And just like that, another Nodus Tour has come and gone. We embarked on our first Nodus Tour earlier this year to Canada, and we had a wonderful time hanging out with customers, RedBar members, and general watch enthusiasts. Not only was it great to travel to places we’ve never been before, but it was also highly gratifying to put faces to the names of the many friends we’ve met through Instagram and WatchUSeek. Due to the success of our first Nodus Tour, we decided to do it again, but this time we tied it in with Worn & Wound’s annual event, WindUp.
WindUp has turned into a pilgrimage for small and independent watch brands, and enthusiasts alike. This was the first time we attended WindUp together (Cullen attended the San Francisco WindUp in May of this year), and I confidently say that this will not be our last time attending.
Our journey started in San Antonio with a GTG in collaboration with Richter Goods, a custom made-to-measure clothing shop. In the back of the shop, they had machines that they used to manufacture shoes and clothing, and having spent a lot of time in watch factories, it was interesting to see how similar our two approaches to manufacturing were.
The shop was a small and intimate setting where we met new watch enthusiasts and connected with old Instagram friends of the brand. We spent the afternoon conversing over beers provided by Big Bend Brewing Co. Though there was no RedBar chapter in San Antonio during our meetup, one of our buddies talked to the group about his plans to set one up. If you live in the San Antonio area, go ahead and send him a message on Instagram @thewatchbratva.
After the meetup, it was time to drive to Austin. We got lunch with Jay, founder of the local RedBar chapter, and Zach, director of marketing at Barton Bands, and visited Barton Bands’ headquarters. As a three year-old company, Barton Bands has built quite the reputation, both in and out of the watch enthusiasts’ circles. A couple of years ago, I swore off silicone straps due to their tendency to attract dust.
Barton Bands, however, has made me rethink that decision with their Elite Silicone straps, and since picking some of them up, I haven’t worn anything else. The Nodus GTG that night, organized by RedBar, was located in a speakeasy in downtown, where we pretty much filled the entire bar. It was a pleasure to meet a wide range of people, from the vintage Seiko lover to the avid FP Journe collector. To conclude the night, we took our very first Nodus group wrist shot, and we hope that was only the beginning of more to come.
The next day, we stopped by the legendary Salt Lick BBQ for lunch before heading out to Houston to conclude our Texas tour. Our final GTG happened at a local cocktail bar in downtown Houston and was organized by the RedBar Houston chapter. Rather poetically, this final meetup featured a few of the local Texan brands that we came across on the tour such as Tockr, Dufrane, and a bunch of Barton Bands. Seeing the enthusiastic support for Texan-bred brands was something quite special, and that further reinforces our dedication to bringing as much of the watchmaking process back to the US as possible. This meetup showed us how much people value the personal touch that some brands have, and reminded us why we insist on American assembly, despite the higher costs. It was a blast getting to meet everyone who attended the event, and it definitely won’t be the last time we go to Houston.
Without giving ourselves a chance to cool off from the constant travel and events, we boarded a flight to New York City. Our first event in NYC was in the evening, so throughout the day, we snuck in work whenever and wherever we could. With the anticipation of the Avalon looming over us, we established base throughout the day in any coffee shop that had power ports, WiFi, and ultra-strong coffee.
The first event was a GTG hosted by the Diver’s Watches Facebook group in a Midtown bar. At the event, brands from all over the world were showcasing their watches, including our old friends Chris from Janis Trading Co., Justin from Monta, Steve from Raven, as well as new friends like Lorenzo from Lorier and John from Watch Gauge, among many others.
Finally, the first day of WindUp came around, and despite being on the road for a week while averaging five hours of sleep a night, there was much watch-ogling to be done. To nobody’s surprise, the event was a hit. It took place in Chelsea Market in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, an area renowned for its trendy attractions and hipster culture. The area was at one point a hub for the LGBT community in New York, and much of its independent-thinking culture and establishments have lasted. There simply isn’t a better location for an event such as WindUp, where independent brands and the enthusiasts who support those brands come together and appreciate the different styles and approaches to making watches.
One of the best things about WindUp this year is that we attended the event as consumers rather than showcasers, so it served as a much-needed break for us after the past week of touring. Many of the brands that we respect and are inspired by showcased their watches, including Mk II, Monta, Baltic, Zelos, Melbourne, and Raven. We also crossed paths with a couple of brand owners who did not showcase, such as Nick from Orion and Jason from Halios. While I was familiar with these brands and am friends with many of them, seeing all their watches side by side made it much easier to compare and contrast their business and design approaches; needless to say, my appreciation for these brands has increased significantly. That evening, we went to dinner with a few brand owners and Instagrammers. While some things are better kept secret, let’s just say it involved a few dozen beers, way too much soju, getting stuck in an elevator, and Taylor Swift.
Throughout the second Nodus Tour, we met new people, ate pound after pound of BBQ, and reconnected with old friends. However, the highlight of the trip for us was seeing the dynamic between brand owners and enthusiasts, where their constant interactions really influence the blossoming of new ideas in the microbrand world. I always say that a rising tide raises all ships, and for an industry and market that is still very much in its infancy, this has never been more true.
Steve Laughlin from Raven is someone who has served as an inspiration for Nodus before we were incepted, and he is someone we’ve looked up to for a long time. Getting to hang out with him over dinner showed us that we aren’t the only ones that see the market this way.
He said it best, at the top-secret soju-filled Korean BBQ dinner: “I buy other brands’ watches because I want to look back one day and smile at the cool things we did and the brands that we’ve built, standing shoulder-to-shoulder.”