to date. 

Despite the draw, the five-day-long public event has an easygoing appeal that other watch fairs often lack. One can spot Philippe Dufour perched outside a pavilion smoking a pipe, Kari Voutilainen enjoying an alfresco lunch, or Rexhep Rexhepi in line for an espresso. It’s an exceedingly rare chance for collectors to mingle with the masters in a relaxed space where everyone is in a jovial mood thanks to the casual atmosphere and balmy weather—and Seddiqi plans to keep it that way. “I worry if we go bigger, we’ll lose this feeling of intimacy,” she says. “I have a lot of people asking me to commercialize the show, but it’s just going to ruin the whole vibe.” 

A Roger W. Smith Series 5 Open Dial watch at Perpétuel Gallery

A Roger W. Smith Series 5 Open Dial watch at Perpétuel Gallery

Courtesy of Perpétuel Gallery

The explosion of interest isn’t just for new timepieces: Vintage is also having its moment. Historically, the Middle East hasn’t been receptive to “used” goods, but recent years have reflected a shift in perspective. Tariq Malik, cofounder and managing partner of Momentum, also located in the DIFC just a three-minute walk from Perpétuel, was an early pioneer in the area when he opened up shop in 2011. In the beginning, he says, it would be common for someone to look at his wares and ask if he was selling “used” watches. “I said, ‘It’s vintage,’ and they said, ‘Oh, wow!’” he recalls. “When I would say ‘vintage,’ they would start pulling out their camera and taking photos. We brought vintage to Dubai, so it was a new thing.” He’s now sought-after by clients both in the U.A.E. and internationally for his allotment of rare Rolexes, with a specialization in Day-Dates and hard-to-find Stella and stone dials. 

Al Hudaidi also dabbles in vintage, predominantly ultrarare Pateks—one might walk into Perpétuel and find him casually pulling a full-set Ref. 2499 third series from a coffee-table drawer. Naturally, that watch has sold along with two other full-set 2499s, but a unique Patek Philippe Ref. 1491J chronograph from the ’40s is still up for grabs (at press time, anyway). It was made by the Stern family for Jimmy Powers, NBC’s main boxing commentator during the era. “I got goose bumps when I heard his voice on YouTube,” says Al Hudaidi. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God—that timepiece was his. And his name is engraved on the back!’” 



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