With seven visits to Dubai for various watch world events now under my belt, I have begun to develop an appreciation for this fast-growing desert city situated on the coast of the Persian Gulf.
Established in the eighteenth century, it is the capital of the Emirate of Dubai and now the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven emirates officially founded in 1971. On National Day – December 2, 2021 – the UAE, which also contains the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain, turned 50.
Dubai certainly celebrates this milestone anniversary well with its charming Expo. And some of the top watch manufacturers in the world are doing the same by having released special edition watches in honor of the anniversary at the request of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, who also stages Dubai Watch Week.
Many of these watches, which were brought to life when Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi worked with leading and independent watch brands to create them, were on display at Dubai Watch Week. This limited-edition collection of 35 models – which is also very likely already long sold out – makes for a very interesting chapter in the ever-evolving stories of the UAE and Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons.
Here are five of my favorites of these limited-edition timepieces in celebration of 50 years of the UAE.
MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement Evo UAE Golden Jubilee
The story of this watch begins with MB&F’s Legacy Machine Perpetual, winner of the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève’s Calendar Watch category. Two main criteria for this watch were to make the perpetual calendar functionality and setting/adjusting foolproof and to showcase the large, suspended balance front and center. Movement designer Stephen McDonnell not only fulfilled these criteria but ended up creating the longest balance staff in the world, leaving the large balance wheel on the front of the watch and obscuring the anchor and escape wheel on the back side of the movement. MB&F called this invention the Split Escapement.
A variation of the LM Perpetual called the LM Split Escapement was introduced in 2017 to highlight this unusual and highly aesthetic oscillating system. And now the limited-edition MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement Evo UAE Golden Jubilee celebrates both the beautiful component and the fiftieth anniversary of the UAE, a celebration near and dear to MB&F founder and owner Max Büsser’s heart as he has lived in Dubai with his family for the last seven years.
But if you were to think that this ten-piece edition was only about a dial color change, then you don’t know MB&F very well: indeed, there are several changes radically modifing the watch. To begin with, the movement has been rotated clockwise 30 degrees, moving the crown to 4:30 (instead of its usual place at 2 o’clock) and completely changing its symmetry.
Another difference is that it features the newer Evo case of 2020, which incorporates a non-bezel design that sees the sapphire crystal fused directly to the titanium case with integrated lugs and strap. Water-resistance of 80 meters is achieved thanks to a screw-down crown.
And, finally, for the first time in MB&F’s history, the “dial” (which is actually the movement base plate) comes in a salmon hue with dark grey subdial rings for the date and power reserve as well as the time subdial.
Quick Facts MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement Evo UAE Golden Jubilee
Case: 44 x 17.5 mm, grade 5 titanium; 80-meter water resistance
Movement: manually wound bespoke caliber with integrated perpetual calendar with complication on top of base plate and split escapement, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency, 72-hour power reserve, 14 mm balance wheel with regulating screws
Functions: hours, minutes; perpetual calendar with day, date, month, retrograde leap year, power reserve indicator
Limitation: 10 pieces
Bell & Ross BR03-92 UAE 50th Anniversary Edition
It was great fun watching Bell & Ross co-founder give his speech on the night he unveiled his brand’s contribution to Seddiqi’s celebratory watches during Dubai Watch Week: you could tell he was having fun with it. And the fun design of this Bell & Ross variation on the BR03-92 shows that its creation was probably also quite enjoyable for him.
Using only the black found on the UAE flag, the black dial and the matte black 42 mm ceramic case symbolizes strength of mind according to both Bell & Ross and Seddiqi. An anti-reflective sapphire crystal is embedded within the sophisticated design of the sunray-brushed, galvanically treated dial with dark ruthenium satin-finished appliqués filled with grey Super-LumiNova – as are the hands.
As is visible on both the Bovet and De Bethune limited edition pieces in honor of this anniversary, the 10 o’clock position here is also marked by the Golden Jubilee number 50, placing focus on the milestone. Serving as further testament to this historic moment, the case back is also specially engraved.
Quick Facts Bell & Ross BR03-92 UAE 50th Anniversary Edition
Case: 42 mm, black ceramic, 100-meter water resistance
Movement: automatic Caliber BR-CAL.302 (Sellita SW300-1 base) 42-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Limitation: 50 pieces
Remark: comes with black rubber and heavy-duty canvas straps
Bovet 19thirty UAE Anniversary Edition
Seddiqi and Bovet have created an exceptional version of the brand’s 19thirty model that stands out in its use of color. One of the purest watches that Bovet makes, its 42 millimeters contain a lot of character. And the watch’s height of just 9.05 mm makes the character with slightly overlapping dials a particularly refined one.
The color combination Seddiqi selected together with Bovet is inspired by the flag of the United Arab Emirates, in particular the green and red. The partners allowed themselves some liberty regarding the actual hues, choosing a moss-green color for both the strap and to fill in the engravings on the front of the movement. They also combined the orange stitching of the strap with sunburst-finished dials that have a copper tone to them in place of red. This color combination really works!
And a nice nod to the anniversary is the moss green L printed on the dial at 10 o’clock. This Roman numeral representing 50 is rarely – or should I say never – used on watches. However, for the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the UAE it’s very appropriate.
For more, please see The Bovet 19thirty UAE Anniversary Edition With Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons.
Quick Facts Bovet 19thirty Seddiqi UAE 50 Anniversary Edition
Case: 42 x 9.05 mm, stainless steel
Movement: hand-wound Caliber 15BM04 with seven-day power reserve and one single spring barrel
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve indication
Limitation: 10 pieces
De Bethune UAE Hawk
The De Bethune UAE Hawk is a seven-piece limited edition also made in collaboration with Dubai Watch Week organizer Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the United Arab Emirates. Each one of these seven pieces represents an emirate in the federation.
As might be expected from a collaboration between two watch industry titans, this timepiece is absolutely stunning with a wide chapter ring marking seconds and minutes and bold pad-printed Arabic numerals around a guilloche center in silver – except for the “10,” which has been replaced with a “50” in gold to mark the nation’s Golden Jubilee in a regal manner.
Even with its canvas strap, the watch still possesses a classic appearance despite – or thanks to – the dial’s multi-level complexity: there’s a constant play of light shimmering with different verdant hues.
De Bethune’s automatic manufacture Caliber AUTOV2 powers the De Bethune UAE Hawk. Comprising 217 parts, 29 of which are jewels, the movement is fitted with a stunning winding rotor made of titanium and tungsten. The balance wheel is also made of titanium with gold inserts and supported by a full bridge for increased shock resistance.
The back of the UAE Hawk is every bit as charismatic as the front, but perhaps even more significant is its incredible wearing comfort. At 43 mm in diameter the UAE Hawk is substantial, but the clever case construction has it hugging the wrist closely. With a height of just 9 mm, the UAE Hawk is pleasantly slender, and its polished grade 5 titanium case keeps the weight down substantially.
Quick Facts De Bethune UAE Hawk special edition
Case: 43 x 9 mm, polished grade 5 titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber Auto V2, titanium balance wheel with gold inserts, steel escape wheel, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 60-hour power reserve (one spring barrel)
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 7 pieces
Corum Heritage Artisans Coin Watch
The first Corum Coin Watch appeared in 1964 with the first 12 examples selling out immediately at that year’s Basel Fair. These were the world’s first wristwatches made using a coin to house a mechanical movement; previous to Corum’s experimentation, the style had only been used for pocket watches.
This history makes this model the obvious choice from the Corum catalogue as the one to pay homage to 50 years of the UAE in a limited edition of 13 pieces. Though somewhat large at 43 mm in diameter, this watch is also extremely thin at 7.7 mm in height, making it supremely comfortable – and rather surprising since this thinness includes all the gearing needed for an automatic movement.
In addition to the 925 silver coin used as the dial, the case engraved with “Year of the Fiftieth” in English and Arabic on the front and “United we are” and “1971-2021” on the back is also silver and contains a faceted cornflower blue sapphire in the crown.
Quick Facts Corum Heritage Artisans Coin Watch
Case: 43 x 7.6 mm, silver with sapphire set into crown
Movement: automatic Caliber CO 082 (base ETA 2892), 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 13 pieces
For more information, please visit www.seddiqi.com/curators-journal/50-years-crafting-future-uae.