The Internet is a wonderful thing – it enables all sorts of business and activities, and allows us to more easily gain knowledge on whatever our chosen hobby happens to be. With the watch world, we’ve got no end of sites, personal blogs, and forums to rely on. But sometimes you just want to have a face-to-face chat about watches – and that’s where the Commonwealth Crew comes in.
At least, that is, if you are in the Chicago area. The Commonwealth Crew is one of the newest offshoots of the rather popular Red Bar Crew out in New York. For those not familiar, that started out with a couple of guys (Dr. Jeffrey Jacques and Adam Craniotes) getting together to talk watches.
That then turned into a weekly gathering that has seen many people showing up, some amazing pictures of watches out on Instagram, and even some brand participation here and there (the July Chicago meeting saw CT Scuderia sending in some samples). Seeing that success, Paul Lewin and Chase Fancher decided the Windy City needed its own version.
What are these meet-ups about? At the surface level, it just looks like a bunch of watch collectors getting together and showing off their watches – much like you might think about a car show, perhaps. Having attended my first one (and more on that in a bit), I can safely say there is more to it than that. While it is very cool to see the variety of watches people bring (which can range from Fossil and Disney watches, all the way up to pieces from the likes of Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Cartier), it is the owners of the watches that are the draw.
If you are like me, you probably do not have many friends who are just all that in to watches. Sure, they might appreciate something you have, but they are not quite immersed in the scene, so to speak. Even with the amazing benefit I have got corresponding with our aBlogtoWatch team, and people in the industry, it is nice to get out from behind the emails and spend some time chatting over drinks about horology.
Ostensibly, I was a special guest at the Commonwealth Crew event on July 15th (for the record, I had already planned to attend prior to the invite). I went in the capacity of an aBlogtoWatch editor, and I spoke briefly on what it is like to be in that position, and then answered the variety of questions that the crew had. And while, yes, a lot of those questions were aimed at learning more about how watch reviewing works, it was really all in the vein of watch guys wanting to learn more about watches. And frankly, that was plain fun.
Once my short spiel was over, I had plenty of time to talk with others, and learn about their watches and what they enjoy about the pieces. I learned about some details on a Hamilton that you might not otherwise notice, got up close and personal with an Audemars Piguet for the first time, and even saw an iPhone app at work that “places” a watch on your wrist. And those are just a few of the conversations that were had. When you get a bunch of people together who are passionate about a topic, you’re going to find quite a few conversations you can hop into and participate in.
All said, I am rather glad that these sorts of meet-ups have gotten started. While I have attended the Chicago one (and of course there is the New York original), there are also some other groups started up in LA and Toronto, and I have a feeling it will continue to spread. I think if you have an interest in an event like this, try to seek one out in your town (Instagram is a great place to find them, search for flavors of #redbar). And, if they do not have one in your city? Why not start one up? It can be a fun night out, and you will most certainly meet some great people you likely otherwise would not run into.
For those of you who are in the Chicagoland area and are interested in attending, you can get in touch with the organizers at this email address. They do control the membership notification list a little bit, just so they can protect the watch collections showing up (to actually join up, though, it is pretty simple – just an email asking to be on the list). For the Commonwealth Crew, the notices are sent out a few weeks before the upcoming meeting, and then the final details for where and when hit about a week or so prior. I am really glad I was able to get to the July meeting, and hopefully will be a fairly regular attendee, with the next occasion coming up in early August.