Deremi Ajidahun could fairly be described as Africa's Mr. Watchmaking. As a young child, he was drawn to the windows of the jewellery store opposite his mother’s shop in Lagos, Nigeria, and was given his first watch by his father when he was 14 – an Oris, followed a little later by a Longines, a source of immense pride.
It was to be the last gift he received from his father before he died – and the start of a patiently built collection. This taste for watchmaking led the young CEO to make the most of a visit to Germany to take a short detour to Baselworld in 2006. He returned in 2007 and in 2008, when his wife encouraged him to combine business with pleasure, just as he had so successfully in golf and luxury product retailing.
Deremi Ajidahun © Zakaa
A few traditional retailers were already active in Nigeria, so he had to persuade brands to entrust representation to him. The first to do so were Edox, Franc Vila, and Parmigiani, thereby allowing him to open his first store with his brother in 2008. The first shop-in-shop followed in 2009 with Parmigiani, which produced a limited edition in gold for him with the support of famous Nigerian soccer player Jay-Jay Okocha; the piece was a commercial and media success. TAG Heuer and Ulysse Nardin first appeared in Ajidahun’s window displays in 2011 and he opened their exclusive-brand outlets in 2012. In 2014, Ricardo Guadalupe enlisted him to open Hublot’s first store in Africa (one of only two to date). At around the same time, Deremi Ajidahun began to take an interest in small, independent brands, promoting them in his African stores in the capacity of retailer or distributor, leading to him representing a total of 40 or so brands. Keen to educate his fellow-citizens about the virtues of fine watchmaking, he bought GMT Magazine’s franchise for Africa in 2018 – and gained recognition from the GPHG, which invited him to be a member of its Academy in 2019, the only representative for an entire continent! He plans to open some 15 stores over the next few years, along with after-sales centres and watchmaking schools – and turn Africa into the new Asia.
*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with a 10% discount if you use the following code: WT2021.