For the last six years, a tight-knit group of collectors has met for a weekend of friendship, knowledge sharing, and fine libations. Oh. And watches. LOTS of watches. The event is named N.A.A.B.S. (the acronym’s meaning is like a verbal secret handshake) and originally began with a small group of dedicated Rolex collectors who were tired of hiding behind avatars on The Rolex Forum. The group has expanded modestly in the years since its founding, and my inclusion for N.A.A.B.S. VI was a great surprise. Watches? Miami in February? Say no more, I’ll see ya there.
The group spanned multiple generations and continents and generally consisted of a few different factions, which can be hastily summed up as: i) the “old guard” of founding members, ii) a number of vintage dealers that are well known throughout the watch world, and iii) a small contingent of new faces and younger collectors (such as myself) who have joined the gathering over the past few years. In many cases, it was great to connect a face with an Instagram profile or forum presence, and there was no shortage of watches hauled to South Beach for the weekend.
N.A.A.B.S. was created by collectors focused primarily on Rolex, but there was a wide-ranging selection of brands and eras on display at the Saturday afternoon “geek out” session, which lasted for nearly three hours and featured over 300 watches spread throughout the room. Many of the watches were brands and references that I was familiar with, but the overall condition (be it tropical or mint) was among the best I had ever seen. Some watches traded hands, nearly everyone traded knowledge, and by the end of the terrific steak dinner on Saturday night, the group wasn’t ready for the festivities to end. A good portion of the group moved the party to the hotel lobby (and ultimately shut down said lobby bar) in a bid to prolong the fun of the day for as long as possible before returning home.
As the title indicates, the main goal of this post is to share a small sliver of the watches on display that day, but I figured I would also highlight a handful of my favorite watches that I handled during the weekend:
1 – Tropical Grails (Rolex Explorer ref. 1016 and Rolex Submariner ref. 6538)
The sheer amount of perfectly faded, tropical dials on display at the event was a mindblowing experience. Shown above, the gradual fading to the dial of the 1016 Explorer (left) produces an effect that is quite unique, particularly as the lume has not degraded during the process. And next to it, one of the true behemoths in vintage Rolex, a tropical 6538 Submariner in phenomenal condition. This pair, as they say, does not suck. || 1016 Explorer courtesy of @beaumont_miller_ii; 6538 Submariner courtesy of a private collector
2 – Tudor Submariner ref. 7922 “Big Crown”
If you hang around the auction circuit or delve progressively deeper into the collecting universe, you will invariably come across a “Big Crown” Rolex Submariner. The Tudor “Big Crown” though? Let’s just say that it makes finding a needle in a haystack seem simple. They don’t exist in large quantities, and very, very few have remained in the state that this example exhibits. Wearing this for a brief five minutes was one of the highlights of the weekend and represented an unforgettable moment for this Tudor lover. || courtesy of a private collector
3 – Omega Speedmaster ref. 2915-3
It’s no secret that I think the Omega Speedmaster is one of the best watches ever made, and would potentially be my “one watch” if forced to choose one. So with that in mind, let’s just say that labeling this as a “favorite from the weekend” doesn’t do justice to my overall appreciation for the example. It is nearly faultless (forget the bezel scratches, it’s a damn Base 1000!) and one of the most attractive Speedmasters that I’ve seen in the metal. You can search for decades and may not find another 2915 (or 2998) this good – and unfortunately for us both, this one is not likely to ever come up for sale. We’ll always have Miami, baby. || courtesy of Roy and Sacha Davidoff (@roydavidoff and @davidoffbrothers)
4 – Longines 13ZN-12 ref. 23086 (“Center Chrono”)
The Longines 13Zn chronograph caliber is one that can reduce even the most seasoned collectors to child-like giggles. It’s architecture is stunning and the movement is featured in some of the most collectible 1940’s chronographs (such as John Goldberger’s 13Zn in this famous Talking Watches episode) – my favorite of which is pictured above. The reference 23086 featured an unusual “center chrono” design that allowed the red chrono hand to track elapsed minutes along the normal minute scale, and the hour counter was shifted to the right subdial. Not only did this free up space for a nicely balanced dial, but the method of tracking elapsed minutes is rarely seen in the world of chronographs (side note: Mido center chronos in François Borgel cases remain criminally slept on) and many of these 13Zn examples have not aged to the near-perfection of this example. Prices for the reference 23086 have floated out of the stratosphere and away from mere mortals such as myself, but getting to spend time with this example was nearly enough to be satisfied. || courtesy of @michaelzeff
5 – Rolex Daytona ref 6263
By now, even the non-watch obsessed public is well aware of Paul Newman’s record-breaking Daytona sale. In the time since that fateful night at Phillips, however, “Daytona fever” seems to be subsiding, and in many cases, watch lovers are [gasp] starting to get a little bored of seeing yet another Daytona featured in auctions or online. But even the most skeptical and least die-hard would hard-pressed to not fall in love with this 6263. I have handled many Paul Newmans over the years, but I can’t remember seeing many 6263 examples that rival the one pictured above, which boasts “mocha” tropical subdials, perfect lume, and a crisp case. I guess sometimes it just takes amazing examples to remind us why Daytonas had such a huge moment in 2017-2018 and will likely remain enduring classics for decades to come. || courtesy of Michael Luther (@molequin_ or @michael.luther)
Shoutout to James Fisk (@jmsfisk) and Isaac Wingold (@isaacwingold) for supplementing the gallery below. If they are better pictures, they’re likely from those two! Enjoy a smattering of shots from the weekend and here’s to N.A.A.B.S. VII!