The Chinese have a saying that goes along the lines of “may you live in interesting times”, and I’d say that it’s a fair bet that 2017 was an interesting one for the watch biz. To this end, with RedBar now being firmly a part of the “biz”, it would also to be fair to say that this has been an interesting year for us as well.
So, where to begin?
Why, at the beginning, of course. January of this year marked the first time that we attended SIHH as a professional entity, which, as many of you already know, is no small feat. SIHH, and by extension, its main patron, Richmont, guards their show against outsiders jealously. Like a horological Santa, they have a naughty list and nice list, and if you aren’t on the “nice” one, you ain’t getting through the doors of the PalExpo in Geneva.
For us, being granted entrance to the show was important for two reasons. The first is that we were able to bring the show to life for our members through our particular mindset, which is that of collectors. (Yes, we’re professionals of a sort, but we still have the same passion for horology that marked us when we were on the outside looking in.) We covered each day with a play-by-play of our appointments and the collections making their debut. This is exhausting. Really. While most think of SIHH as a weeklong party involving fancy dinners, booze-soaked evenings at eurotrash clubs and and quaint strolls down cobblestone streets in a picturesque old world city, the reality is that you’re expected to write, write and then write some more. For larger outlets, this isn’t a huge problem, as they’re bringing multiple journalists and photographers to bear on the situation. For RedBar, that means just yours truly, with Atom Moore’s eyes behind the lens: two men against an entire convention. Basically, Atom is processing his pics in whatever spare time he has (not much), while I’m up until 3am each night on my laptop so that I can hit “publish” before y’all wake up the following day. Glamorous it is not.
Yes, this is me in Geneva at 3am. No, I don’t get any better looking with fatigue.
The other reason that SIHH access is important to RedBar is that this is when we can get face time with the brands and start planning our event schedule for the coming year. Sure, it’s one thing to read about the new collections being introduced, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to get up close and personal with them on your terms, and this, of course, is where RedBar shines.
We were also at Baselworld 2017, which is basically SIHH writ large, with brands from all over the world in attendance (as opposed to SIHH, which is pretty much restricted to Swiss-owned brands). True, from a professional standpoint the barrier to entry may not be quite as high as that of SIHH, but there’s a lot more ground to cover. A LOT. Baselworld belongs to Kathleen McGiveny, and her shoes tell the tale, with several miles a day put in hoofing from one salon to the other in order to bring the show to you. Again, the mission here is to get it all down on “paper”, and, again, the pictures come courtesy of Mr. Moore’s unflinching eyes. Yes, we’ll be back in 2018.
2017 was also a year of expansion for RedBar, with a whole bunch of new chapters coming online. For the most part, our focus was on North America, with Huntsville, AL and Memphis, TN making their respective debuts down south and Dallas/Ft. Worth kicking off things with our friends at Timeless Luxury Watches. We also made a renewed push into southern California with the reimagining of RedBar LA, and Ottawa and Halifax popped up in the frozen North. Naturally, this didn’t prevent us from casting an eye abroad, with the launch of RedBar Paris and RedBar Oslo.
Meanwhile, established chapters, such as Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Sao Paolo, London, and Melbourne et al were carrying as usual, with regular meetings of the minds. Melbourne, in particular, has been off the charts awesome, but we attribute that in the main to the fact that everything in Australia is designed to kill you. Simply knowing that somewhere out there there’s a croc, musclebound ‘roo or rabid koala with your name on it forces one to party a bit harder.
With the above in mind, it’s important to note here, that while each RedBar chapter has its own unique flavor – especially Melbourne – we still strive to ensure that the feeling of inclusion remains. After all, the unofficial first rule of RedBar remains “no assholes”, which, when taken at face value means that we don’t tolerate snobs and showboats. From the moment you walk through the door ’til the moment you walk back out, you’re no better or worse than anyone else at the table. Honestly, we don’t care if you have a Lange Double Split or a G-Shock DW-5600 – you’re here to share your collection and your knowledge and your passion, and you don’t need to be a millionaire or industry old-timer to do that.
In the midst of all this we took the time to get some proper office space, and we even brought on our first employee, Liam O’Donnell, to help fill it out. Okay, in actuality, we brought Liam on to help with our communications and expansion efforts. (Let’s be honest here, while I’m good at holding a drink and giving a speech, I’m lousy at that whole emailing thing…). Liam is RedBar through and through, and we look forward to expanding his role with us in the new year, so get used to seeing and hearing from the ridiculously handsome lad. (He’s also Australian, so if we ever get attacked by a croc, a musclebound ‘roo or a rabid koala, he knows what to do.)
2017 was also a year of events, with brands as varied as G-Shock and Vacheron Constantin holding court with our members. We embarked on a five city tour with Montblanc to help launch the TimeWalker collection, and RedBar members were among the first in the country to handle pieces from Baume & Mercier and Oris, to name but a few. We traveled to Londontown and then down South with the Bremont Boys for RedBar London and ATL, respectively; and brought the gospel up north to Toronto with IWC. A bear stopped by our office (and hasn’t left), and through it all a great time was definitely had, with brands and collectors getting down and dirty in a fashion that only RedBar can facilitate. Even Patek Philippe got on board with their mind blowing Art of Watches Grand Exhibition, for which we were tapped for a private tour and cocktail party.
The evening was a blur…
Pip, pip, cheerio!
What’s this all aboot, eh?
Go home, Oris Bear, you’re drunk.
Seriously, if you missed this exhibition, you missed out BIG TIME.
We took our first field trip to the National Watch & Clock Museum, where our very own Atom Moore’s Watch Mashup exhibition launched…
It’s been extended! (The exhibition, not his beard.)
And we held our two-part summer watch walk in conjunction with our friends at Watchonista.
We also paid a visit to CoutureTime in Las Vegas, and given what a great time we had, we decided that it would probably be a good idea if we came back with all of RedBar in tow, which leads us into 2018…
RedBar starts with a lounge… That’s how we get you.
If 2017 was a year devoted to securing our foundation, then 2018 is the year we really start to build. While we will continue to do everything we’ve done up to this point, which means that, yes, we’re currently gearing up for SIHH and we’re working on even more chapters (Mexico and India, anyone?), we’re also looking to bring all of our chapters together under one roof for what we’re billing as the first annual RedBar National Meetup.
This will be going down in June at none other than the aforementioned CoutureTime in none other than the aforementioned Las Vegas. This is big, and it’s going to be one helluva party. Details are forthcoming, but please believe me when I say that our partnership with CoutureTime portends many good things to come.
Looking back at 2017, it’s clear that while the marketplace presented a challenge to pretty much every brand and manufacture, the passion of rank and file collectors remained wholly undimmed. To this end, RedBar remains 100% committed to doing what we do best: holding regular gatherings and brand events and putting out solid editorial that speaks to this hobby in the language of collectors.
We love watches. Period. Full stop. This will never change, and so long as watchmakers are hard at work creating these tiny mechanical marvels, we will remain hard at work bringing them to you, our members.
Cheers to 2018!