How watch aficionados are reshaping the industry and designing their own Grail watches
When Tom Chng married, he directed the photographer to pay special attention to the wrists of his guests. He knew that on his special day, the attendees would show up in some particularly matching wristbands. That’s because many of the attendees are members of the Singapore Watch Club founded by Chng in 2015. Watch collection clubs have long been a place for enthusiasts like Chng to meet and bond. friends, but lately these communities have grown surprisingly well. way.
For example, Chng’s Singapore Watch Club has done more than just increase his wedding guest list. In recent years, it has worked directly with top dogs in the watch world such as Ulysse Nardin, Hublot and Cartier on watches designed specifically for the club — and offered separately. for its members. The dialogue the club has opened with watchmakers is a two-way street: Members have been called upon to share their insights and expertise. For instance, François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, recently met with the team and they discussed everything from the product to the customer experience. Exclusive watches that match club feedback and a direct line to the CEO? This social club benefits both watchmakers and collectors.
Omega Speedmaster fans have been gathering at so-called Speed Tuesday gatherings for a decade now. The events cater to watch aficionados, those who attend meetups at high-end restaurants, listen to speeches by former astronauts, or visit Omega’s headquarters to try on copper. new lake. Robert-Jan Broer, who founded Fratello Watches in 2004 and started Speedy Tuesday in 2012, said: “Omega executives also come to mingle and “see how people feel about certain things.” product or what they want to see.” ,” he says.
A joint effort between the Fratello and Omega team created two watches, and if you ask Broer, the influence has spread to the larger lineup. Broer doesn’t think we’ll see a return of Omega’s caliber 321 movement, used on the original Speedmaster that went to the moon, without the influence of the Speedy Tuesday community.
The RedBar Elite Watch Club, which started in New York in 2007 and now has branches across the globe, welcomes watch brand representatives to its meetings, who socialize and collect gather intelligence from attendees. Kathleen McGivney, CEO of RedBar, said: “There are brands that really want to take feedback and keep it in mind and have actually made changes to their watch offerings based on feedback from them. community. RedBar’s new watch with Bamford features details that tick off McGivney’s long wish list: a forged carbon case and a mysterious sub-dial where a single hand appears to hover. Watches wouldn’t be possible without the club. McGivney was visiting the brand’s founder, George Bamford, at his London office when she suggested the partnership.
For Collective Horology, headquartered in California, design partnerships are the reason the global club exists. Joining the group is contingent upon the purchase of one of the group’s products produced in collaboration with brands such as IWC, Zenith and Urwerk. Collective encourages watchmakers to try new things—as well as reach a market of ready-to-buy watch lovers. “[Brands are] willing to take risks,” says Collective co-founder Gabe Reilly. “We have people who are not only passionate about watches, they are also qualified buyers.”
In 2023, the watch club could offer a lot: exclusivity, influence, community — and yes, even love. McGivney said the two couples who met through RedBar were married. And for Singapore Watch Club founder Tom Chng, his wedding day is proof that the bonds his members form have only deepened over time. “You can imagine so many friendships born of watches, now developed into something a lot more meaningful,” he said.
Cam Soi is a senior style writer at GQ.
A version of this story originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of GQ magazine under the headline “Time to Join the Watch Club.”