During the long days of lockdown, when many of us felt isolated, the memories of RollieFest 2019 served as a lifeline, connecting us when physical distances kept us apart. RollieFest 2023 finally brought back that feel-good vibe after a pandemic-induced hiatus.
Participating in this event was an absolute delight, even though it required a 14-hour flight to get there – every second of that journey was undoubtedly worth it. Reuniting with old friends, meeting new faces, and finally spending time with online buddies in the real world was a dream come true.
Let's take a quick look back at this unique event:
The Heart and the Mind: Geoff Hess and the Essence of RollieFest
At the core of RollieFest is Geoff Hess, the driving force behind this remarkable gathering of watch enthusiasts. Geoff, who serves as the Head of Watches for the Americas at Sotheby's, embarked on this journey with a group of watch-loving friends who are practically family. However, what truly sets RollieFest apart is its genuine and unfiltered spirit.
This is no ordinary gathering; it's perhaps the largest and most exclusive watch party imaginable. We're talking about nearly 200 individuals from 17 different countries, all united by their deep and unwavering passion for timepieces. These aren't just casual fans; they are like the Watch Illuminati, carefully selected to be part of this incredible collecting adventure.
A Night at the Museum
The event kicked off with a memorable night at the American Museum of Natural History. Picture this: the entire group gathered under one magnificent roof, beneath the watchful gaze of the famous blue whale. It was a wave of nostalgia and excitement as soft, ambient lighting set the mood for a journey of a lifetime.
Geoff delivered a heartfelt speech that unveiled the deeper motivation behind horology collecting. It wasn't just about the timepieces we owned; it was about something more profound. He said, "Tonight we are all equal, tonight, we are all united."
At our table, we were surrounded by old friends and had the opportunity to admire some truly remarkable pieces. For instance, the incredibly rare Rolex "Princess" Midas in white gold, the smaller lady’s version of the already exceptionally rare King Midas. Without a doubt even rarer than the male version.
And what about the 6263 Daytona made for the UAE Ministry of Defense?
We were feeling like overexcited kids again and yes, we had to get our phones out and take pictures like there was no tomorrow!
Not to mention the waffle-dial Milgauss.
This was just a glimpse of the feast that awaited us during a splendid dinner. Laughter filled the air as we played with our watches, reminiscent of children in a candy store.
Day Two: Bring Your Watches and Let's See...
As it turned out, the night before was just a warm-up. As the sun metaphorically rose (though it was raining), we gathered at the Rainbow Room for RollieFest 2023's "Real Estate Conference" with the somewhat cloudy instruction: "Bring your watches, and let's see."
Tables quickly transformed into showcases, revealing cherished timepieces. It felt like an exhilarating adventure, with everyone capturing the essence of each amazing piece through wrist shots.
The day reached its pinnacle with a panel discussion featuring some very passionate watch experts. It was a nice and informative conversation covering everything from the future of collecting to economic insights and the art of watch restoration.
Well, after the panel discussion we wanted to see watches again and among all those incredible vintage watches, we found ourselves holding not one but TWO Vintage Bulova Prototypes of the MIL-SHIPS-W-2181 – only 12 of those have been produced, and here were two, in the same room, in one hand.
The buzz about the new Blancpain collaboration with Swatch made it even more of a hot topic. And then, there it was: a Daytona 6263 with an Omani Khanjar, the very essence of what a grail watch is.
Having the chance to catch up with old friends like Jacek from Tropical Watch, a friendship spanning over a decade, Bernhard Bulang, Adam Golden, Kirill, Adam Victor and many many more.
We also saw plenty of amazing watches on display, and we happily joined in by sharing three absolutely stunning Day-Dates for the crowd to check out.
Despite the rain outside, inside, all eyes were shining brightly.
A Heartfelt Cocktail of Emotion
The weekend concluded with a cocktail hour at Manhattan Motorcars, where watches found new homes and fresh wrists. Beyond the swaps and the excitement, what truly warmed our hearts were the rekindled old friendships and the sheer joy of incredible timepieces.
Reflecting on this epic event, it's not just a memory; it's a reminder of the enduring spirit that binds the watch community together. It brought back the simple pleasures of gathering, sharing stories, and celebrating our shared passion.
Oh, and let's not forget the impressive vintage and modern Porsches on display at Manhattan Motorcars. Because we can love more than just watches!
Before leaving, we enjoyed a funny tombola and, guess what? We won a Watch Globe containing gears and components from an actual watch, all suspended in glass. Talk about a sweet souvenir!
RollieFest 2023 served as a reminder that this passion is about a welcoming family, where respect and connection are the keys.
It has been a pleasure to take part in this memorable experience, and we extend an open invitation to everyone to join us in celebrating the fascinating world of watches at our new boutique in Dubai International Finance Centre. Whether you're a seasoned collector or just starting your horological journey, our boutique is your place. We're here to welcome you for a friendly chat or to enjoy a cup of coffee with fellow watch enthusiasts.