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Ah, the world of horology is beautiful. Well, at least most of it is. What makes it so are the people we meet along the way, whether it be at a W.A.A. meeting (Watch Addicts Anonymous), a fair, a meet-up or by chance on the street. (And you can tell who’s part of our secret society by looking at the watch on their wrist, whether it be an Omega Speedmaster on a NATO or a Seiko World Timer.) We can easily recognize each other as if we were all driving Jeeps and waving at one another while cruising on Route 66. And like any industries, hobbies, or organized interest groups, horology is dominated by men. Whether we look at who designs them, makes them, or sells them, more often than not we see a dude, preferably white, on the other side of the table. 


In my narrow and niche experience which consists mostly of orbiting around micro and independent brands, most of the women I meet in this world work sales in a boutique, handle customer service inquiries, or work in the marketing department. (Because who better than a woman to sell a man a watch? Or a car? Or clothes?) Very rarely do I encounter women who create and run their own brands—and two of my favorites to do so are Lauren Ortega from Lorier and Nousseïma Baraket from Buci—and even more seldom do I come across female watch enthusiasts and content creators. Luckily, more and more women attend watch fairs, buy watches, and talk about them—as their own persons, in their own voice, with their own authority on the subject matter. 


And this is due mostly to a few key individuals who have shown that women should be and are an integral part of horology as they should of any human-related experience and creative endeavor. And although I should be the last person to be writing on this topic (I’m a white male after all,) I was fortunate enough to interview a few of my new horological heroes such as Sophie Cassaro a.k.a., Meg Tocci a.k.a. @minutemeg (whose story will be coming out soon,) and Erika Ratini a.k.a. @watchmissgmt, the latter being the protagonist of today’s article.

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At the WindUp Watch Fair in NYC

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Exploring Finland's Article Circle on a snowmobile

But First, a Quote


As I was beginning to write this article, I remembered reading a text about Gaius Musonius Rufus, a first century Roman Stoic philosopher who is known for having been one of the earliest proponents of gender equality. (Someone we would describe today as being a “feminist” in the most positive sense of the word.) Musonius Rufus was a teacher and political opponent to the tyrant Nero (the latter murdered his mother) who saw women as being as equally suited for being philosophers and leaders of men (pun intended) as men are. His vision embodies the ideal through which all of us should navigate the calm and agitated waters that make up horology.To understand exactly what his point of view was, let’s take a look at the following quote: 


“Women as well as men … have received from the gods the gift of reason, which we use in our dealings with one another and by which we judge whether a thing is good or bad, right or wrong … Moreover, not men alone, but women too, have a natural inclination toward virtue and the capacity for acquiring it, and it is the nature of women no less than men to be pleased by good and just acts and to reject the opposite of these.”


His down-to-earth and ultra logical observation of what makes men and women fully equal remains the best one I’ve ever read or heard of, to this day. And while we still live in a world where many brands continue to sell “women” and “ladies” watches, little by little we start to see “unisex” watches or just “watches.” Because, as we will see below, although she is a biological women, Erika doesn’t necessarily wear smaller watches, quite the contrary. Her first serious acquisition—the watch that propelled her into this hobby to a point of no return—is far from being the stereotypical watch women are supposed to wear—as perceived by our male lizard brains.

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At Time to Watches 2024

A Passion that Runs Deep in Her Family


One of the first facts which unites all women and men in the world of horology, regardless of cultural or religious backgrounds, is that all grew up around watches, whether it be directly or indirectly. In the case of Erika, her grandfather was a collector and whilst she saw him wear his watches all the time, it wasn’t the kind of topic she and him exchanged on. (Let’s face it, boys are more likely to talk about watches with men than girls, and that’s true of most male watch collectors and enthusiasts I know of, myself included.) Nevertheless, she was observant of and curious about her grandfather’s collection and that’s when she started hearing names such as Rolex, Patek Phillippe, and Omega. Her grandfather then passed on his collection to her father. The latter, alas, only kept on the tradition of wearing the watches but did not contract the watch “bug.” (i.e. researching about the watches one wears which is how the end begins.)


Another fact that unites all of us in ways deeper that we may want to see or admit, was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the micro and independent brands that are now popular got started right around that time, as many people found themselves housebound and bored to abyssal depths. The same is true of numerous successful watch journalists and popular content creators (photographers and YouTubers.) The world of horology wouldn’t be what it is today if it were not for this global tragedy. Erika was bored too as she had to work from home, and two things happened right before which had a profound impact on her. First, the fact that she bought her first important watch to commemorate a professional milestone and the fact that she inherited a vintage gem.

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Most of her collection

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Exploring a cave in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

One Watch + One Watch + Time = Passion


Erika is a Food Scientist, and yes I had to ask what this means exactly. In a nutshell, she develops all types of new food products which we consume everyday and all around the world. Whether it be chips, prepared meals, sauces or drinks. As such, Erika spends tremendous amounts of time learning about novelties, trends, and she’s on the perpetual quest (another intended pun) to discover new things. Which means that, once she inherited the aforementioned vintage gem—an Omega Seamaster her other grandfather was gifted at the time of his retirement—she began reading extensively about watches, brands, and—as you very well know—way too many historical tidbits about technologies and genre of watches. 


Roughly at the same time she indeed purchased the one watch that would change it all for her, a green bezel Rolex Submariner ref. 126610LV to commerate an important professional milestone. She went to her local authorized dealer (A.D. for short and cool peeps) and initially had her sight on a green dial 41mm Oyster Perpetual. Naturally and as you can imagine, upon entering the A.D., she was politely directed by a male sales representative to a section of the boutique that had “women” watches—read = smaller timepieces—which did not really interest her. She tried on the OP she had her sight on but she found it uncomfortable. She then decided to try on a Submariner—a beefier watch that one would normally see strapped on the wrist of manly men.

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To her surprise, she fell in love with the way the Sub fit her wrist. A detail that you should be aware of and which should actually not make a difference, is that Erika and I have the exact same wrist circumference: 6.50”. Whilst a Submariner has a diameter of 40mm, there was something about the case construction and the glide-lock micro-adjustement system that fit her just right. Another piece of information I would like to share about Erika is that she’s an avid traveler and is often on the move. So a diver is a great watch for her as it is robust, versatile, and that the wearing comfort can be adjusted throughout the day. (If I had a bigger budget when I first got into watches, I would have acquired a Submariner too.) 


By the way, her Instagram handle @watchmissgmt was inspired by another staple of her collection: a 1999 Rolex GMT Master II ref. 16710. Another outstanding travel and exploration watch. 

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When Three Passions Come Together...


…or how three passions followed one another in the most perfect of chronology. Growing up, Erika and her family traveled often and all around the world. In part because of (thanks to) her dad’s profession (he was in the optical industry) which brought them to explore locations that are not your typical tourist destinations (i.e. the suburbs of major cities in China.) In other words, she started traveling at a young age and retold the story of when she and her dad were sitting in the café of the Beau Rivage hotel (in Geneva) eating a delightful dish of lamb whilst sipping on a perfectly-paired glass of wine. An experience which I thought was serendipitous given what she does now. 


What brought her into food and becoming a Food Scientist was the capacity for it to unify people and to be someone’s first introduction to a new culture. Because regardless of where she went throughout her numerous travels, a visit to a new country or city always started by being offered (or seeking) something to eat and drink. As you might have noticed yourself, food plays an integral part of the human experience. Most of us are lucky enough to be able to eat and drink everyday and so Erika has always connected food to travel. And, Erika, now being a proud member of the watch nerd community, also associates travel with watches as shes’ the type of person who actually uses a watch to keep track of time and anchor herself into the present moment. 


Another element of Erika’s path to horology which I found fascinating is the type of watches she collected before acquiring the Rolex Submariner. Although she didn’t always used to wear a watch—though she admitted that she had a watch strapped to our wrist for most of her life—she gravitated towards Seiko tool watches (divers and world timers) as well as G-Shocks instead of—what my male brain* would have imagined—the stereotypical “ladies” watches in the likes of a Daniel Wellington, Casio F91-W, or a colorful, small timekeeping device. What she used to wear on a daily basis, as she told me, flew under the radar. 


*Fault admitted, half forgiven, right?

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Hanoi, Vietnam

Why Female Watch Collectors Rock


In my small, and hopefully growing exposure to the world of female watch enthusiasts and collectors, I noticed one key difference which separates them as far from their male counterparts as the Rift Valley separates two habitable areas: the fact that they don’t flex. Referring again to Musonius Rufus’ quote, I would say that women have more of a natural inclination toward virtue than men do, as I have yet to meet a female watch enthusiast who tries to impress me or someone else by rapid-firing a long list of random and niche technical facts about watches. They don’t do so and instead always approach the hobby from more enthusiastic and passionate perspectives. That is what, at least, I’ve observed talking to Lauren Ortega, Nousseïma Baraket, Meg Tocci, Sophie Cassaro, and now Erika. 


Women: did you know that men pump up the iron at the gym not to impress you but to impress other men? Of course you did. Men: stop denying that. So it’s only “natural” and logical for men to love to flex their luxurious watches and deep knowledge of horology in front of other men and women. And when such men encounter such a woman as Erika, they are in for a treat as she knows as much if not more than them and she, unlike them, knows how to communicate her passion and knowledge of this hobby humbly, passionately, and directly. While men love to tell stories about why X watch is so important and why you should care, women tell the story of why they like it and share connections to their own personal experiences. A big difference. 

This brought us to discussing the reasons why, roughly a year ago, she decided to create an Instragram account solely dedicated to horology. And she did so for one main reason: because she knew that she wasn’t the only woman to be into watches in the same way that she was, and as such, she both wanted to connect with likeminded women and be a source of inspiration for other women who are also into horology. Because of the way she approaches creating content—relating to her ever-growing foray into horology and all of what she’s learned thus far and what types of watches she likes and why—she can also educate women who, like her, were driven to this hobby because of the multifaceted storytelling nature of the experience of wearing a good watch that fits their own personality. 

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At the DMZ between North and South Korea

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At a Watch Femme Meet-up

What Wearing a Watch Means to Erika


How one sees watches indicates what type of person he or she is. At least, that’s why I’ve observed. Erika’s interview wouldn’t have been complete if I were not to have asked the critical question “What does wearing a watch mean to you?” Erika, like all other female watch enthusiasts and collectors I’ve had the pleasure of talking to, doesn’t have any BS to give and she goes straight for the what’s what. The fact that her first major purchase was a Rolex Submariner indicates that she too (like men) wanted to commemorate an important professional milestone with a good watch. She explained that Rolex is one of the first major brands she’s ever heard of and with that came a certain cachet and reputation. 


She did not embellish the origin story of acquiring the Sub. 


If you were to meet Eirka tomorrow and take a look at her wrist and see the green bezel Submariner, you would immediately think: “Here’s a successful woman.” And this thought would be, obviously, accurate. And another thought you should have at that moment—as long as you’re not a full caveman—is the following: “Interesting that she chose a Sub and not an OP. I want to know why that is.” And I can tell you why. Once she started slowly peeling off the layers of horology, brands, and such, she started acquiring various types of watches and to dig deeper into the sub-genre of independent watchmaking. It is there that she found what she had been looking for for a long time: passionate people who pour their souls and personalities into wrist-worn timekeeping devices. 


So what does wearing a watch mean to Erika, then? It means being able to express her personality outwardly in a way that she wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Because she could just as well be going for a walk on a clear sunday morning in her joggers or attending a cocktail party wearing an evening gown whilst wearing the Submariner or a Seiko World Timer which would tell us much more about who she is than the clothes she wears. At least, that’s how I perceive it. I can’t remember the watch she wore when I first met Erika in Geneva but I do remember thinking “Here’s a watch gal.” (Please pardon me, my inner voice isn’t eloquent.) 


And the more she learned about watches and those who make them, the more she noticed that what one chooses to strap on one’s wrist tells a story about them. Erika is a traveler and explorer,  so you will often find her wearing a GMT which is a tool that has become an integral part of her travel gear. While abroad, she prefers to check the time back home looking at her GMT rather than briefly disconnecting from her physical experience by looking at her smartphone. When working in food science, she wears more rugged watches that can sustain life in labs and handle multiple projects all at once. And she often travels for work so her watch pouch would have both types of timekeeping devices. 

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At the WindUp Watch Fair in NYC

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At Watches & Wonders 2024

Conclusion: Creating a Safe Space for Women Watch Enthusiasts


As it is also true of Sophie’s experience, and despite the fact that Erika has received a lot of positive feedback about her Instagram account, she has to deal with the type of men who feel obligated to mansplain things and rapid-fire horological facts at her. Men do this—believe me as I’m one of them—because they love teaching women about stuff and that doing so makes them feel superior. Additionally, she also has to deal with those who think that she would be interested in a specific watch because it is small, has a pink dial, or a gem-set bezel. Yet again, all of this is true of her experience thus far but being the wonderful human being that she is, she made a point to highlight the positives of being an outspoken female watch collector. 


Truth be told (again,) the world of horology is small yet vast and mostly a man's world. I’ve heard many stories of men who ask their wives/girlfriends to “keep them company” whilst shopping for a new watch, while in reality, they want to know what they think. (Same thing happens at car dealerships.) While it is positive to see more and more women buy watches and attend watch-related events, we are far from seeing them earn the respect they so deserve and occupy roles that are of greater importance in our community—whether it be in creating and running watch brands, having a powerful voice in the sphere of journalism, or by simply being treated as equals to men in boutiques and watch fairs. 


I highly encourage you to give Erika’s Instagram account a follow and to spread the word about the important work that she does. 

Thanks for reading. 

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