By Michelle Graff
RedBar is a group for “watch geeks” with 2,500-3,000 members in 40 cities worldwide. The first rule of RedBar: “No [jerks],” said founder Adam Craniotes. Anyone is welcome to join, whether they have a Swatch or a Romain Gauthier.
New York--There’s a groundswell of enthusiasm around so-called geek culture lately and among those riding the wave are watch collectors, a hobby that seems to be gaining steam in an era when many might say a watch is an obsolete artifact.

Watch website Hodinkee keeps growing; the website added a print magazine last year and brought veteran journalist Joe Thompson on board as editor-at-large.

Eleven James is a membership club for luxury watch rentals, while Watch Gang is a watch-of-the-month club that says it gives away a TAG Heuer every Tuesday and a Rolex every Friday.

And there’s RedBar, a watch enthusiasts group that numbers 2,500 to 3,000 members worldwide, some of whom will be attending CoutureTime this year.

RedBar got its start about a decade ago when a then-Macy’s Inc. copywriter named Adam Craniotes met fellow watch enthusiast Dr. Jeffrey Jacques at a lunch given by Michael Kobold in New York. Riding the subway together after the event, they realized they only worked a few blocks from each other.

So they decided to start meeting once a month in nearby Koreatown to talk about watches.

Over time, the group grew and adopted a formal name, though the origin of said name is a little surprising.

Is RedBar a reference to the color of the second hand, or some obscure fact from horological history?

No, it’s named after a bar, literally. Craniotes said RedBar, which is now closed, is where they first started meeting. He chose it because the group’s early members always would ask, “Are we doing RedBar this week?”

Today, RedBar is a limited liability corporation, officially RedBar Group LLC, with three full-time employees (including Craniotes) and chapters in 40 cities around the world.

Craniotes said the group began to expand rapidly and branch out into other cities after they started using Instagram as @RedBarCrew.

A post shared by RedBar Crew (@redbarcrew) on

While its various chapters meet weekly (in the case of New York), bi-monthly or monthly, the organization has never had all its branches together in the same place. But that will change come June.

Last week, CoutureTime announced that it will host RedBar’s first nationwide meet-up in conjunction with the 2018 edition of the show.

There will be education seminars for members hosted by the Horological Society of New York, and beginning Friday, June 1, the second day of CoutureTime, they will be allowed on the show floor.

The idea behind inviting consumers into what has traditionally been, and ultimately still is, a trade-only show is to generate excitement, said CoutureTime director Gannon Brousseau, noting they piloted a program with RedBar last year, inviting a handful of members to CoutureTime.

The partnership gives brands a chance to show new collections to people who are enthusiastic about their product, and connects retailers with potential buyers, buyers who, it should be noted, are connected to a much larger network of watch enthusiasts.

The exhibitors are not allowed to sell to RedBar members during the show, which is something Craniotes said he has been very specific about with his members.

“For our members, this is not an opportunity to buy watches. This is an opportunity to share in the energy of a trade show. It’s an opportunity to meet directly with watch brands,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity to meet with retailers.”

Craniotes said about 150 RedBar members will be able to attend the show for the nationwide meet-up. He said the response so far has been “overwhelming,” and he expects all the slots to be filled.

CoutureTime is scheduled to take place Thursday, May 31 to Sunday, June 3 at the Encore Las Vegas.

So far, a total of 24 brands have signed on to exhibit, names like Baume & Mercier, Hermes, Oris, TAG Heuer and Tudor.

Brousseau said they anticipate having more brands than they did last year, but adds that conversations are ongoing.

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