In Collectors Among Us, we highlight some of our favorite watch collectors — and friends — and hear about their collecting journeys. In this week’s episode, we welcome Dana Li.
Founder of online watch-centric publication Tell The Time, which speaks to female collectors about watches, Dana Li reawakened a dormant childhood interest in horology upon inheriting her grandfather’s watch. Join us as she discusses her publication, her grail watches, vintage vs. modern, and more.
What do you do?
I run an online publication dedicated to talking about watches and creating a resource that speaks to women about watches — it’s called Tell The Time. My goal with this is to create something comprehensive for women who are interested in watches or women who might not know a lot about the community. And to create something that they can go to to find information on trends, watches themselves, and just learn about the world in general.
When and how did you go down the horological rabbit hole?
I’ve always really liked watches since I was a kid, but I think really when I first fell into it was, I think, like five or six years ago now. I inherited my grandpa’s watch and I was trying to find out everything about it — where it came from, why it looked the way it did, and just more information in general. And through that I fell into the world of vintage Rolex. And from there it kind of just spurred off a bunch of different paths and it just started this desire to learn more about everything. And I feel like with watches in general there’s never a shortage of things to learn about, which is always really nice.
What’s your grail watch?
I don’t know the reference number for it, but it’s the AP Royal Oak in yellow gold with the “Yves Klein” time-only dial in blue. That’s my, you know, “If I ‘make it’ one day…” That’s going to be my “I’ve made it” watch.
What’s the next purchase on your list?
I honestly don’t have anything super immediate right now. I’ve been looking into some vintage pieces. Like, I’ve thought about probably some Cartier. As much as I want to go modern, sometimes I lean towards vintage. Not sure which one yet — I’m still kind of feeling it out — but I’d say that’s one brand that’s on my list.
Do you prefer vintage or modern watches, and why?
I’m biased and I say vintage, because that’s where I started. But also I personally prefer vintage over modern because I think you get more variety with the design styles. You get a lot of things that you don’t necessarily see now, and they’ve kind of lived their lives, so you see more character. Even if two people own the same watch it could look completely different because they’ve lived through many different things. And I think back in those days brands were just pushing the design envelope more. They weren’t afraid to experiment, so you get all of these really cool configurations that you might not see today in a modern collection.
What’s more important to you — design or functionality — and why?
I would say for the most part design. Sometimes functionality matters a little bit. Like, if I’m traveling or I’m going somewhere and I don’t want to look at my phone for a weekend then obviously I do care a little bit more about functionality. But I still think design because I see watches as an extension of myself and my style. So design for me is probably the thing that’s most important when I look for a watch.
Do you build your outfits around your watch, or do you choose the watch to go with your outfits?
Both — and it depends on the day. Some days I have an outfit in my head that I know I really want to wear and then I’m like, “Okay I need to find the watch that fits it.” But sometimes if I haven’t worn a watch in a while or something, or if I feel like I’m in more of a dress watch versus a sports watch mood, then I’ll style my outfit according to that.
You chose three watches from Analog:Shift’s collection to wear for our photo shoot. Which did you spring for, and why?
So I chose the walnut dial Rolex Day-Date, the AP Royal Oak in stainless steel, and an Omega Speedmaster. For the Day-Date, I just really like the warm gold tones — it reminds me of summer and warm tropical weather. I also think there’s something about yellow gold that just shines so well. And I personally like yellow gold for my jewelry, so it was kind of an easy thing that caught my eye the second I saw it.
Rolex Day-Date 'Walnut' Ref.18238
For the AP Royal Oak, I’ve always really liked the design. You have so many sharp lines on it, and that silhouette of the case — it just makes for a really bold watch that’s somehow really subtle and can fly under the radar, under your cuff, or anything like that.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref.14790ST - In The Shop
For the Speedmaster, that one is just very classic, and I feel like if it’s something that I want to wear a little more casually — like if I’m going on a hike — I feel like that’s kind of the watch for me to have. And it just has that edgy look, especially when you pair it with the right straps. So yeah — it’s an absolute classic.