By Karishma Karer
GOING BEYOND SAFFRON, INDIA EMBRACES “RED”
An enthusiast, by definition, is a person who is very interested in a particular activity or subject. What started as mere curiosity, with quite a few, is now stroked by passion, transcending many watch enthusiasts globally, into tribes that worship an inanimate wrist adornment. A rally of individuals across nationalities and borders, no matter what caste or creed, united by a singular allegiance. Such are the devotees to all this horological. What started out as a chance encounter between Adam Craniotes and Dr. Jeffrey Jacques, at a watch collecting event, quickly grew from a monthly drink and chat between the two of them to a weekly gathering of dozens of collectors. RedBar is a group of watch collectors and enthusiasts that meets regularly in New York City.
The “red-tribe” has permeated across borders. With 70 Global Chapters across cities, RedBar Bombay was initiated by an Indian enthusiast Punit Mehta. At The Hour Markers, we need a reason to talk about watches. So, we caught up with Punit Mehta and Kathleen McGivney – CEO of RedBar. A Saturday morning, coffee by side and we let the conversation flow.
The Hour Markers: What is RedBar? How many members, chapters are there, globally?
Kathleen McGivney: RedBar is a global community of watch enthusiasts who share a passion for collecting and learning about watches. There are 70 chapters with approximately 7000 members worldwide, but this number has been continually fluctuating due to the pandemic. Some chapters are taking a break from meeting at all, while some are meeting virtually – it all depends on local conditions.
The Hour Markers: You had and were managing Bombay Watch Enthusiasts, a community that you founded. Why the switch over to RedBar Bombay?
Punit Mehta: RedBar is the largest & a Global watch community, there were mainly 2 reasons for us to make this move:
– India’s watch enthusiast community is small but growing, RedBar can help us get back on the watch map, essentially a Global license which can help us connect with more brands, be a part of watch collaborations and much more for all our members
– RedBar being a Global community gives us access to a whole new watch enthusiast world where we can connect with collectors from all over the world, since most of us travel for work & pleasure (pre covid) it would be great to have GTGs in different parts of the world!
THM: How do you manage them?
K.M.: We keep in touch with the chapter leaders via email and group chats and are working on a centralization project so that we can have more direct connectivity between the chapter leaders. Each chapter has autonomy in how they choose to organize their chapters – how often they meet, the format of their meetings, etc. This is especially important during the pandemic, as each local chapter can follow their local guidelines. Some of our chapters can meet safely in person again.
THM: How does one bring about a structure and balance, amongst a group of individuals, where at times, there are very strong opinions?
P.M.: Strong & different opinions are what brings flavor to any community. Watch collecting is a very emotional hobby, often watches have stories to tell which may be very close to you but that does not mean the other person is wrong or right!
No to watch snobbery is what we strongly follow and believe, as a structure we have a strong onboarding process along with basic rules to maintain decorum in the community.
THM: A little brief of life before RedBar.
K.M.: Adam started RedBar with just a couple of friends who met up to talk about watches, and it evolved into a larger community. I joined around 2013, when the gatherings in NYC were still relatively small. Before that, I knew a little bit about watches and had a modest collection, but RedBar really allowed me to gain access to many watches I had never seen before and learn about them from their owners.
THM: Any other current pursuits apart from operating RedBar?
K.M.: I work in strategy and analytics for a consultancy firm. Most of my work is focused on clients in the technology sector.
THM: Is RedBar a non-profit organization?
K.M.: By the legal definition, no. We originally wanted to form as a US non-profit and were advised against doing so by our financial and legal advisors. However, we have established a charitable fund, called the RedBar Fund, and we donate at least 20% of net profit to it, and make grants to charitable organizations from that fund. We have worked with brands such as Oris, who donated $50,000 to our charitable fund from the proceeds of the Oris x RedBar Divers 65 Limited Edition. We also encourage our individual chapters to identify and support non-profit organizations in their local areas.
THM: What are the criteria that RedBar takes into consideration, while opening a new chapter, globally?
K.M.: It’s the same criteria we take into consideration for members: do you love watches? We strive to be as inclusive as possible for membership – no minimum collection size or price point or anything like that. Our main requirement is that members and chapter leaders are genuinely passionate about watches. For chapter leaders, we ask that they strive for the same inclusiveness when they are bringing in new members – no snobs allowed.
THM: Will we see other chapters being established in India? What’s your vision?
P.M.: Rebar Bombay is just the beginning, the Indian watch community is at a cusp of growth, we are slowly moving out of the odd watch gifting and Rolex flashing culture to a more evolved and mature watch consumer.
India is huge, both in terms of geography & people, having different RedBar chapters across cities would be the next logical step. However, being large, India also ironically has a small watch community presently, thus these chapters should be started gradually & under tight supervision of the RedBar Global teams
THM: Tell us something about the RedBar Global meetups? And your collaborations with watch brands?
K.M.: Our first global meetup was in NYC in September 2019. We had two full days of content and exclusive boutique visits, two big evening parties, and a lot of fun with enthusiasts from around the world.
Our second global meetup was scheduled to take place in London in September 2020, but we sadly had to postpone it due to the pandemic. Instead, we took the global meetup online, with a full weekend of online content, including brand presentations, the announcement of our limited editions with Frederique Constant, and some stellar panel discussions.
We are planning a hybrid event for 2021 – some virtual, some in-person – so stay tuned.
We have collaborated with watch brands three times: Maurice Lacroix, for a small 10-piece RedBar Limited Edition of their Pontos S Diver; Oris, for the aforementioned RedBar Divers 65 LE, with 100 pieces; and Frederique Constant, with the Highlife Collection, with 100 pieces of the Automatic COSC version and 10 pieces of the Perpetual Calendar. We look forward to more collaborations in the near future.
THM: What are your thoughts when it comes to the Indian Watch Community?
K.M.: We are excited to welcome the Indian watch community, starting with RedBar Bombay, and hopefully with more chapters soon. I am personally very happy to see that this hobby we all share can bring us together from all over the globe.
THM: What are the perks for the members being a part of the RedBar Bombay chapter?
P.M.: RedBar Bombay is the first RedBar Chapter in India, which means we have members from all over the country in our community, as long as they meet the vibe. RedBar gives you access to this group of individuals who may be different in all aspects but share one strong passion for watches.
We also have events organised by brands, local retailers & enthusiasts which gives us a chance to interact with horology experts from all over the world. RedBar Bombay has a host of events only for the members, which gives us inside access to watch companies & their manufacturers. With the pandemic we have pivoted into online events in our series ‘Wrist Talks’ where we invite brands and fellow enthusiasts from all over the world to discuss & learn more about watches, we have done events with the likes of MB&F, Urwerk, JLC, IWC to name a few. We are also planning (at a Global level) watch collabs, merchandise etc. which all Chapter members get access to.
THM: Could you share your personal thoughts on the future of mechanical horology versus the rise of smart watches?
K.M.: Mechanical watches are here to stay. If anything, I think the rise of smart watches has given the watch industry a big opportunity. People who have relied on their phones to tell the time and therefore haven’t worn anything on their wrists for more than a decade are now getting used to having something on their wrist again. That’s a big opportunity to get them to consider putting something mechanical on their wrists again too. Many watch collectors wear some kind of smart device on their non-watch wrist, so why not get the people wearing smart watches to consider doing the same?