Meet the watch influencers
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The collaborator: Wei Koh
@wei_koh_revolution, 63.3K followers
In 2005, Wei Koh founded the watch magazine Revolution in Singapore. It is now published in six territories in the US and Asia. One of the most respected of horological writers, he knows more about timepieces than most CEOs.
Grounded during Covid, he started to interact with his extensive network of Instagram followers and found he enjoyed exchanging views and opinions: “Social media rewards sincerity and connects people with unique and personal tastes, which is why I haven’t made my social media a professional account, because for me it is about personal expression.” By leveraging his effervescent persona and encyclopaedic wardrobe, bulwarked by formidable knowledge, he has created another pulpit, one that allows him to talk to a new audience. “I was very flattered when Alexandre Mille said he used to see me as part of his father [Richard’s] generation, but now he views me as a cool older brother, thanks to social media.”
He recently developed Grail Watch, a hybrid watchmaking and retail concept issuing small runs of cult watches (be they archive pieces, collaborations or new creations) that vary in price from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. “I would never have been able to start Grail if social media didn’t exist,” says Koh. “I’m able to talk about a collaboration we are doing and have it communicated around the world.”
And his persuasive skills have been brilliantly successful. “Our collaboration of a Tonda PF, a salmon dial and steel with platinum bezel was one of the fastest sellers of the Revolution/Grail special editions,” says Guido Terreni, CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier. “The 25 watches sold in seconds, and Wei told me he had a request for 200. He realises the emotions the watch gives, and he understands the customers. He brings a real hotness to projects.”
The voice of the future: Amandine
Coordinating interviews is seldom straightforward, but fitting around hula-hoop practices is a new diary hurdle for me. Then again it is also my first time interviewing a 12-year-old influencer and social media sensation. “Amandine is a bit hyperactive with school, friends, music, singing, violin and now hula hoop… plus watchmaking and Instagram,” says her father while, like any good executive assistant, he juggles her diary.
Since film of her queueing for her MoonSwatch and making a purchase went viral last March, Amandine (who goes only by her first name) has become the breakout star of the watch industry. In a little less than a year, she has achieved the sort of profile that eludes most industry figures throughout entire careers. She has already appeared with auction maestro Aurel Bacs in a film for the Phillips website, been interviewed in The New York Times and walked her first red carpet at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
Child influencers may not be new, but Amandine is a watch influencer, and in an industry celebrated for its cautious pace (Patek only gave Instagram its benediction in 2018), it is fair to say she stands out. Beginning her posts with a cheery “Salut les amis” (she lives in Geneva) and continuing in an upbeat style sprinkled with emojis, Amandine manages to reconnect even old cynics such as me with their inner child’s love of watches (seeing her posts, I remembered that at her age I was scouring junk shops and jumble sales for old mechanical watches). Her posts transmit an uninhibited love of watches that succumb neither to saccharine sentimentality nor child-prodigy precocity. She is quick and clever, but she is a child too, just as excited about ice cream as she is about grand complications.
Her horological journey began at seven. “She attended a Bulgari cocktail party with me during the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie,” says her father, who has worked for 20 years in watch media. “The moment she had a Serpenti Tubogas on her wrist, she said, ‘I want to become a watchmaker designer at Bulgari.’” Although her Instagram is not commercialised now, it is freighted with future potential. “Could she entice other teenagers into the magic world of watchmaking? Certainly,” says Bulgari’s watch communications director, Catherine Eberlé-Devaux. “She explains complexity with her own words.”
“Bulgari now makes it clear that I am Amandine’s plus one,” says her father with amused pride.
The XX factor: Brynn Wallner
In 2021, US Vogue ran a story with the heavily baited headline “Shopping at Cartier With Millennial Watch Connoisseur Brynn Wallner”. It read like a passage from Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City, with watches replacing Manolos as totems.
Wallner began posting about watches on Instagram under the moniker @dimepiece.co in summer 2020. She started out in marketing in LA, returning to New York in 2016, where she joined the editorial team at Sotheby’s, which is where she “fell into watches”. She worked for the auction house for less than a year when she was let go at the start of the pandemic, but it was long enough to ignite a passion and to realise that horological social media was disproportionately masculine. “All the accounts I stumbled upon were wrist shots with cufflinks and glasses of brown liquor,” she says. “I did not find it very inspiring. What struck me was the lack of humanity. You’d see a lot of wrists, but you never see the people wearing the watch. Watches are amazing, of course, but they really fit in a bigger picture of somebody’s lifestyle.”
Wallner’s beat is the intersection of contemporary celebrity and watchmaking, viewed with a fashion stylist’s eye and imbued with a strong sense of New York. A typical post might find her at La Goulue lunching with vintage accessories and decorative antiques dealer Alan Bedwell
(@foundwell) with whom she curates a selling selection of vintage watches on which she makes a commission.
“Wallner is a rising voice of a generation, and she has done remarkable work in visualising gender fluidity when it comes to watches,” says John Reardon, New York’s vintage-Patek king, who goes by the handle @collectabilityllc. “She brings long-overdue attention to the watches famous women are wearing, rather than just their clothes and accessories.” And she has brought the same sensibilities to paid partnerships with, among others, eBay and The RealReal.
A typical @dimepiece.co post will feature a picture of, say, Drew Barrymore hoisting a bottle of Dom Pérignon aloft with an Hermès Kelly Lock watch dangling off the wrist, or Kendall Jenner in a Cartier Baignoire, and a swipe for further detailed images. It is not just about women: one of her most interesting posts featured the Puerto Rican rapper and songwriter Bad Bunny wearing a late-20th-century, gem-set Patek, reflecting the tastes of a generation that views ’90s watches as vintage.
The vigilante: Anish Bhatt
Anish Bhatt is on a mission to out the fakers on social media.“I was seeing big celebrities, influencers, people with big followings not just wearing but showing off fake watches,” he says. “As someone who knows the effort it’s taken to buy certain pieces, and the achievement that represents to me as a collector, I find it offensive.” It was after seeing someone at a car event in St Moritz flexing a fake Tiffany Nautilus that he decided to act: he finds it particularly egregious if they can afford the real thing. “There are 170 of these Tiffany Patek Nautiluses that were made. And there are thousands of replicas in circulation. So if you have the relationship with Tiffany and are allocated a 5711 Tiffany at retail, you don’t want to be at a dinner table next to some guy wearing a fake telling everyone that it’s real.”
For a while, Instagram blocked his account. “It was only when some very big watch brands, I won’t say who, wrote to Meta to say that what we’re doing is protecting the legitimate IP of products that they spent years developing that we were let back on again.”
When he is not calling out fakers, Bhatt peddles a world of exuberant consumption, in which he, as protagonist and flexer-in-chief, plays the role of a Lamborghini-loving, yacht-hopping, Cristal-chugging Virgil, guiding millions through the Inferno of horology hype. He started collecting watches in his mid-20s when he was working at an electronics store in Hammersmith by day and DJing at night. “At that time there wasn’t anyone my age or demographic whom I could talk to about watches. So I started a blog and then migrated to social media.” He was a pioneer during a halcyon age when the digital world was new. “When I joined, Instagram only had 25 million users,” he reminisces.
After more than a decade on the platform, he still believes “the audience on Instagram is the highest quality”, but he monitors TikTok too. “The trend recently on TikTok has been dealers on 47th Street doing live uncut videos of their negotiations. They’re getting, like, 500,000 views per video and a lot of interaction.”
Now 41, he feels his role has evolved beyond being a celebrity influencer. His company works with a number of brands on marketing and content provision. “Often in the watch industry we talk technical jargon that is indecipherable to anyone not in the club. It is an exclusive world that we are trying to make a little more inclusive.” He shrugs. “For instance, for Greubel Forsey we are working on a big project to present their technical prowess in a way that appeals to the sort of collectors who would appreciate the brand if only they could understand it a bit better. The more people take an interest in it, the better it is for all of us.”
Just don’t let him catch you wearing a fake Tiffany Nautilus.