Last weekend, I attended the WatchBuys Road Show in Washington, DC and frolicked in a room full of German watches. Ok, maybe "frolicked" overstates it a tad (we are talking about German watches, after all) but it was an enjoyable hour spent in good company with some truly outstanding timepieces.
WatchBuys is an authorized U.S. dealer for several German bands including Sinn, Nomos Glashutte, Hanhart, Junghans, Dornbluth & Son, Jaeger & Benzinger, Jochen Benzinger, Bruno Sohnle Glashutte, Thomas Nichriz, and Stephan Kudoke. Their sales are strictly on-line, but owners Tim and Rob recognize the value of seeing a watch in person and holding it in your hand before you buy, so every year, they take their inventory on the road. You can't buy a watch at these shows, but you can hold them, ask questions, take pictures, and geek out with fellow watch enthusiasts.
The Road Shows are completely free and terrifically popular, so advance registration is a must. Several sessions are scheduled over a period of two to three days at a comfortable, and private venue like a luxury hotel suite. For security purposes, the location is closely held and revealed only to registered attendees. You will be met in the lobby at the appointed time and escorted to a room with tables full of watchy goodness. The event is friendly, relaxed, and strictly low-key without a hint of sales pressure.
It is also a good opportunity to meet fellow watch nerds. I had a very nice conversation with Bruce, a gentleman who brought his watch loving wife (Nomos and Alpina), some like-minded friends, and a watch roll full of IWC, Meistersinger, and Glashutte Original. I thought he might be disappointed when I told him The Time Bum sticks to affordable watches, but instead he lit up and we compared the finer points of Seiko as he showed me pictures of his Orange Monster and Recraft. Any guy who keeps pictures of his watches on his phone is definitely one of us.
I couldn't possibly review every watch at the show, but I snapped pics of some favorites to give you a little taste.
As in prior years, Sinn was the star of the show. The storied tool watch manufacturer occupied an entire conference table at the DC event. Highlights included limited-edition models like the 103 A Sa B automatic with electroplated blue dial. Intriguingly, this watch was created as a result of Road Show feedback. "Sinn has events like this all over the world," said Rob. "People were asking if the 103 could be done in a blue dial, and Sinn heard them." The result was a stunning blue chronograph with champagne sub-dials for $2,230. If you ever see one of these for sale, jump on it. All 200 pieces have sold out.
Another rare item was the 103 St Tachymeter with its distinctive three-way central scale. This outstanding 41mm automatic takes its design cues from vintage racing chronographs, as evidenced by the domed acrylic crystal, perforated rally strap option, and creamy SuperLuminova. The spiral tachymeter allows easy timing of speeds from 20-300 kph (12-186 mph). Not into cars or motorcycles? No worries. The watch will handle boat and aircraft racing as well. It is water resistant to 200 meters, and low-pressure resistant to prevent the crystal from popping at high altitudes. Retail price is $1,650 and only one or two remain.
Dive watch fans had plenty to admire as well. There were several on hand, but my personal favorite was the UX EZM 2 B SDR Hydro. This 44mm bruiser is cased in antimagnetic submarine steel, has a super hard Tegimented steel bezel, and was one of the only quartz models on display. Why quartz? So that you can immerse the movement in oil, of course. Yes, you read that right. The entire case is filled with oil to eliminate glare for safe and easy viewing at any angle or even underwater. The oil bath also has the added benefit of significantly extending battery life. The Hydro sells for $2,310.
For those looking for something a tad more genteel, the Nomos display offered several elegant examples. The Ahoi Atlantik drew me in with its inky "Atlantic blue" lacquered dial and rose gold accents. The oceanic name is more than just a color reference. It is rated for 200 meters and has SuperLuminova hands. Inside, you will find The Nomos Epsilon in-house automatic movement. It sells for $4,060.
Globe-hoppers might prefer the other blue beauty at the table, the Zurich World Timer. For $6,100, you get a stunning galvanized blue dial, rhodium plated hands, and a decorated Nomos DUW 5201 movement with the Nomos Swing System and escapement.
Hanhart was a new addition to the WatchBuys stable in 2015. They have a couple of classic 40mm 3-hand automatics in the line, but are better known for burly chronographs like the Primus Pilot Desert Sand. This 44mm aviator uses a Valjoux 7750 modified for a bicompax display. The design is thoroughly modern but that arresting red button is a Hanhart hallmark dating back to 1939. It is intended to prevent pilots from accidently resetting the stop time and, I suspect, to help them look badass in the process. Note that Hanhart will make a special visit to the next New York Road Show in December.
The Junghans table offered a fine selection of iconic Max Bill automatics like this little number in silver on a polished Milanese mesh bracelet. The Max Bill watches are true classics of modern design straight out of the Bauhaus school. This Automatic Date is 38mm wide, sensuously domed, and powered by the Junghans J800.1 (a modified ETA 2824). It sells for $990 and to my eye, is one of the most perfect watches made.
The Road Show offered a few teasers from Jaeger & Benzinger, a new line at WatchBuys that is coming soon. They feature hand guilloched dials and engraved mechanical movements. The black model pictured will sell for $3,870.
If you would like to attend a Road Show near you, or to suggest a city for them to visit, head to their page and sign up. Next dates are Houston, November 13-14, Austin November 15-16, and New York December 11-13. Stops in Raleigh/Durham/RTP, Miami, and Tampa will be announced soon. Go ahead, get on the list, and make your reservation when they are coming to your town. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.