“Watchfam” might seem like a catchy hashtag, but there’s truth in the name.
You pull open the glass door of a nondescript Asian restaurant. The lobby is crowded with people waiting for admission into the smorgasborg that lies just beyond the doors, but you don’t join them, tempting though the odors wafting from the dining room might be.
Instead, you turn and walk down a darkened staircase. The sound of Top 40 music and laughter reaches your ears. The hostess perks up when you approach the stand and asks, “Are you with them?”
A group of people mill about tables on the side of the bar. Through the crowd, you can see a cloth-covered table. And on that table are watches — dozens of watches, all brands, all budgets.
Welcome to RedBar.
The spread at one RedBar meetup (Courtesy of the author's Instagram)
A Patek Philippe Nautilus lies next to a Tudor Black Bay and a couple of Rolexes. Someone puts down an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and shortly after, a G-Shock is added to the pile. People reach for this watch or that, with no preference for the most expensive or the rarest.
To these people, the G-Shock is just as cool as the Nautilus. Any watch that gets added to the pile is interesting, worthy of being strapped on the wrist and taken a picture of. What unites the group around the table in this dimly lit bar is a love of all watches.
As a newcomer, you’re met not with suspicion, but with curiosity — about you, what's on your wrist, and how you got into this unusual hobby of watch collecting. Even if it's your first time here, you feel at home, like you’ve found your people.
This scene plays out every Wednesday night at RedBar Crew’s New York HQ, refered to by regulars as the “Honeycomb Hideout.” I’ve been coming to RedBar for several years, ever since meeting founder Adam Craniotes at a Girard-Perregaux event. I was there with my boyfriend, a watchmaker; upon finding out what he did, Adam responded with an enthusiastic “That’s awesome!” and invited us to our first RedBar meetup.We've been regulars ever since.
When I first started going to RedBar, I owned a couple of vintage pieces (an Omega Seamaster and a Bulova Walton,) but my knowledge of the wider watch world was limited. I could barely tell a Nautilus from a Royal Oak, let alone know how to pronounce “Audemars Piguet.” Thanks to the sheer variety of watches brought to the meetups, along with the friendliness and enthusiasm of the regulars, I soon learned.
A RedBar meetup in Canada (@RedBarOttawa Instagram)
For the RedBar regulars, what started as a hobby has led to friendships, jobs, and even marriages. I'd met the Analog/Shift guys through RedBar, at the same Girard Perregaux event where I met Adam Craniotes, and had known them for a few years. My boyfriend fixed up a few watches for them in his spare time. A chance meeting at an event sponsored by Glashutte Original two years ago led to my joining the Analog/Shift team.
Despite all the business, it’s more of a family. “Watchfam” might seem like a catchy hashtag, but there’s truth in the name. Even though I’ve only been to the meetups here in New York, there's no question that if I happened to find myself in San Francisco, Philly, London, LA, Chicago or Istanbul, I know that I’ll find my people there too.