It takes bravery to start a career in a world that is riddled with egocentrism and fickleness and even more courage to put yourself out there in the public eye, opening yourself up to criticism for doing something you are passionate about. Ever since we started the Profiles series, we have studied the background of those who create watches and those who are successful in photographing them for Instagram. Thus far, the heroes of this hobby we have highlighted in these articles have remained anonymous for the most part, but this story is going to be different. We are going to be talking about Jenni Elle, a watch enthusiast, collector, and YouTuber whose digital career, which started in January 2020, quickly elevated her to fame in the world of horological influencers.
Whether or not she sees herself as an influencer, Jenni’s success story is inspiring for two reasons: she is bold and authentic. Bold because her first review was of the somewhat obscure A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus, and authentic because she speaks about what interests her, not what would get her the most views. Jenni, therefore, is not anonymous. She belongs to a small, select group of passionate watch people who took that extra step that many of us have not dared to take. Instead of writing about watches on a website or photographing them for a platform while concealing her true name, Jenni has put herself out there in plain view, and thus far, over 230,000 people agree that she’s doing something unique and important.
Her Path Into Horology
Many, many years before Jenni published her first video on YouTube, an interesting and funny incident brought her into horology. When she was about eight years old, she got grounded. Her parents allowed her to play outside for a bit, and to make sure she would be back by the allowed time, they gave her a watch and taught her how to read time. The watch in question was a Jimmy Pendolix, pictured below. If she did not come back on time, she would be grounded once again, so she kept a steady eye on the watch so that she would not come back later than she was supposed to. It worked. As we’ve discussed before, a first encounter with watches always forms the first stepping stone to becoming a watch enthusiast, whether you collect watches or create content about them. It certainly was the case with Jenni after her unusual first encounter.
Further exposure to watches also came through Jenni’s dad. He was the go-to watch specialist of the family, but he would only buy inexpensive watches at the local flea markets and repair them, whether they were mechanical or quartz. All the watches he bought had to meet two criteria: simple and inexpensive. Her dad was frugal, but that didn’t mean that he had only one watch at a time. Jenni would often see her dad come back from the flea market with one or two watches that needed some tender loving care. Eventually, watch parts, broken watches, and working watches began to pile up in heaps and fill an entire drawer, so Jenni’s dad began to ask her and her brother to try their hand at fixing the watches themselves, which they did with more or less success.
Hearing Jenni’s story about her dad’s fascination for horology reminded me of the crucial and almost inborn character of any passion we develop or any career we pursue as adults. Whatever our parents, siblings, or best friends do for work and regardless of the passions they pursue, we are deeply influenced by the environment in which we grow up, both in positive and negative ways. If our parents were teachers, we will probably grow up working in education. If our parents are artists, we gravitate toward doing something artistic. All of the stories we have told thus far about watch people all share one thing in common: each story started with a childhood experience that relates to horology. Maybe it began with a gift from a caring grandfather or an heirloom passed down from a mother. However our journey starts, it is fascinating that we can be so strongly influenced by our families, both in how we grow up and the interests we adopt.
What does this mean?
Thus far, I’ve interviewed 15 people who are into watches. Whether they created a brand or collect watches or photograph them for Instagram all have (generally between the ages of 4 and 12) been given a watch at some point in their life or had an experience with a friend or family member’s watch. They always remember what kind of watch that was, which is remarkable, since I can’t remember anything from my early childhood except for what foods I didn’t like. Remembering the kind of watch you had at age six, then, is significant. What is also significant is the degree to which exposure to watches affected our enthusiasm for horology. In the case of someone who had a friend who had a watch at age 10, for example, the collector in question would buy a few watches and photograph them on Instagram. In the cases where the collector was continuously exposed to watches, he or she would create a watch brand. Jenni, for her part, had constant exposure to watches, so she eventually started creating videos about them.
The deeper our earlier connection to watches goes, the greater the significance they gain in adulthood.
Paradoxically, Jenni stopped wearing watches for a few years until she would meet her future husband and business partner, Kai. A watch enthusiast himself, he reignited her own interest. She recalled one day getting a phone call from him during which he told her that he had purchased a 39mm Oyster Perpetual. It was a major purchase, and he was proud to now have it in his collection. As Jenni put it, when your partner is interested in something that interests you as well, you will most likely take it more seriously. Just like Pierre and Marie Curie, who shared a love for science, or the fictional characters Thelma and Louise, who shared a taste for crime and road trips, Jenni and Kai embarked on the endless horological adventure together. A couple hundreds of thousands of us are glad they did.
Jenni and YouTube
A few years ago, Jenni and Kai realized that there were not many YouTube channels in German talking about luxury brands. They felt confident that they could fill this gap given the fact that Kai had been working as a freelance videographer and photographer and therefore had the necessary technical background to get started (he was at least better suited than many YouTubers who learned as they went). The team was born, and soon after, they started their channel, Watchvice. While Kai was usually the narrator of the videos, Jenni was behind the camera. She learned all of the technical aspects of the craft, coached by her husband, and the pair gained immediate success. After about one year, Jenni felt the need to start her own channel to share her personal view of horology, and this channel would be in English.
The good thing about having done Watchvice before starting her own channel is that Jenni had spent a tremendous amount of time learning how to make videos from start to finish. She had also acquainted herself with more watches than she could have dreamed of, and this led her to start her own channel with a bang: her very first video was of the A. Lange Söhne Odysseus, not a Casio F91W (which she owns) nor a Rolex Oyster Perpetual (which she owns as well). She decided on a somewhat obscure piece from a brand whose name that most non-German speakers cannot pronounce. She did so because she wanted to talk to the watch community about something that interested her. This move was a true act of courage because she might have put out her opinion on this watch and attracted no interest at all. Thankfully, thousands of people did care (as of today, this video has received over 143,000 views).
This first success prompted Jenni to expand the breadth of her tastes in watches and explore more subjects. Jenni has made a reputation for reviewing watches that cost anywhere from $20 to $300,000, and some of these watches are ones that she owns and some are watches that are being loaned to her. People now return to her channel over and over again to hear her personal thoughts and opinions about watch market trends, discover new models, and learn random and fascinating tidbits about watches. Unlike most other popular YouTubers who specialize in one category of watches—say, Ali Express specials or affordable Casios—Jenni’s repertoire is vast. As someone once told me in a career completely unrelated to watches, most of the time, people’s knowledge of horology (or any subject matter) is 1 inch wide and 30 inches deep. By contrast, Jenni’s is 30 inches wide and 1 inch deep.
Her Recipe for Success
When I spoke to her over video and watched her YouTube videos, one thing comes through clearly, and that is Jenni’s authenticity. Whether in the subject matter she picks or how she talks about them and moves through her videos, she remains true to herself and to her audience. She doesn’t pick a subject based on how many views she hopes to get. Instead, she chooses to talk about the watches that interest her and other horological topics that she herself is passionate about and that intrigue her. She wouldn’t want to speak, for example, about a watch she has no interest in just to say she has spoken about this watch so that she can follow some current trend. She sees no point talking about a brand negatively.
If you ain’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything, as the old adage goes.
I seem to be drawn to those who do not seek fame on Instagram or YouTube, and Jenni is no different. She told me that her hilarious video about the Ulysse Nardin Repeater Voyeur watch cost her a YouTube Creator Award because of the very nature of the watch. Jenni was genuinely intrigued about the watch. and no one else that I know of has actually spoken about it. She was interested in the Ulysse Nardin and thought making a video about it would be totally appropriate. Similarly, she didn’t shy away from making a video about fake watches that should scare other YouTubers away for fear of getting their channels being taken down (think of Jodi from JustOneMoreWatch whose channel was down for 24 hours because he made a video comparing a real watch to its fake counterpart).
Jenni’s approach to content creation is also interesting: she approaches that process as a true journalist. Not only does she talk about topics she’s interested in, she also combs through the comment sections of her videos to pinpoint the things that interest her viewers. Her regular Q&A videos constitute another way by which she figures out what to talk about next, and she always finds the perfect balance between speaking about what she likes and what interests others, all without creating a bad rap for any brand or model in particular.
So what is her process? How does she create videos in a way that attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers each month?
Once she has picked a topic, she determines the general direction of the video and chooses a title for it. She strives to stay away from clickbait titles and cheeky ones. She then reads about the topic in question on websites, blog posts, other videos, and always tries to find an angle that has never or rarely been talked about before. Otherwise, she thinks, there’s no point in making yet another video with a recycled theme. She determines how much video and photo she wants, how much A roll versus B roll, then scripts the videos and finally records it. Interesting point: she narrates the video both while shooting the A and B roll. Last but not least, she edits the video.
Each video requires 5 to 15 hours of work from start to finish, depending on the topic and the number of watches being featured. That’s a lot of work, and the result is consistently great. She believes that time is precious and that her videos should be informative and to the point. She tries to only share information that moves the conversation forward and not backward, without giving much attention to what has been talked about before, and she remains honest and authentic throughout the entire process.
Think about it. Would you want the pilot of the plane you are about to fly in to give you all of the details of how the plane operates before take off? What about hearing your doctor lecture you on the entirety of his educational and professional background before okaying the procedure?
Nah, we just want the good stuff.
Watches & Elle
The go-to question of my interviews with watch people is “What does a watch mean to you?” This question may seem simplistic at first, but the way that interviewees answer it is crucial to understanding that person’s background and the pathway they took to get into collecting watches and creating content about them. To Jenni, a watch is an integral part of her personality. It’s an accessory that she wears that says as much about her as the clothes she wears or the way she does her hair. A watch is an accessory in the positive sense of the word in that she wears one each time she walks out of her apartment and steps out into the world. Everything she chooses to wear and all the ways in which she has prepared herself indicates who she is. A watch is part of this apparatus.
Jenni is a sucker for aesthetics. She loves the look of a fine watch, the way it was designed, and the ways it matches the clothes she wears. Besides being marvels of engineering, the watches we wear signal who we are and what we are all about. If one wears a Seamaster, one could be seen as a diver or at least an adventurous person. If one wears a Patek Phillipe Ultra Thin, one could be seen as a successful business person. What’s interesting about Jenni is that she has an eclectic collection, ranging from the Casio F91W that she wears at the archery range to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Candy Pink (I recommend watching her video about the latter to see her excitement being gifted the watch by her husband on her birthday).
Interestingly enough, Jenni does not wear watches at home. I was puzzled when I heard about this, as I had (wrongly) imagined that watch enthusiasts wear watches at all times (although I myself don’t wear a watch when I sleep as others do). To understand why Jenni does not wear a watch at home, we must go back to her teenage years. Every day when she would come back home from school, she would change out of her school attire and put on something more comfy and less expensive, and in a way she transferred this habit to watches. Cherishing her watches deeply, she removes them at home to get comfortable and to avoid adding unnecessary wear to them. When she’s home, she’s not Jenni Elle, just Jenni.
I would venture to say here that Jenni is a better watch collector than most YouTubers or Instagramers are in the sense that she collects and wears watches that are very different from one another. She has many options to accessorize, depending on what she will be up to that day, which is not necessarily the case with others, even in the world of fictional characters, which mimics the real world of watch collecting (James Bond wears only Rolex and Omega, for instance). It really is Jenni’s eclectic tastes in watches, though, that keep bringing me back to her channel. This eclecticism is omnipresent in her YouTube content. When she’s not reviewing a watch, she approaches general topics about horology that couldn’t be related by any other means.
That’s the power of Jenni Elle’s channel.
Conclusion: A Reminder About What's Important
When Jenni decided to start her own channel, she wanted to create content for someone who would have the same interests as hers. She thought that she wouldn’t want to cater to a particular niche of the horological population of enthusiasts but instead talk about the subjects that interest her, doing so genuinely and professionally without ever taking herself too seriously. She doesn’t consider herself an expert in watches, but she does see herself as someone with a particular interest in them. As we mentioned earlier, she’s fascinated by the way a watch looks from both a design perspective and from a functional perspective. She is also obsessed with the notion that design follows function (as with tool watches) and with the evolution of horology in general and how it has affected public perceptions of different watch brands.
At the end of the day, Jenni is passionate and generous in the ways she speaks about watches and creates her videos. I particularly appreciate the fact that she deeply researches the topics and invites the viewer to get to know her a little better by the way in which she creates the content. One can see and hear her hard work, her authenticity, and there is no question as to why she has garnered so much success. The best and unsurprising part is that this was the first conversation in which I did not ask the person I’m interviewing how she or he feels about their success, because I subconsciously knew it would be futile to ask Jenni.
Thanks for reading.