NAABS 6: Miami What the hell is NAABS and how do I get an invite? by Sacha DavidoffMarch 19, 2020 MIN READNAABS 6: Miami
A couple of weeks ago, a flurry of #NAABS on Stories and Pictures appeared on Instagram and piqued quite a bit of interest from members of the vintage watch community. I kept getting Instagram messages asking: What the hell is NAABS and how do I get an invite?
This is what prompted me to write an article and share my experience. I first heard about NAABS from my friend and fellow watch dealer Adam (@mentawatches) a year ago when the event was being held in Indianapolis and he unsuccessfully tried to persuade me to come. In his defense, getting me from Geneva to Indy in the middle of winter for a GTG (get together) was never going to be an easy sell.
Then, in November last year, I found myself in Miami. As luck would have it, two of the founders of this mysterious event, Steve (@moorewatches) and Nathaniel (@sumnersdr), were there scouting locations with Adam who was hosting the next NAABS in Miami. This time, the proposition sounded much better (Miami in February —yay). Additionally, I got the chance to get a little background information on what this meetup was all about.
The schedule called for only an hour of watch ogling, but three hours later, we were still at it like kids in a candy story.
What is NAABS?
Steve and Nathaniel patiently answered all my curious nerdy questions over a couple of days while we hung out together. They explained that this group got together about 8 years ago with just two letters: AB and stood for “Advisory Board.” This funny nickname was self-given to a small group of vintage watch collectors. They would keep in touch by phone and email and ask advice about watches they were thinking about purchasing. Also, they would share their knowledge and chat about their collections as friends and fellow hobbyists.
Steve further elaborated that vintage watches traded much slower back then. That meant they had more time to discuss within their group and utilize the individual experts in each category before making a purchasing decision and also inquire about experiences with certain dealers.
Each member had specific knowledge. Whether it be Rolex, Omega, Heuer, Blancpain, or even the nuances of bezel inserts and acrylic crystals. Pretty useful to have friends like that in a murky world such as vintage.
After a while, they thought it might be nice to all meet in person since most of them had not. North America didn’t really have an established GTG for vintage watch passion. Meanwhile, in Europe and Asia get-togethers were already happening. The original group of attendees were Steve and Nathaniel, mentioned above, the Field brothers John (@beaumont_miller_ii) and Jimmy (@woodlands_surgeon), Russ (@bluemartinifan), Allan (@allans_watches), and Vijay (@vijaysingh67). As of the second year, Geoff (@manhattanrollie) (organizer of Rollie Fest) joined the group and they have pretty much all been to every NAABS since.
Every year a different city is chosen
In order to distinguish their events from those in Europe or Asia, they decided to add the NA: North American and the S for Summit at the end. Thus, NAABS was born. It all sounds very official, but in fact, it is more of an inside joke between these hobbyist friends. Their main goal is still to have a good time with likeminded people.
The annual event was held in Texas in its inaugural years from 2015-2016. Milwaukee hosted in 2017, Washington D.C. followed in 2018, before Indianapolis shouldered the responsibility in 2019. And this year, in 2020, Miami was chosen.
Originally, there were just 7 people at the first meet and it has grown from there up to 40 in Miami this time around. Every year a different city is chosen based on suggestions and who volunteers to host (huge job, ask Adam). Prior to the event, the specific date and location are always kept secret for security and privacy. Lots of watches can also attract unwanted attention. Be careful out there when posting locations on Instagram. OK, it’s going to be in Texas again next year. Don’t tell anyone.
How do I get invited?
This tight-knit group of collectors connect well beyond watches and are genuinely friends. Although new blood is always appreciated, the point of NAABS is to have an intimate setting where people get to know each other as much as seeing watches. The goal is humble and not pompous. That means they have no plans to grow the event size or frequency, therefore if you are friends with someone that attended just ask them to put in a good word for you. My invite came by coincidence of being in Miami while they were organizing the location and courtesy of my friend Adam @mentawatches, who was hosting the Miami event.
THE ultimate Tudor grail: the 7924 big crown Submariner. This example is in phenomenal condition.
The event took place at a beachfront hotel in Miami Beach from Friday, Feb 7, to Sunday, Feb 9. Some of us flew in early and met up the day before, but most of the group came on Friday. Being a North American event and all, very few attendees came from outside the United States. Three of us came from Europe: Michael (@molequin), Per (@perj123), and me, as well as one border-crossing Canadian (yes, technically it’s part of North America): Isaac (@isaacwingold). Some collectors had nicer room views than others (i.e. Rob (@bazamu) got a very special room for his birthday, ouch).
A few of us, from the early-bird crowd, had an impromptu dinner on Thursday night. The following Friday morning, I went to breakfast with Michael @molequin_ and John @beaumont_miller_ii and we had a memorable breakfast burrito and wonderful watch chat.
At the first dinner on Friday, we spent most of the time meeting and greeting each other and making new attendees (like me) feel welcome. It is always fascinating for me to meet people from overseas I’ve messaged online, followed for a while or even done business with. Putting a face to the Instagram handle or e-mail address never gets old. Many people don’t show their faces online and so all I am familiar with is their wrist and their taste in watches. The introduction, “wait you are @blabla on Instagram — I follow you!” was pretty much how I spent my Friday evening. There was a mix of vintage watch collectors, but also a good group of vintage watch dealers too.
It’s no surprise that tropical Rolex grails were prominently featured. (L) 1016 Explorer, and (R) a 6538 big crown Submariner. Courtesy of @beaumont_miller_ii
Different tastes and styles
Once we were all acquainted, the event itself began on Saturday with an outdoor group lunch at the hotel in the afternoon and then, we precipitously piled ourselves into a meeting room with high windows guarded on both sides by security and started laying out watches on the various tables laid out for us. Collections were eclectic and colorful. Everyone demonstrated different tastes and styles. I can’t even think of a collectible vintage brand that wasn’t present. At the same time, it wasn’t in the least bit pretentious. Some people had 20 plus watches from all different brands with them (i.e. Kevin (@theydid)) and others had just three Omega Speedmasters (i.e. me).
We talked about so much outside of the watches universe too. That was really the best part for me. People seemed more interested in my vast knowledge of useless trivia rather than asking me endless Speedmaster questions. Yes, I got a ton of Speedmaster questions, but it was not just that. And I loved it. After three or four hours of geeking out, we packed it all up, got changed, and went for a nice steak dinner.
In this condition, a far rarer and (to many collectors) more interesting Daytona than a Paul Newman Daytona; courtesy of (@michael.luther)
A special thanks
There was no panel discussion this time around because we were squeezed on time to get to dinner, but I was told it is usually a staple of the event. Lastly, people flew back out on Sunday. I stayed for another week on vacation. I am now back in rainy Geneva, Switzerland drinking our famous 12-swiss-franc diet Coke, but at least doing so with a tan.
A special thanks to our host Adam @mentawatches and the Menta Watches staff (i.e. Jordan, the man behind the man) as well as the NAABS family. I also wanted to thank Rob @bazamu for helping me get some photos together. You can visit his site and check out his take on the event here.
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About the author
Sacha became interested in vintage watches from observing his older brother collecting, visiting auction houses from a young age and starting to collect himself. It was their hobby to talk about watches on weekends and Roy started Sacha's own collection… read more
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