Vintage Heaven: Checking Out the NAWCC Southwest California Regional Event

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Two weeks back, Chapters 59 and 136 of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors held their annual Southwest California Regional event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego. The marketplace event is three days long, with a preview night on Thursday, members-only access on Friday, and a public-admitted day on Saturday. In addition to the market, the event also features a chapter meetings on Friday and two lectures.

Inside the Del Mar Fairground’s Wyland Center, around 180 vendors—including wholesalers, retail watch shops, and personal collectors—congregated alongside each other and across a half-dozen aisles to display their wares to enthusiastic shoppers—both window and those with cash on-hand. Whatever your collecting preferences may be, there was enough to go around, with about 60% of the vendors focusing on wristwatches and the remaining 40% dedicated to clocks.Understandably, there were more than enough Rolex and Omega watches on display throughout, but there were also plenty of other interesting timepieces to admire if you looked closely. Sean, a screenwriter from Los Angeles, was on-hand with a portion of his personal collection, and within two display cases stood out a Zodiac Seawolf SST 36000, and a Seiko Speedtimer JDM.


When asked if he sold many watches this week, Paul Tociapski said, “I put crazy prices on them. I don’t sell.” The owner of San Diego’s Antique Watch Company located in the Kurtz Street Vintage Marketplace, Tociapski was clearly just excited to share his unique finds with other like-minded watch-heads. He pointed out a Longines manual-wound dive watch he had on-hand. Details about the piece are scant, but Tociapski said the diver was released—possibly in as small of a batch as 200 pieces—and then Longines almost immediately ceased production, due to the overwhelming popularity of its competitors, the Rolex Submariner and Omega Seamaster 300M.That sort of enthusiasm was apparent throughout the show. Pat Vilicich, owner of San Pedro’s Vilicich Watch & Clock, made sure to show off a recent find of his own—a Hans Wilsdorf-signed Rolex. While Tudor may be the most famous of the brand’s sub-labels, at one time Wilsdorf tried to market a series under his own name. Vilicich opened up the case back to show off the level of detail in the movement, as well as another Wilsdorf signature.

A rare find indeed.

Jarrett Harkenss, who recently wrote a guest post for Worn & Wound, was also present with his collection of restored Hamilton Electric watches—whose stunningly asymmetrical cases are even more striking in person.

The interesting watches didn’t end just at the tables either. Brandon Cayot (@theunknownmarket) flew all the way from Louisville, Kentucky, to shop for vintage watches. He told me that he tries to travel to all of the bigger, regional NAWCC shows (of which there about five-to-six every year) and recently scored a stunning Zodiac Seawolf.

Mike Dayton, Vice President of Chapter 59, echoed this enthusiasm and hopes that more young watch enthusiasts are encouraged to join their local chapters of the organization. When you come to an event like this,” he said, “you’re talking about watches to people that want to hear it.” Dayton explained that one challenge they’re facing to increase membership is the traditional dues-paying-club type atmosphere, but he added that most local chapters (of which there are over 150 worldwide) usually organize small markets before every monthly meeting.

If you’re new to collecting, or are just looking for a local meetup of like-minded watch connoisseurs, a Regional NAWCC event is an old-school way to get started. To learn more, click here.

By Justin Hargett

Justin is a writer living in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in Eephus, The Rumpus, and Punk News. He owns a few watches.

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