Ten years after its founding, RedBar is watchmaking’s
most talked-about collector group.
By: Jon Bues
In an unlikely basement bar in Midtown Manhattan, Adam Craniotes, a boisterously witty former copywriter turned full-time watch guy, is turning over a friend’s Rolex Milgauss, a cult timepiece known for its namesake antimagnetic properties. Craniotes positions it next to the recently reintroduced Rolex Air King for Instagram, observing: “They have the same case now, don’t they?”
We’re at RedBar, a New York-based collector club that Craniotes cofounded, which is known for its weekly happy hours attended by self-proclaimed watch geeks: folks who know how to pronounce Audemars Piguet and Jaeger-LeCoultre even if they’ve never taken a French class. The members are creatives, financiers, lawyers, and people who work in the watch industry. And while it’s mostly guys, there are always at least a few women ogling watches too. Many RedBar members have assembled superb collections over a number of years, and some are mainly here to look at others’ wrist candy. The unifying theme is that everyone here thinks watches are cool. Acting pompous because you have more fancy watches than pairs of shoes … well, that’s not.
Craniotes named the group after the original meeting location, a since-shuttered dive bar in New York’s K-Town. The real name and specific location of the current spot are officially off the record for security reasons. But once you’ve entered the honeycomb hideout, you pretty much know exactly how your after-work hours will unfold.
The idea of RedBar—which started in 2007 with monthly meetups between Craniotes and fellow watch collector Dr. Jeffrey Jacques—caught on in a major way, and today the group boasts an international membership and more than a dozen satellite clubs in international cities like London, Brussels, and Miami. Often, watchmakers will show up and even co-host events with RedBar to get on the radar of active and engaged customers. There may be blogs and forums galore catering to every hobby under the sun, but RedBar has managed to mobilize collectors, connecting them in real life.
Craniotes is a natural storyteller—almost every watch he owns comes with a tale. He obtained his prized IWC Perpetual Calendar through a deal with his mother, who generally supports his watch habit but insisted that he shave his mohawk in exchange for the loan. Waffle Watch—his Audemar Piguet Royal Oak Diver, recognizable for its unique dial pattern—earned its apt sobriquet over brunch with his kids. His Rolex Submariner has a chip in its sapphire glass from an unfortunate mishap involving a hot summer day and a hasty attempt to swat a horsefly with a towel.
RedBar has a distinctly demotic vibe that runs contrary to collective notions of luxury. There may be a member wearing a rare vintage Patek Philippe, but everybody is just as interested in checking out the Casio G-Shock that collector also has in his watch roll. Stuffiness and elitism have no place at the table, which is invariably littered not just with watches, but with empty beer glasses and plates of fried, salty bar food.
“It’s got very little to do with how rare or expensive a watch is,” says Craniotes, whose love of the Casio G-Shock, which sells for as little as $40, is well known. “It’s about sharing an interest in watches and having fun.”
A version of this story previously appeared in Centre, a Surface Media publication.