Rolex Tower in Dubai

We catch up with the man behind Dubai's newest iconic tower


Simple, elegant, distinctive: certainly not words you’d use to describe most buildings in Dubai, but for Rolex Tower, the description is perfect. If anything, the 235m highrise, located in the heart of Dubai’s business district, has become known for contradicting the stereotypical opulence and extravagance that has characterised so many of the city’s tall structures. Then again, with a brand like Rolex, what else would you expect?

Of course, the owner of this 60-storey skyscraper on Sheikh Zayed Road is not actually Rolex, but the real estate arm of the highly successful Middle Eastern watch retailer, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. And the man behind the building, vice chairman Abdul Hamied Ahmed Seddiqi, insists that his tower is the fi rst ever Rolex-branded building not to be owned by the watchmaker itself. Its name is the fruit of 50 years of collaboration between Seddiqi’s company and the Swiss brand.

‘We wanted to create a landmark for Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road, because we felt that, other than Emirates Towers and the World Trade Centre, there was very little in this area that was particularly iconic,’ says Mr Seddiqi, who believes that Sheikh Zayed Road is ‘the best location’ in the city.

‘We purchased the land in 2005 and appointed Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) as the lead architect, as they were also involved with Burj Khalifa. We wanted a good architect because design is important. We also wanted it to look simple and elegant.’

With such a huge emphasis on getting the design and aesthetics right, Spring/Summer 2011 Time Out Style 71 Seddiqi toyed with ideas and drawings throughout 2006, giving the go-ahead to start construction only in 2007. By this stage it had been decided that the tower should appear like a ‘shimmering desert mirage’, and be the fi rst to represent a new generation of towers along Dubai’s main highway.

Construction ran smoothly, Seddiqi says, taking two years, 3,385 tonnes of steel, 29,150 cubic metres of concrete and almost 1,000 workers to build the tower. ‘We didn’t have any delays really,’ he says. ‘Maybe a couple of months during the design stage but, other than that, there weren’t any.’

Following a launch ceremony last autumn, the mixed-used tower is now open for business. As well as a ground fl oor dedicated to retail, it offers 31 levels of premium commercial space and 25 fl oors of two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as two penthouses. At night it comes alive, thanks to a lighting system incorporated into the 40,000 metres of aluminium and glass used for the exterior, which can be programmed and controlled centrally to display an array of colours and patterns that can change at different speeds.

On the subject of unique features, Seddiqi says that his tower is the fi rst of its kind in many ways. ‘I think Rolex Tower is different from other buildings. Not in terms of structure, which is very simple. But it has a different design and better-quality fi nishes. There are obviously other luxury towers on Sheikh Zayed Road, but I am not talking about luxury in that way, I’m talking about quality. When you see the apartments yourself, you will see how well they compare with other apartments around this area.

‘Another thing about the tower is that it’s minimalist. That’s something new here in Dubai. In the past it has always been about opulence. At Rolex Tower, the technology and quality compensate for the lack of opulence.’

The name, he says, is also crucial. ‘When we were building the tower we wanted a very strong name. We decided on Rolex because the fi rm was one of our oldest clients, and because it is a good brand. And it comes through in the design. In the lobby for example, which was very important as it’s the fi rst thing people see – what we call the ‘face’ of the building – we created a Rolex style, but made it a bit more modern. There is also a mobile art installation which is a depiction of the sound waves of saying the word ‘Rolex’.’

The seven-metre polished stainless steel sculpture, called ‘Soundwave’, was created by Dubai-based James Clar, who has his own art space, Satellite, in the art hub Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz. Hanging in the business entrance of the tower, it hovers 2.5m above visitors and provides a source of intrigue for those walking around the lobby.

‘When people come to Dubai, they’re looking for excellence and real luxury; they’re looking for something similar to what they might fi nd in London or New York,’ says Seddiqi. ‘This tower offers it to them.’

Ask him if he would sell and Seddiqi’s pride in his masterpiece is even more apparent. ‘It depends on where you are as to whether you lease or sell – but actually, I don’t want to sell.’

Which leaves only one question: Would he do anything in the tower differently? Confi dently and without hesitation

3 top Dubai views

From… At.mosphere
The world’s highest restaurant provides a spectacular view: to see Dubai lit up at night is a sight to behold.

How high: 122nd floor
Downtown Burj Khalifa, (04 888 3828)

From… Level 43
Level 43 had us at ‘whoosh!’ (that was the rush of wind when we opened the door). You’ve barely got to set foot outside onto the patio of this open air pool bar before the view mesmerises.

How high: 43rd floor
Four Points by Sheraton, Sheikh Zayed Road, (04 316 9711)

From… RED Lounge Terrace
Filled with arty touches, from kitsch panda motifs and trinkets to delicate Asian-inspired finishings, this is a great place to start or end your evening. Happy hour grape costs Dhs20.

How high: 17th floor
Raffles Dubai, Oud Metha, (04 314 9770).

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