The Best of Times – with Shahzad Gidwani

We view our watches as amongst our most highly-regarded acquisitions. We pore for hours and hours comparing the technical and aesthetic merits of  one brand over another – all the while knowing that watchmaking is an art as much as it is an exact science. We do this for passion, we do this for fun.

What of those who are charged with making such choices as part of their business life. Those men (and very occasionally women) responsible for making the choices over what we may or may not see in our local stores? We sat amidst Baselworld with one such gentleman – Morad Yousuf Behbehani Group’s Trading Division General Manager, Shahzad Gidwani.

As things turn out, our passion is more than matched by that of Shahzad. He’d arrived in Basel a day earlier than us, and had already had a full 24 hours more through which to judge the temperature of the novelties for 2017. Was he excited? Greatly.

“We’ve seen some very, very nice watches already” he expressed, citing as an example Omega’s rather special trilogy. A 60th-anniversary homage to their Speedmaster, Railmaster and Seamaster 300 models.

“We’ve also seen an increase in the number of entry-level watches. This is very important” he adds. This presents a large potential for attracting the youth, or other first-time buyers, who want to buy a luxury watch but for whom it may be too expensive. This year many brands added keenly-priced models expressly for this purpose – and they’ve achieved this without touching their successful top-end models. Everyone wins.

“Zenith has come up with some nice new pieces, while Longines (also celebrating an anniversary – the 60th of its Flagship model) came to Basel with line-extensions”. Shahzad was impressed. “A few new models, plus a focus on details – straps, dials”.

Omega’s look-back to the 60s was a trend followed by other brands too. Where he saw this, Shahzad reflected that this was the brands tapping into buyer’s emotions. They’re also giving the youth the chance to connect with history.

Attracting a new generation of watch-buyers is key to the industry’s future existence. “Today’s new customers are tomorrow’s important collectors”, he says. And if they become part of the passion now, they’ll become the big spenders in years to come. “And buyers are loyal to their brands. Omega, Zenith, and Hublot have loyal followings in Kuwait – buyers will own other brands too, but they’re always aware of and interested in their number one choice of brand.”

Hublot’s big news was the renewal of their famed partnership with Ferrari for another five years. “This form of brand association works well and is increasing. “This form of brand association works well and is increasing. At the Geneva Motor Show, Zenith announced a partnership with Range Rover too”.

To Shahzad and his team, Baselworld represents a highly important week. They’ll place initial orders here, and find that here and SIHH is the best places to learn what’s on-trend for the year ahead.

Of course, with his and the Behbehani family’s long association with the watch industry, these days offer an ideal time to renew bonds and to give and receive feedback on what’s hot and what’s not.

Every year the Baselworld show turns up a handful of new brands, each pitching to become the Breguet for future generations. While he keeps a keen eye on who’s doing what, he’s not here to pick up additional brands – and they’d have to fight hard for his attention.

To have a conversation with Shahzad, here at Basel or indeed back in one of the group’s Kuwait stores, is to have a conversation with a man well-versed in the ways of the watch industry, and there’s much knowledge to be gained by listening to a man for whom this is more than simply ‘business’, it too is a passion.

We conclude that a role such as Shahzad’s can only be conducted by one with an equal passion, and heightened knowledge, of those whom they seek to serve.

 

Simon Balsom