We, at MONOCHROME, like to think of ourselves as a virtual community of watch lovers. Our passion for watches runs deep and we hope to connect people from all over the world by offering a way to discuss, dream, admire and share. With all the restrictions on real-life meetings and events, the need for connection is greater than ever. And so, we wanted to bring you some inspiration on how other watch enthusiasts tackle this problem. We talked to Dr Malek bin Easa, a 36-year-old entrepreneur from Dubai, who, together with two partners, founded the Emirates Watch Club (EWC) on July 13th, 2020. A club that fosters real-life interaction between watch enthusiasts. Founded right in the middle of the pandemic, it seemed like a big challenge. But with one Limited Edition watch in the metal, and one Anniversary watch coming up, Malek and his team have proved that with passion, everything is possible.
“I had been walking around with the idea to start a watch club for a while,” Malek confesses. “I felt like we needed an active group in the Middle East region to share our passion, especially during the pandemic. I started chatting about it to friends I made on Instagram, people I didn’t know personally, but who shared my passion for everything watch-related. I must have shared the idea with dozens of people, but in the end, only two remained. Marwan Alshaiba, who also lives in Dubai, and Abdullah Bashwari, who resides in Sharjah. The thing is, many people like to talk about watches, but to actually start a Club like the one we have, takes a lot of work. You have to go talk to the brands, set up a structure, organize events, answer a lot of questions – sometimes I get around 20 questions a day. We quickly grew to 50 members. Much more than I had expected. But the joy it brings me is also much higher than I expected.”
A platform for watch enthusiasts
The main goal of the Emirates Watch Club is to share and pass on the passion for and knowledge about watches. “It’s not about money, at all”, Malek says. “Our club is not brand-centred. We are watch enthusiasts, not brand enthusiasts. We love all watches, and I don’t even have one specific watch, model or complication that I like more than others. What I really want is to turn this community into a platform, where we can share knowledge and raise awareness, not only about the big brands, but also about the independents.”
EWC can be found on Instagram and membership is open to people from the UAE. As Malek adds: “You know, I don’t need 20,000 followers on Instagram. I want real people, who follow us because they love what we do and because they love watches. And the followers we have now on IG EWC.ae do. We wish to meet our members as often as possible, to learn from each other. During the pandemic, this was less regularly, but we tend to meet more often now, albeit in small groups. We aim to meet three times a month when things start getting better again. 80% of our meetings will be events with the brands, in the boutiques or at special venues. That’s why most of our members are from around the country. It is more practical. We do make exceptions, however. If we know someone is a real collector, who often visits the country, they are more than welcome.”
The members all have various backgrounds. “That’s what I like! We have engineers who like to talk about the materials, sporty members and businessmen. It’s good to see that among the new applicants there are many young people. They have to pass an interview in which they have to tell us why they want to become a member. You would think these youngsters are in it for investment reasons or famous brand names, but on the contrary, they are talking about dial patterns, movements, materials used. Frankly, I was a bit shocked, but in a positive way!”
From Lamborghini to Seiko
Although the EWC is celebrating only its first birthday this coming July, it already has an impressive track record. “We are the first watch club to be sponsored by Lamborghini. Apparently, we are already important enough to attract a brand like that. They came to us, knowing that many watch lovers are also into cars. So on the 1st of February 2021, I signed a contract with them.”
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A close relationship with watch brands is essential in making EWC a success, too. As Malek says: “I know all the authorized dealers in the region, and all the CEOs of all the brands; independents of course, but also LVMH, Richemont and so on. Whenever these people are in town we go out for a coffee or for dinner; it is important to maintain a close relationship with the brands. They put us in the know way before any other watch club or collector, we are asked to review watches before they are launched and it enables us to develop special projects with them.”
One of the Club’s first special projects was the development of a limited edition watch. “That had been on the top of my list. In fact, we even started working on it before we started EWC. We did some Seiko Mods. For this, I relied heavily on Ahmed Almhrizy of IG Perception.ae. Modifying watches is his speciality, so we built a personal version with a Meteorite dial and had EWC printed on it. We loved it so much, that we had 15 pieces made, for members of the club.”
Limited Edition with Moritz Grossmann
The real deal came shortly after. “I wanted a unique piece for me, and I had a pretty good idea of what it had to look like. The only brand that could tend to my needs was Moritz Grossmann from Glashütte, Germany. They work by the concept of ‘manu factum’, everything is ‘made by hand’ – down to the smallest detail of the movement. Plus, I like that it is an independent brand, the lines of communication are shorter. Although this didn’t mean that communication was flawless. It took some time explaining exactly what I wanted. A couple more pictures of the process would have been handy because I had some strong ideas. I wanted a stainless steel watch, and I liked the hand-finishing on their watches, so I wanted a special dial. The Benu Index line came closest to what I had in mind, but that had never been produced in steel before. And I wanted them to remove the indices so the graining of the dial would be fully visible. That’s why I also took away the small seconds sub-dial. The dial is in German Silver and thanks to the linear hand-graining it reflects the light from every angle now, without obstructions. It cost 5,000 euros extra, but it is spectacular.” You can see the watch in details, in this article.
Re-designing a watch
What did remain was the cal. 100.1 movement, with the special Moritz Grossmann lateral pusher for disabling the hand-setting mode and starting the movement system. “The movement is shut down when setting the time. Only when you press the pusher at 4 o’clock, the movement is unblocked. Great, isn’t it? I had a discussion about the numerals, though. They wanted to apply them on the dial, but I convinced them that hand-engraved hour numerals and a hand-engraved logo were much nicer! Taking away the small seconds might make it hard to see if the watch was still running. I didn’t think that was a problem. Just turn the watch over and you can see if the movement is still ticking, can’t you?”
Malek was also impressed by the way hands are coloured at Moritz Grossmann. “It’s called annealing. The hands are heated to a certain temperature to get this special brown-violet hue. A special technique that makes the watch even more beautiful.”
EWC received the first watch after seven months and now, 12 pieces are made at a price of around EUR 22,000 each. “I want it to stay exclusive, so no more than 12. I have already been offered a premium price for mine, but it’s so personal and beautiful that I will never part with it.”
Second limited edition
The future is looking bright for the Emirates Watch Club. “I’d like to go on and spread the knowledge and love for watches. I want to introduce the smaller indies to our members, and guide young collectors in their search for a fine collection. It will be a real community for the Middle East.”
For the club’s first anniversary in July, a second limited edition watch will be issued in co-operation with another brand. “I can’t tell you who or what, but it is quite the opposite of the Moritz Grossmann watch. It will be a sports watch from another indie brand with quite some history. This brand doesn’t even have an authorized dealer in our country, so it was a challenge, again.” Of course, MONOCHROME will be the first to report on this new edition. Malek can be personally found on Instagram, too: @timeholic_
This interview was conducted by Melinda Braaksma.