Rolliefest New York – hop on board of this crazy Watch Gathering
The biggest of its kind yet
About a week ago a very special thing happened in New York – the biggest watch gathering, that I have ever experienced, was hosted in Manhattan by a dear friend and follow watch collector Geoff (@manhattenrollie). I’m sure that many of you have seen some images of the incredible event – it really was very special.
But after so many years of get-togethers, maybe now we are used to table shots of 20 Newmans, 20 Big Crowns, Milsubs, Daytonas and other multi-million Euro group-shots. Also, many of you might be thinking – “another GTG of prestige watches and rich collectors…the happy few”. I totally understand why people might think this, but I would love to take you on a slightly different journey…
As one of the founders of some large international GTG’s a few years ago, ‘The Passion Meetings’ (read about them here), such meetings have been picked up on by a bigger group of vintage Rolex passionado’s and have resulted into a few amazing meetings in Great Britain and Asia. Among the famous Issued Meeting’s in GB (By Mike Wood and Jed McCormack) and the Bali Meeting hosted by great friends and passionate collectors from @vintagerolexasylum. Always amazing meetings with all the coolest and finest watches on the table.
Strangely enough in the USA there has never been such large-scale gatherings, where collectors and passionate dealers share their passion in this way. And so, Geoff took the challenge and created the New York ‘Rolliefest’, a GTG that will be imprinted on my mind and heart for a long time. Not only was it one of the biggest of it’s kind yet, but also for me a five-day party, meeting so many beloved old and new watch friends.
Also read the article GQ magazine wrote about it here…
It was so great to also see a big group of younger US and Asian watch collectors and dealers. Very refreshing and great to see the torch is being passed on and the fire keeps burning bright – so great for our beloved hobby. Big thanks also to Paul Boutros and Phillips Watch Department team for all the help in arranging the amazing locations and moments.
I took the full five days to visit New York – breathing in the city and having lunches, drinks and dinners with the many old and new friends was a highlight to me. And of course, the full two days of Rolliefest! With a great private preview at Phillips of the ‘Game Changer’ auction and Geneva X auction watches on display. I loved to see, touch and feel the Marlon Brando Rolex GMT – such a cool watch in great condition. And damn, I loved that strap!
Dinner was in an amazing setting on the aircraft carrier ‘USS Intrepid’. During the day an Air & Space Museum, but for us it was transformed into a special, private setting for drinks and dinner in the middle of the displayed fighters. Such a cool location and I can only imagine how much effort it took to get it sorted. The Sunday venue was the ‘get your watches out’ moment and lunch. So fun to see the ’stampede’, when the watches had been placed on the long display table. I loved to see so many different watches, brands and styles. And I really loved to see the many crazy watches at the lunch tables in personal showings and listen to all the great stories and collectors.
How to measure success
As I mentioned earlier, many might look at the images and mainly see the value or prestige of the watches on the tables and wrists. Yes, it is very special to see, feel and try on all these rare and amazing watches. But the real value of these meetings goes far beyond that. I could not say it better then our great host and dear friend Geoff during his words at the dinner on the USS Intrepid.
“As most of you know I’ve been a watch collector for a long time. And like so many of you, I’ve attended many, many collector gatherings both locally and all over the world. And without question, the journey of watch collecting has been a cornerstone of joy for me throughout my life.
And for many years, I’m honest about it…along this journey I think I often measured success in watch collecting by the specific watches I had. By the specific references I owned.
I felt successful when I bought my first submariner. But I felt really successfully when I was able to buy a Milsub. Similarly, I felt successful when I bought my first Daytona. But I felt hugely successful when I bought a Paul Newman. And when that later became a screw pusher Newman…Boy did I think I was successful then.
The truth is we all have a tendency to measure our success in comparison to our peers. Similarly, in life when I was younger, mostly job titles and salaries were my metrics for success.
Without doubt I’ve begun to reevaluate how I measure success. In watches and in life. Now, the way I measure success is far more robust.
There are 110 people in this room from 13 countries across the globe. I look around and almost can’t believe it. Most of you are dear friends.
I feel enormously blessed.
Perhaps we’ve all heard the expression “The way you measure success in life is not by the amount of years that you’ve lived or the money you have, but by the friends that you keep.”
Both in watches…and in life…I can’t remember feeling more fortunate than I do at this very moment.
Tonight I feel very successful.“
This is for me, exactly the biggest treasure of these kind of gatherings. Finding like-minded people and being able to share, trust, enjoy and experience our love for these watches. Often resulting in long lasting friendships. Connected by the watches, but going beyond and above. Out of respect for people’s privacy, we are not able to share with you the many smiling and relaxed faces of the guests, which is a big loss for the total vibe of such event.
The big magic happened besides the table shots, when people tell you their story about their watch. Crazy stories about how they have found them, the relations and knowledge they gained on their route and efforts they have taken to get such beauties. Certainly for collectors – never underestimate the time and energy spent to get to such pieces. The lessons learnt and mistakes made by people and the number of watches acquired – all stepping stones before finding their grail watches.
In today’s ‘hyped’ and often called ‘investor’ market for grail pieces, there are still those true lovers out there, that just don’t buy the ‘best’ quality and grail reference to start with. But take all the effort to learn about the details, history and differences. Research hundreds of watches and connect with many people worldwide for help in order to learn. Always remember the knowledge is not automatically granted, but is a very valuable gift from fellow collectors.
Go out and meet
You might have noticed by now, I am a big fan of such gatherings and watch gatherings in general. Yes we live in a life of Instagram and social media every day. But let’s be honest, is it a real community? When have you seen decent discussions and deeper insights on Insta? Isn’t it really about a love of applause, self-expression and often more kind of self-branding? Watches have to be perfect on pictures for social media!
But the deeper love for vintage watches, with not only a life and stories inside of them, but also the inspiring stories behind the collector and what they have discovered and learned on that route adds so much to this hobby. It happens when you touch the watches, put them on your wrist, twist them in the light, loupe them etc. It helps you to evolve and inspires you to go out and grow in this hobby.
So no matter what watches or value of watches you collect. We would love to inspire you with these posts to go out and meet fellow watch lovers. Have small local GTG’s and dinners and share your love and stories. And learn, deepen and grow from the watches and stories of others. Grow companionship and friendships worldwide. These are the things that will last, even if the watches might pass on. It will be the biggest value you will take out of all of this.
During Rolliefest and my 5 days stay, often the lunches, drinks and dinners around the event in smaller groups opened the time for some deeper personal talks. Really inspiring! It also was very inspiring to meet so many new people in real life, one only knew from social media most of the time.
The next level of Passion…
And one person did put it all to the next level of devotion. I was hugely impressed and profoundly inspired by @hammer_down_under, a dear and long-time watch collector from Australia, who not only brought some amazing watches, but took super-human strength and determination to join us in New York. After a boating accident and life threatening situations over the last few years, he took a 38 hour trip (one way!) to join Rolliefest. But not only did he join, but also shared his long-lasting experiences and cool stories about his watches with the audience. It has been a great honour and more then inspirational to hear your brilliant humour and cool stories. Your positive vibe and not taking yourself too seriously was one of my biggest highlights. I can only imagine the hardships you undertook to get there and get back. Love you my friend!
Joining these gatherings for me is not only meeting the people but also about getting inspired. I still love all these great Big Crowns, Newmans, Milsub. But, I have a feeling of having ‘been there, done that, seen so many table shots of them’. For me these gatherings are less about the number of grails, but more about finding new flavors. Getting inspired by a watch I did not expect and opening a new and exciting path on my personal collecting route. As happened in the past, when friends showed Step Case chronographs years ago that got me hooked, Patek style dress watches, Ovettone’s, Genta designs, alternative divers etc etc – there really is so much out there still to discover.
So always look deeper during such meetings, to see if you can find some new fuel to light your fire. It’s the perfect place to try them on and see if they really touch your heart. Something you could never feel from pictures only.
The Watch GOT ME INSPIRED
Well indeed, I found some new inspiration. Packed in a crazy watch that I will never be able to own – too far out of my league, but it touched me so much. This yellow gold Patek 1518 on the wrist of an Italian friend and dealer @alessiozenga_vintagewatches has opened new doors for me. Doors I had previously seen and neglected. The perfect balance between elegance, sporty looks and a dial to die for. Such a balance on the dial and proportions of the watch. Endgame. Putting it on my wrist was magical and I could hardly let go!
As I said, of course it’s a dream and always will probably stay a dream. A price range I could not afford or would ever be comfortable to own/wear. But my challenge and hunt is on – finding something out there in gold, a chronograph, perpetual calendar… A watch that can give me ‘almost’ the same sensation. Maybe I will never find it, but isn’t the chase the biggest fun of our watch passion?
So let’s get it on… happy hunting to me and all of you!
To all the people involved in Rolliefest New York. Big thanks for the amazing experience. Can’t wait to meet again!
Thanks New York! See you next time…