A Guide to the Wide World of Watch Meetups

In the late 1990s, when the mechanical watchmaking renaissance was just hitting its stride, meeting fellow watch enthusiasts was no easy feat. Online forums provided a place for watch lovers to come together, but apart from auction sales and the very occasional retail event, physical meetups were difficult to orchestrate.

Today, watch lovers have the opposite problem: The number of timepiece-focused events is so great that choosing the best one to suit your tastes may pose the biggest challenge. Between the global RedBar Group’s regular meetups, local gatherings like Neighborhood Watch Club in Los Angeles, and events geared to diversifying the watch community, such as those organized by Official CP Time and New York City-based Complecto, opportunities to talk watches with like-minded souls are virtually endless.

And don’t be surprised if you come away from your first meetup with more than just insight into your next watch purchase.

“The vast majority of my friends these days are through watches,” says Henry Flores, founder of the New York City-based Classic Watch Club. “Watches are the gateway to a shared passion but beyond that they’re a way to meet genuinely good people.”

Below, we’ve put together a brief (but far from exhaustive) guide to the groups and events where both budding and veteran watch geeks can meet and greet. (Note: The popularity of watch meetups is not strictly an American phenomenon. In addition to RedBar’s numerous chapters worldwide—the organization has an especially big presence in the U.K.—Asia is home to thriving collector groups, including the Singapore Watch Club and the Horology Club in Hong Kong.) Wherever you end up, happy watch story swapping!

RedBar Group

One of the original watch collecting groups, this organization was founded in New York City in 2007 as a bar hang for people who wanted to talk watches over cocktails. Today, the group has some 90 chapters globally, including in places as far-flung as Cape Town, Gibraltar,
and Singapore.

Most major cities in the U.S., from Milwaukee to Miami, have a chapter, and while some are not as active as they once were, newcomers are always welcome to join an existing chapter, or start their own.

RedBar meetup notice

“We don’t care if you walk in with a Timex or an MB&F, as long as you like watches,” says Kathleen McGivney, RedBar Group’s CEO. “And we want people who come on board to have that same welcoming, inclusive mindset." She adds, “We give them a lot of agency and autonomy to run their groups the way their local community wants them to run. Some meet every week, some meet once a month, some meet in a mix of virtual and in-person. They know better than we do what works for their local crowd.” 

Classic Watch Club, NYC

Watch collector Henry Flores had just become a member of the Classic Car Club in Manhattan in 2019 when he realized that his passion for watches rivaled his passion for cars—and that others probably felt the same way. The watch club became official in September of that year when he began organizing monthly meetups at the car club. When the pandemic put the kibosh on in-person gatherings, Flores switched to a weekly virtual format that expanded the groups’ reach to members around the U.S. (including actor Fred Savage and author Gary Shteyngart), and as far away as Australia.

The group tends to focus on watch brands with vintage appeal—think Rolex, Omega, and Breitling—and is comprised of mostly mature collectors. The physical events are strictly by referral, but the virtual events are easier to join. While many meetups feature brand-sponsored presentations, Classic Watch Club’s ethos is all about education—and independence. “We don’t hold back in discussing which watches we like or don’t like,” Flores says. 
 

Watch Club NYC
Scene from a recent Classic Watch Club Meetup in New York (courtesy Classic Watch Club)

Neighborhood Watch Club, L.A.

Jarrod Cooper, a watch collector from Perth, Australia, moved to Los Angeles in 2018. Looking for a way to connect with fellow watch lovers, he founded the Neighborhood Watch Club in 2020, first as a virtual meetup. 

 Once pandemic restrictions eased, he began organizing monthly events. Most NWC meetups take place at bars and restaurants in different parts of the city, but occasionally, Cooper organizes gatherings at boutiques in Beverly Hills to allow members to touch and feel brand novelties. 

The throughline that connects all of NWC’s events, and its membership in general, is inclusivity.

 “No matter who you are or what you own or don’t own, everybody’s welcome,” Cooper says. “Some people might bring a watch roll full of watches and they can talk about them. A lot of times, people are trying on other people’s watches, telling stories about their lives.

 “Age-wise, it’s all over the place,” he adds. “We have people who email me and they’re 18 and they’re welcome as long as we’re not at a venue where they have to be 21. And others are in their 70s and have been watch collectors their whole life. Some people are in construction and some are creatives—they come from all walks of life.” 

Neighborhood Watch Club
Photos from Los Angeles collecting group Neighborhood Watch Club's website (courtesy Neighborhood Watch Club)

Complecto, NYC

Jason Gong spent two decades working as a diversity, equity, and inclusion expert for companies in the finance, technology and health care sectors. In 2021, he left the corporate world to pursue his passion for timepieces full-time with the founding of Complecto, a New York City-based watch community for people who value inclusivity.

“I wanted to build a community I wanted to be a part of,” Gong says. “One hyper-focused on inclusion, belonging, creating safe spaces where anyone could come and learn. As savvy as I am as a collector, I had often found myself in rooms with other collectors not really feeling like I belonged, even though I have a lot of watches from the brands other people admire." He added, “I didn’t feel there was a shared value system there. I recognized if I was feeling that energy, other people probably were, too.”

Complecto event
Top and above: Watch enthusiasts at a recent Complecto event (courtesy Complecto)

Complecto held its first meetup in New York City in April 2022, and has been going full-tilt ever since. Members get wind of events and upcoming collaborations simply by joining the mailing list. 

Official CP Time, Washington, D.C.

In 2019, Dr. Albert Coombs, a dental implantologist in Washington, D.C., with a lifelong love of watches, attended a local RedBar event and quickly realized he was the only Black person in the room. “Which wasn’t a problem, but to feel so much by yourself when you shouldn’t—you’re amongst collectors—and I love the RedBar guys,” he says.

When the pandemic began and he was spending a lot of time at home, Coombs connected online with a fellow Black collector, C’Quon Gottlieb, now a luxury watch specialist in Miami for the retailer DavidSW. In December 2020, they decided to create Official CP Time (the CP stands for Cultured Perspective), a group dedicated to discussing horology through a Black lens. Its members have held events in New York City, Denver, and Miami. 

CP Time
CP Time members at a recent group event (courtesy CP Time)

“We wanted to create a safe space where everybody’s watch is celebrated, from Seiko to a Richard Mille,” Coombs says.

This December, the group is planning to celebrate its third anniversary at an event at the Cartier boutique in Miami’s Design District. And membership has expanded to include anyone and everyone who loves watches.

“There are two things we say: If you’re not making friends while you’re collecting watches, you’re missing the best part,” Coombs says. “And pretentiousness can’t be a part of it.”