Women’s History Month Collector Spotlight: Yana Polikarpov
For Women’s History Month, Tell the Time and Complecto are partnering to highlight 5 amazing women collectors from the watch community throughout the month of March. This series aims to elevate underrepresented voices in the watch industry by sharing stories of women watch collectors and women working within the industry.
Written by: Dana Li
Yana Polikarpov is not only a collector herself, but she runs the watch enthusiast and collector interest group at the Harvard Club in New York City and has her own watch blog called Metre Standard (@metrestandard). A former watch industry professional, she has worked with brands like Cartier, A. Lange & Söhne, and retailers like Net-A-Porter and The RealReal. Outside of watches, Yana also has a passion for vintage cars that she shares with her dad and is a track coach for the Riverdale Country School in the Bronx. * Responses below have been edited and condensed *
How did you get into the watch industry?
I first developed an interest in watches when I was a university student. After studying marketing and business in New York City, I started working at Cartier in the press department where I really fell in love with watches. At the time, watches weren’t promoted as often as jewelry so it was rewarding for me to see the watches I had consigned being worn during red carpet events like the Met Gala.
After my time at Cartier, I moved to A. Lange & Söhne where I supported the sales and marketing operations for the US market and worked directly with the brand president. While working for Lange, I was able to visit the manufacturer in Germany, allowing me to understand the entire production process and deepening my appreciation behind the mechanics of a watch. I then continued to work in the industry at Net-A-Porter and The RealReal in similar merchandising and sales roles.
Currently, I run the watch enthusiast and collector interest group at the Harvard Club, which allows me to continue to build on the knowledge I acquired during my time in the industry. I’d love to go back to working for a watch brand and ultimately become the brand president of one some day.
Credits: A. Lange & Sohne (Neue Galerie Event) What is your approach to watch collecting and deciding what watches are right for you?
In general, I believe that a luxury product should be something that feels comfortable and fits naturally into your lifestyle rather than something that is a status symbol. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Montblanc pen or clothing, functionality is key, an important quality that translates to my watch collecting as well.
When it comes to my own collection, I’m a person who knows exactly what works for me and I like to adhere to that. There was a period of time when I was at The RealReal where I tried to experiment outside of my comfort zone and I bought myself a Reverso Duetto that had a mother of pearl dial. I ended up re-consigning it after I realized the dial wasn’t legible and I couldn’t easily tell time with it. I ended up getting a two-tone 33mm Tudor Submariner from the 1990s after and love wearing it for all occasions, formal or casual.
In general, I personally like sticking to the cases from 32mm to 41mm and prefer a thinner case profile. While I do like straps, I enjoy the look of a bracelet watch. For my next pieces, I’m looking to add an evening watch and a black dial chronograph.
As someone who has worked in the industry, what does representation within the industry mean for you?
While I’ve had incredibly supportive teams and people in the industry help me along my career in watches, I think there's an opportunity to educate those who are interested in pursuing a career within watches about the different paths available to them. Unlike some other industries I’ve worked in (i.e. fashion), there’s not as much of a pipeline established for people, especially women, who want to build their careers. Even though there are many women executives and boutique directors at some of the most well-known brands, the circle of key leaders in the industry is still a fairly close-knit community. Because of this, it can be difficult for someone who is new and doesn’t come from a similar background to advance their careers beyond a certain level.
For the actual watches themselves, I think watches should be designed for people regardless of gender definitions surrounding “women’s” or “men’s” watches. As someone who is also passionate about cars, I enjoy that cars are designed with a certain set of features to appeal to people who may enjoy them, again, regardless of gender. I think there’s also benefit to having this approach applied to watchmaking and watch design where brands can design certain pieces with specific features that may appeal to all different audiences. I can wear a Royal Oak Offshore just as much as a man can wear a Serpenti if that’s what they like.
Any particular differences you’ve noticed in how women shop for watches?
Women are very discerning shoppers who often know what they’re looking for when it comes to their purchases, particularly luxury purchases. Whether it be a Kelly 32 in Togo leather, a 5-carat diamond, or a 40mm watch, women who are collectors of handbags, jewelry, and even watches tend to have a great idea of what works best for them. As some brands have started organizing their collections by case size, it’s become a more seamless shopping experience for women who are looking for a specific piece. This has made it easier for me to find exactly what I’m looking for whether it be a smaller cocktail watch or a bolder sports watch like a Panerai. I think online shopping has made the experience more open for everyone and has helped women fully explore all the options available to them.
Which brands do you feel are working to make the watch industry more inclusive for women?
With more watch brands allowing their customers to shop their collections by families of watches, it gives everyone a more democratized experience to look for watches that fit the aesthetic that works for them. Rolex and Cartier are two brands I can immediately think of that organize their collections in this way and make it easier to shop by movement, dial, and case size rather than the outdated “women’s” vs. “men’s” delineation.
Another brand that I think is doing a great job at representing women in the industry is Parmigiani Fleurier. Anne-Laure Parmigiani does a great job of upholding and continuing her father’s legacy in the watch world and has established herself as a critical figure in the Parmigiani family watchmaking business. I love that she also doesn’t outwardly advertise the fact that she’s a prominent female executive in the industry and instead, lets her influence and contributions speak for themselves.
Bonus Q&A: Are you an early bird or night owl?
Solid mid-morning bird!
Favorite childhood memory
Driving through Sedona, Arizona in the red rocks with my dad in a tiny sports car definitely not meant for rocky roads. Spending time with him in such a beautiful place is something I will never forget.
Moment in your life you're most proud of
Going to an event I helped plan at Lange. I was able to travel to SFO and be driven to Napa with my colleagues to see all of our hard work come together. We received positive feedback after the event and it was a big step in my career at the time.
I love a solid chronograph
Sports watch or dress watch?
Sport watch for sure!
Steel or precious metal?
I love two-tone but if I had to choose then I’d say steel
Watches on your wishlist?
Grail: Patek Philippe 5205G
Dress: Cartier Baignoire Allongée
In the (near) future: Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph