Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons is a name with international recognition and acclaim that has dazzled the world of watches and jewellery since 1950, distributing the finest and most exquisitely designed Swiss watches. From just one brand, to a portfolio of more than 50 prestigious brands, the company has become synonymous with meticulously crafted timepieces. Today, we meet with Emirati businessman and Vice Chairman of the ever-growing Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, Mr. Abdulhamied Ahmed Seddiqi – a man that has served his country with great respect and admiration and contributed with all his strength to benefit the local community. Despite his huge responsibilities, he gave some of his time to DXB Business in this exclusive interview.
Mr. Abdulhamied, how did you start your international watch and jewellery business, and how did the concept of watch dealership come to the late founder Mr. Ahmed Qasim Seddiqi?
During the 1940s, my father was working for a family business. It was at this time that his passion for watches started through ads that he had seen in magazines. He started showcasing a small collection in his personal cabinet while working for his cousin. Soon, his collection caught the attention of local watch enthusiasts and he began to expand his collection by travelling to Bahrain. He used to travel with ships to India, Bahrain and Kuwait to bring watches to Dubai, and the first shipment contained only five watches, each costing 200 rupees.
In the early 1960s we began importing from Switzerland, after which we opened our first shop in Bur Dubai, and then in Souq Mursheed in the 1970s, and in the 1980s we set up another shop in Deira Tower, which was one of the most prestigious towers in the region at the time. A year later, we expanded in the same tower, and in the 1990s, Deira City Centre was established, transforming the retail landscape in Dubai. Our first boutique was in Deira City Centre, which was a remarkable launch in the city. Eventually, we opened in every new mall, expanding to 14 shops throughout the country’s malls.
Designer watches are one of the most valuable luxury goods in the world and competing with global companies can be tough. How did you manage to stand out to become one of the best in the industry?
Luxury watches are currently limited in number and the UAE is amongst the largest markets in the Middle East. Our reliance on the domestic market and tourism in the UAE plays a large role in the luxury watch market, and today, luxury watch brands such as Rolex have become synonymous with Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in the Middle East.
You often use the term “one family” in your interviews; what is your vision with this phrase?
Our business in watches and jewellery would have never succeeded if we weren’t one family. Some of our employees have been working with us for 45 years and their children are also part of our team. From the previous generation to the current one and to future generations, we will always stick to our principles and commitment. Very few employees resign from Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons and even during the global recession we did not terminate any jobs nor did we ask employees to take a sabbatical.
What are the key factors in the success of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons?
Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons is a well known and established name in the industry, having garnered a strong reputation throughout the decades, and this is the most important element of our success. Other factors relate to our transparency in dealing with the world’s most luxurious goods. If it weren’t for our forthrightness and transparency in the watch and jewellery business, we wouldn’t have witnessed the growth that we did. We are driven by a sense of commitment to companies and people and the cornerstone of our business philosophy is to ensure premium product quality, coupled with credibility and trust. It is these principles that form the basis of our success.
What is your future strategy for the expansion of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in the region?
Our focus has been and will always remain on the UAE market. We need to ensure that local needs and demands are met before venturing into other regional territories.
Is the UAE considered as a world-class destination for watches and jewellery?
Yes, of course the UAE is a world-class destination for watches and jewellery. We rank ninth in the world and the first in the Middle East; this is based on statistics from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. The UAE competes with global markets such as Saudi Arabia, Spain, and other international markets.
When it comes to counterfeit watches; to what extent have they impacted your business, and what laws are in place to prevent this phenomenon?
This is the price of fame, and anything valuable will have an imitation. There are international laws in place and we have lawyers dedicated to combating this illegal trade. Unfortunately, trade in counterfeit goods is a widespread phenomenon that has been around for a long time, and nowadays, more replica goods are being produced than originals. But buyers should beware that although counterfeit watches can be tempting due to the price, they may contain dangerous materials and elements that can enter the body through skin contact, causing various health problems.
How do you feel when you run into someone who’s wearing a watch from Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons?
As a watch dealer, I always look at people’s hands and can evaluate a person’s personality through that observation. It makes me happy to see someone wearing any of our watches.
What were the most successful moments of your life?
My success is a result of the collective achievements of my brothers and myself, and I’m very proud of our company to have emerged from a small shop to a highly-recognized entity in the region. We are now planning for the integration of future generations into the company.
Why do you wear two watches on both hands?
Because I am fortunate enough to have many watches, this enables me to enjoy them twice as much. Also, as a watch dealer, I am lucky enough to have access to some extraordinary timepieces and this way I can share some of our unique and limited edition pieces with everyone. But you will always see me with my Rolex on the left hand.
We extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Mr. Abdulhamied Ahmed Seddiqi for this interview