Adnan Arif designs and blogs about watches, is creative director and a partner in the Dubai-based watch brand Western and owns four stores that sell timepieces. The 33-year-old, whose family came to the UAE from Pakistan in 1973, takes time to talk about his passion.
Why design watches?
I am interested in product design and got interested in watches after I joined Western, where I am now one of the partners, in 2004 in Dubai. I grew up in Dubai and returned home with a management degree in the United States in late 2004. In the US, I had designed posters and tried my hand at running a business but that did not work out. But I realised I was interested in product designs.
I got into watch designing because it is pretty accessible. You cannot get into designing cellphones and cars all of a sudden unless you are in the industry.
How has the watch market changed in the UAE?
When I was growing up there was no product [adoration] as it is now.
How do you get inspirations for your watch designs?
I walk around a lot and take pictures of random things, buildings and their details. But there is never a direct relationship between the things and the watches. These are always 10 steps away from each other. You try to internalise things as much as you can and map how it is done. These then influence you later. At Western, I am influenced by market research and audience expectation, too. Also, I have been blogging since 1999 and met some incredible people through my blog [www.wristfashion.com] who inspire me.
You also own stores that sell watches?
I started a watch store in Safeer Mall in Sharjah in 2006. But it is not there now. The flagship store is in Dubai Mall called Wrist, a Wrist kiosk in Deira City Centre, and two budget stores - one in Dubai and one in Sharjah - which also sell watches. I employ 15 people. I am trying to enter Abu Dhabi.
Most stores here have imports. But I designed my store and I do product sourcing. I keep some hipster brands as well as Western watches.
I also want to collaborate with UAE people who are interested in designing watches but for that I need new store locations.
What else do you design?
I design furniture and sold my products at Art Dubai in February this year. I have designed chairs, wall clocks, beds and side tables. But these are mostly made on order now. I also design bags.
What are the challenges of this industry?
One of the challenges is competing with international brands who have more research and development money.
What are your plans?
Right now my focus is to improve my level of work.