Brynn Wallner of DIMEPIECE is dismantling the gendered history of watch-wearing
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After taking a social media break earlier this year, Brynn Wallner came back to an Instagram flooded with DMs. The messages all contained the same question: “What watch was Rihanna wearing during her Super Bowl XLVII halftime show?”
Wallner is the founder of DIMEPIECE, a luxury watch brand for the social media era. In recent years, she’s become a voice of authority in that world. Wallner says, “The watch community is so small that you can identify who identified the watch first.”
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She started DIMEPIECE in 2020 originally as an Instagram moodboard — a place to post pictures of celebrities wearing watches in interesting, playful ways. Three years later, DIMEPIECE is also a website, brand, and resource for rookie collectors.
“In the watch community, I feel like people are always breaking the news,” Wallner says. In other words, fans single in on a newly adorned wrist and scramble to find the brand, make, and model of the watch.
As for Rihanna’s, it was the Brilliant Skeleton Northern Lights from Jacob & Co. This watch’s bezel is set with 251 pavé-set diamonds, and a ring of 30 more white diamonds surrounds the watch-face. The dial itself is blood red and transparent. On the singer’s wrist, it served its purpose: be breath-takingly over-the-top. And because of DIMEPIECE’s success, this moment in pop culture was now under the jurisdiction of Wallner — people wanted to know what she thought.
She wasn’t always a part of this inner circle. Wallner, 32, got her start in horology at Sotheby's Editorial, where she was tapped to write ad copy for the Watches Department. Tasked to target a younger audience, Wallner started pulling together information about watches and their history, and soon found herself going down a rabbit hole of watch culture.
“I learned that there were more brands than Rolex,” Wallner says. “I also learned that women weren't really featured in the narrative at all in the history of all these heavy-hitting watches.”
Wallner wasn’t interested in the way watches looked flashing on the wrists of powerful men. Rather, she found herself captivated by a different kind of watch-wearing — the kind that was less about flaunting wealth, and more about sharpening the edges of a really good outfit. The people that did this particularly well included Rihanna, Victoria Beckham, and Princess Diana. They wore watches with playfulness, innovation, and, yes, femininity.
“I think that women can be a little bit more emotional with their possessions,” Wallner says, explaining they often “display intention” behind the accessories they choose.
But historically, women have not been targeted by the makers of watches. “The problem is that the watch industry, by and large, is not aimed at women at all,” Wallner says. “Watches haven't been positioned as the thing that you get when you graduate from college — you know, in a way that when a man graduates from college, maybe his dad will buy him a watch as this ceremonious object.”
Advertising for women’s watches has often been, as Wallner calls it, “for women, via men.” In other words, women could wear watches — but men were seen as the keepers of time-pieces. Now, Wallner is bridging that gap.
She founded DIMEPIECE in 2020 after being laid off by Sotheby's at the start of the pandemic. Wallner was living in Florida with her mother at the time. DIMEPIECE began as a pandemic passion project on Instagram, a way to highlight her watch muses. It’s since expanded into a website, blog, and growing community of nontraditional watch-wearers.
Among the first of Wallner’s muses at Sotheby’s was Rihanna, photographed in a Patek Philippe Nautilus at the airport by paparazzi. Later, as part of the DIMEPIECE canon, Riri would be joined by the likes of K-pop superstar Jisoo, wearing a rose gold Cartier Panthère, and Gloria Steinem, wearing a Cartier Baignoire at the podium of the Democratic National Convention in 1972.
Wallner believes women imbue watches with an energy all their own. “Now, I think women have discovered a love for watches on their own, because the marketing hasn’t really been drilled into our heads as much,” Wallner says. “They really come into it from some personal yearning, and therefore put more intention behind them.”
Though watches themselves may prove endlessly fascinating, she's found the excess and ignorance of watch culture can be frustrating. “I go on press trips, and these people treat me really nice,” Wallner says. “But I’ve also been struck by the fact that they think that me in the watch industry is a representation of diversity. I'm like, ‘Are you insane? I am a hetero, blonde, thin woman.’”
Sometimes, the exclusion is blatant. Wallner says that after she posted a photo of Jay-Z wearing the Patek Philippe Nautilus with a Tiffany blue dial, somebody “really well known in the watch industry” commented that the watch had to be a fake. The rapper is a Tiffany’s ambassador.
Wallner says some attitudes are so deeply ingrained that it’s a challenge to extricate from legacy watch culture itself. Nevertheless, they're beliefs that the young founder hopes to dismantle.
The luxury world may be inaccessible, at times even stale — but for Wallner, the craft that goes into making watches — the meticulousness with which each is created and worn, is deeply sentimental. “They’re little living beings on your wrist,” Wallner says.
She means this literally. “Automatic watches require your body to stay working,” Wallner says. “If you wear a watch every day that has an automatic movement, it works off of the energy of your body to stay working — which I think is really cool and very intimate.”
Though the watch world may be saturated by men, Wallner treasures its origin story: the first person to wear a watch was a woman. It was made for and worn by Countess Koscowicz of Hungary by the Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe in 1868. Wallner has enjoyed the task of bringing watch-wearing back to its roots — and has garnered over 41K followers in the process.
“I like that there was a challenge in front of me, which is [that] women aren't into watches in the way that men are,” Wallner says. “But women have, of course, always been into jewelry.”
Whatever DIMEPIECE’s followers see their watches as — timepiece, accessory, homage — the most important thing to Wallner is the meaning placed upon these items by the wearer, rather than the luxury world as an entity. “I think that a $50 Swatch watch can have just as much value as a $50,000 Audemars Piguet watch,” Wallner says. “That value all comes from the sentiment that you project onto it.”