Exclusivity. Snobbery. Elitism. All words that have been associated with the world of watch collecting for decades. A hobby reserved for the wealthy elite, unwelcoming to the “average person”. Historically, the watch-collecting world has been shrouded in exclusivity. Expensive pieces, private auctions, and the aura of luxury have deterred many potential enthusiasts from joining this hobby. I know these were my thoughts as I first dove into the hobby, and were my concerns as I nervously walked into my very first watch meetup. However, in recent years, a revolution has been brewing within the horological community. Watch clubs, both physical and online, are reshaping the landscape of watch collecting, making it more accessible and inclusive. These clubs are dismantling stereotypes, bringing together diverse enthusiasts, and facilitating a shared passion for timepieces.
One of the most surprising things I discovered as I became more involved in these groups is how members from all walks of life are welcome. These clubs often consist of a diverse group of individuals, including students, professionals, and watchmakers, creating a harmonious blend of experience and enthusiasm. This diversity ensures that watch collecting isn't just about wealth; it's about shared passion. And everyone (for the most part) has the same goal of sharing their knowledge and learning more about this hobby - truly making for a remarkable experience!
The rise in popularity of watch clubs seemingly happened overnight. While a few established clubs have been around for quite some time, like RedBar which was founded in 2007, the collecting community saw exponential growth during Covid. With so many of us at home all day, virtual watch meetups became the new rage. And the fun part was you didn’t even have to live in the same city as the rest of the group. I remember joining these virtual meetups for clubs from the Carolinas to California, and just about everywhere in between. It was a way to meet new people and feel connected. I think that we can all agree this hobby gets a little lonely from time to time - many of us struggle to get our friends and partners into watches so that we have someone to talk to about the newest Rolex rumors or comparing Moonwatch references. Watch groups changed all that! And as our new friends moved from being online to in real life, we’ve been able to enjoy the hobby in a way never before imagined.
Photo Credit Quill and Pad
But friendship and a feeling of belonging isn’t the only thing that watch clubs have changed. The industry itself is changing in ways that as a long-time collector, I never would have thought possible. Historically “stuck in the mud, always following tradition”, watch brands are paying more attention now than ever before to their consumers and the growing collector community around their product. While they may not be listening to specific design specs that we are all begging for (I’m looking at you Rolex), they’re listening to the overall change in the culture behind the community and many are actively making steps to keep up with these new times we find ourselves in.
Gender inclusivity is one big example of how clubs are changing the industry. Historically, watch collecting has been perceived as a male-dominated hobby. However, watch clubs are actively working to change this perception by promoting gender inclusivity and creating an environment where everyone feels welcome. Initiatives such as women-only watch events and forums are becoming increasingly common. And this trend has stretched into the watchmaking world as many brands move towards more friendly female-inspired designs (not just gold, diamonds, and quartz). Gender neutrality has never been more prominent in the watch industry in both design and marketing, following the increase of female collectors who have felt more empowered than ever to step out of their shells and enjoy the hobby. That same inclusivity extends across all races as we see a complete melting pot of cultures in both the watch-collecting community and the industry as a whole. Watch clubs set up to celebrate diversity like Complecto have been pushing boundaries in the inclusion of all races and genders being represented in the industry from collecting, to marketing and even in the boardroom.
The impact that watch collecting groups has even extended to ethical considerations within the watch industry. Many watch clubs are taking a stand against practices that harm the environment or exploit labor, focusing on promoting sustainability and ethical sourcing. By supporting brands that adhere to fair labor practices and sustainable sourcing, thus promoting responsible consumer behavior, the watch industry has had to evolve and bring a new focus to prioritize environmentally responsible production methods and materials. There’s also a resurgence in the efforts of watch brands to make an impact through charitable donations, especially environmental causes.
Photo Credit Gear Patrol
Watch clubs are at the forefront of a horological revolution, one that is democratizing watch collecting and making it more inclusive. This seemingly innocent segment of the collector population are dismantling barriers to entry, promoting knowledge sharing, fostering a sense of community, and advocating for diversity and ethical practices within the hobby. As these clubs continue to evolve and expand, the industry has become a more welcoming and diverse place for enthusiasts of all walks of life. If you’ve not attended a local watch club event in your area, I strongly urge you to find one. Search out RedBar as they are in most major cities, or even reach out to collectors you know in your area to inquire into a watch group. You not only have the opportunity to make new friends but get to actually impact an industry that we are all so passionate about.