Dr Malek Bin Easa discusses his passion for watches and creating a community spirit amongst collectors in the UAE.
Emirati entrepreneur Dr Malek bin Easa has long had a passion for watches. As an avid collector he has been sourcing some of the finest timepieces in the world since a young age, but he had never managed to find that community aspect of a platform to share and swap knowledge with like-minded enthusiasts. So in 2020, during the global pandemic, he found the time to fulfil his dream of starting a watch club. Emirates Watch Club was born with a vision of bringing together some of the most knowledgeable collectors in the UAE. A year and a half later and the club is thriving, with many members who regularly come together for events and meetups to share their knowledge and their love of watches as well as discover new novelties and get access to exclusive designs. At the recent Dubai Watch Week Emirates Watch Club unveiled an exclusive collaboration with independent watch brand Schwarz Etienne and there is surely much more to come. Here we discover more about the future of the club and how it is creating a real community amongst watchmakers in the region.
Why did you decide to start Emirates Watch Club and what was the vision behind it?
Emirates Watch Club started during the pandemic when everyone was locked down. I felt like we needed a community to bring watch collectors together. There are many other clubs, but I didn’t feel a sense of community or see any activities happening so I decided to establish the club by myself. I contacted a few people through Instagram to see if they would be interested to join and the response was very positive from the beginning. Many of them already knew of my collection from social media and they therefore trusted me and were keen to join. From that point, it took around six months to prepare and announce the club. We started with around 15 members and one day after announcing, I had over 300 hundred applications! Of course, I could not accept everyone. They needed to be a watch enthusiast, but it wasn’t necessarily about their collection or how many watches they had, most importantly they had to have an understanding of watches and the industry. So we interviewed all potential members and then decided who to accept. I believe that today we are the most active group in the world when it comes to watches. And in such a short time all the brands and platforms know who we were, everyone wanted to meet us and it went better than I could ever have expected. I would never compare myself to any other club. We are a unique platform and we are truly watch enthusiasts. We have started to work on a YouTube channel, we have done many interviews with CEOs which we are publishing on our Instagram page and on YouTube.
What were the challenges of setting up the club during the pandemic?
We took advantage of the fact that people had more time on their hands and during the pandemic between July 2020 and December 2020, I was able to arrange more than five events. We were had small gatherings with social distancing, bringing the community together in person.
Tell us about some of the partnerships and collaborations that you have with watch brands?
We have many kinds of partnerships. Firstly we have created special edition watches for Emirates Watch Club members and we have another to be announced at Dubai Watch Week. It’s a partnership with a Swiss watch brand called Schwarz Etienne. We have designed a watch with a well-known watchmaker called Kari Voutilainen to create something amazing that will be available to members of Emirates Watch Club only. We will make nine watches in total as we like to keep it exclusive and limited. This is the first time this brand has collaborated with anyone.
Our first collaboration was with a German watch brand called Moritz Grossmann. It was the first time they had created a watch specifically for the region and after our watch was revealed the brand started to be known in the region so we are opening doors for the brands as well.
At the beginning we thought we would be chasing after the brands but based on how active we are, they are coming to us and we even have to turn some of them down!
And then we have partnerships with non-watch brands. Three months after we started we received a sponsorship offer from Lamborghini. We turned them down three times as we were still initiating the club at that point. Then in February 2021, we signed with them and now they are our official sponsor. This is how strong our club is today and a lot of people trust us.
Tell us about your relationship with Dubai Watch Week?
Dubai Watch Week is a big moment for us, it is more important than the new year for watch collectors! This year I am looking forward to seeing brands and collectors from all around the world and many watches are going to be released, including our limited edition.
What’s your vision for the future of the club?
We are more than a club, we are a community and a platform. We have many activities and events, we bring people together and I’m sure we are the most active club in the world. I want the club to continue to become more of a community and a place to share news on watches, especially in Arabic as I think that’s something that’s missing in the region. There is a great vision and a lot of things are in the works that are going to be very exciting. I have many plans and I can see that the support is there for us.
Would you like to expand the club globally?
I have a couple of members who are abroad but they come to Dubai a lot. We have one member in South Africa and another in Canada. But we prefer to have people who can physically meet us and be active members of the group. Actually, when we started we had over 100 members and it was so hard to manage, it became chaotic! So we had to refine the numbers because I am only one person and I want to make sure everyone has the experience they deserve. Now I only accept a new member every few months or I wait until a member leaves before I take any new ones on because I don’t want to let someone in and not be able to give them the proper treatment they deserve.
Where did you get this passion for watches?
Well, I didn’t know I had this passion until I was a teenager, but when I realised that I loved watches I started collecting many things – pocket watches, clocks – I had a fascination with anything that told the time. When I was nine years old I went on a trip to Saudi Arabia with my father and we went to visit his friend. He took off his watch and he gave it to me as a gift. It was a Seiko, and I kept this watch with me for 16 years until I was at University. I’m sure I still have it somewhere. But this is what started my passion. Then I would collect watches, clocks, I would open them up, play with them, and it was really fascinating to me. Step by step as I started to work and I had my own income I started to teach myself about watches and understand the craftsmanship, the art, the history of these watches and now I am here! Back then we didn’t have social media so you would go to the boutiques and ask.
Which watch brands do you really love?
I am truly the guy who loves all the brands! I don’t have a specific favourite but some brands are top of the league for sure: Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin are some. There are also new players like Richard Mille and Erwerk. And I have started to go more towards some of the independent brands because they make watches with love.
What do you look for when you are buying a watch?
It should speak to me. I like both classic and contemporary watches. I love new materials and things that are innovative and different and at the same time I love complications, but the complications are not being developed a lot. There are mechanical complications but there are also material complications that are very interesting. Richard Mille for example makes watches with cases made of Quartz – it’s quite amazing.
How do you decide which watch you are going to wear each day?
This is the problem I have every morning! I used to take a watch out at night to wear the next day but then I would I wake up in the morning and my mood would be different, so I stopped doing that. Now I wake up and put a watch on according to how I feel.
We are celebrating 50 years of the UAE – what does this occasion mean to you?
It means a lot and that is why we decided to launch our new exclusive edition in line with the National Day holiday.
What is a message that you would send to your country on this occasion?
We have learnt so much from our country. As Emiratis we are fighters, we fight for what we want and we learned that from our leadership. If you look around the region, all the other cities have been influenced by Dubai and people are also influenced by the leadership here. It is not just in the region, it is global and we must take advantage of being in Dubai and the opportunities it offers. We have everything around us and we are very lucky to be in such a country and city. So the message that I would send to my country is: “We are a family and I hope to be like this forever.”
What is a watch that is on your wish list at the moment?
Only one watch?! I have already ordered many watches that are on their way and I have two more watches in my plan and hopefully, I will be able to get those soon. I really don’t know how many watches I have!