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Discerning watch collector Hamdan Bin Humaid Al Hudaidi is supporting luxury brands to break into the UAE. Along with Co-Founder Melika Yazdjerdi, Ashfields Consultancies is set to become a revolutionary offering within the region.

There are mortal Patek Philippe collectors and then there is Hamdan Bin Humaid Al Hudaidi. The Emirati watch collector who previously worked with the UAE government for 17 years, and has been collecting watches far longer than that, has accumulated what many believe is one of the region’s most stunning collections of Patek Philippe timepieces – specifically vintage Patek.

“I collect modern and vintage Patek Philippe, but my favourite are unique vintage pieces that could either be one-off or one of very few pieces made. I do have unique pieces in my vintage Patek collection and one of them is the Ref 1491J CC chronograph in yellow gold,” says Al Hudaidi. He explains that although this was a time-only model, the Ref 1491J CC was a special one-off piece commissioned as a chronograph. “For Charles Stern to commission such a piece, the client must have been very important to the Stern family.” Charles, along with Jean, acquired the brand in 1932, and Patek Philippe is to this day a Stern-family-owned independent watchmaker.

Al Hudaidi vividly remembers his very first luxury watch. A full set pink gold Omega Constellation with a champagne dial and on a bracelet. His interest in watches has led him down a rabbit hole in which he discovered an immense passion for horology. He was, however, particularly smitten by fine independent watchmakers and has accumulated an encyclopedic knowledge about them. Ask him to name a few of his favourite, and you’re more than likely to hear names that are only familiar among the most rarified orbits of collectors.

Ashfields

 

It includes the likes of Frenchman Theo Auffret whose debut watch Tourbillon à Paris has received rave reviews; the 23-year-old Rèmy Cools who has showcased his Tourbillon Souscription with a domed sapphire glass; Jean Daniel Nicolas (Master Daniel Roth) and his Two-Minute Tourbillon; Atelier De Chronometrie Barcelona who Al Hudaidi singles out for its exceptional mastery over enamelling; and Neuchâtel-based Krayon which Al Hudaidi says employs elite craftsmanship in constructing timepieces.

“Speaking about my [personal] collection of fine independent watchmaking, it includes a Series 1 in 38 mm by Roger W. Smith, a unique Double Impulse Chronometer by Charles Frodsham, Simplicity by Philippe Dufour, a unique Anywhere by Krayon, and a unique and the first Eastern Arabic numerals done by Greubel Forsey on a Signature1,” says Al Hudaidi. It’s worth noting here that these watches in his collection are worth significant amounts. Consider that a Simplicity from Philippe Dufour auctioned for CHF1.36m in November, while a Signature 1 from Greubel Forsey starts from around $170,000.

To anyone willing and interested in collecting timepieces, Al Hudaidi has some sound advice. “Make sure you collect, not accumulate. Collecting is an art. Never compromise on quality, read, ask if you need more information. Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask – that is what we are here for.”

Ashfields Consultancies was founded in Dubai by Al Hudaidi in July last year as a luxury consultancy. “It is the first horology consultancy in the Middle East which advises not only collectors, but also corporates to help diagnose their problems and help position or reposition them both regionally and internationally,” says Al Hudaidi.

After a 17-year career in the UAE government, where he was most recently the director of procurement, marketing and foreign contracts at the Sharjah Seaports & Customs, Al Hudaidi resigned from his position in February this year to work on Ashfields full-time. He’s joined by Ashfields’ co-founder Melika Yazdjerdi, who spent 12 years at Seddiqi, most recently as its senior marketing and communications director.

Apart from directly advising customers and building a watch community here in the region, Al Hudaidi and Yazdjerdi are also advising brands on strategies to break into the market and are delivering incisive insights into the mindsets of the luxury audience within the UAE.

Ashfields is not just a horology-focused consultancy but has expanded its reach to other verticals as well. “Ashfields does strategy and experiences – B2B and B2C. We do that for the watch industry, but we also advise clients from the larger luxury sector, for example, from the leather industry. We’re not just limited to product-related industries, we’re also advising clients in the F&B and hospitality sector, those who want to set up restaurants or offices here,” says Yazdjerdi.

Apart from the consultancy side of the business, the duo has recently opened Perpétuel Gallery, an offshoot of Ashfields, as a by-appointment space within DIFC where some of the creations by independent watchmakers are available. “All the products that are sold at Perpétuel will always be exclusive collaborations with Ashfields. We launched Perpétuel with a Baltic collaboration, a strategic decision where we wanted to focus on a product that was accessible to a lot of people because [many] have the misconception that exclusive, collectable and limited editions have to be super expensive,” says Yazdjerdi.

Perpétuel also serves an additional purpose of better understanding the clients that Ashfields communicates with. “You hear the terminology ‘customisation’, ‘bespoke’ and ‘tailor-made’ from a lot of people in the luxury sector. But there are very few of them that actually understand and apply that. How can you bespoke or customise something to my needs when you don’t even know who I am? That’s the point that we’re trying to focus on at Ashfields, to know every single individual that is coming through the door.”

The brands that are available at Perpétuel include Krayon, Hoffman, Atelier de Chronométrie and Théo Auffret, among others. Al Hudaidi says that a number of the watches being sold at Perpétuel range between $800-$2,000, yet are very hard to get as the manufacturers in some instances make only around 10 pieces of that collection in the entire year.

“One of the most important projects we got involved with this year is a watchmaker called Luca Soprana who has got the rights to reproduce Derek Pratt watches. The entire allocation for those watches has been granted to us for the next five years. Any watches produced over the course of that period will be sold exclusively at Perpétuel.

“Apart from independent watchmakers, the gallery will also showcase vintage timepieces as well as other products such as those from luxury leather brand Charles Simon. We have another collaboration coming up with Charles Simon, for a product that is being exclusively created [for Perpétuel],” notes Yazdjerdi.

Apart from these special-edition watches and leather goods, Perpétuel will also feature select vintage watches. “We have an amazing collection of rare and exceptional vintage pieces, such as Patek Philippe, certain important references from vintage Rolex, and fine vintage brands that occupy historic important movements,” says Al Hudaidi, while adding, “We will be happy to receive, buy, or consign pieces from collectors if the pieces meet our required set of standard and quality.”

Apart from Perpétuel, Ashfields is invested in the idea of refining and curating a base of connoisseurs in the region that will become a powerful client base for niche brands entering the region. The duo will launch Ashfields Experiences later this year. It will involve taking groups of no more than 10 clients for a trip to an international location where they will be treated to curated experiences that money can’t buy. “We’re doing our first one in Milos in September. We have trips planned for Budapest, Scandinavia, Italy, the UK and Isle of Man. Our UK trip starts with us arriving in London, where the clients meet different individuals whether they’re artists or chefs, or watchmakers as well as other collectors. We’re mixing collectors from here and around the world, to share their knowledge and information, and to allow them to learn something and walk away with data and information with which they can make informed decisions,” says Yazdjerdi of these by-invitation-only trips.

With Ashfields Consultancies, Al Hudaidi and Yazdjerdi are determined to provide a luxury consultancy that operates differently compared to any other currently within the region. “Unlike a traditional consultancy which wants to make sure that they’re constantly and permanently on a brand’s retainer, that’s not what we want to do. We want to give brands the confidence and the strength to stand on their own feet and manage their businesses on their own. A lot of times, when you look at advising brands and businesses, consulting, you always try to fix the problem without finding the root cause of the issue. For us, we want to find out what the issue is, and diagnose rather than [only] find a cure,” explains Yazdjerdi.

Al Hudaidi adds, “We are here to link the wants and needs of collectors with brands and executors, making it a win-win situation.” Ashfields is triggering that winning formula, one brand and client at a time.

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