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Women in Watches: An Auction House Veteran Turned Vintage Dealer, Kate Lacey

by Dana Li

The Women in Watches series aims to share the stories of female watch enthusiasts, artisans, and industry professionals that are making great contributions to watchmaking, the watch industry, and collector communities.

Kate Lacey is no stranger to the watch world, having nearly 20 years of experience working with some of the most prominent global auction houses. In 2021, she launched her own business, The Shrew Shop, where she works with clients to source vintage timepieces leveraging her established network within the industry. In this edition of Women in Watches, Lacey shares her story and experiences as a female vintage watch dealer.

Kate Lacey - The Shrew Shop
Source: Kate Lacey

Responses below are directly from Kate Lacey.

How did you get into the watch industry?

I used to restore furniture so I always had an interest in vintage and antique pieces of any description . However, I always wanted to be involved in auctions from a young age - so applied for what I thought was a temporary position in the Bonham's Clocks and Watches department and was hooked thereafter. I worked my way up to be head of department over 8 years, then moved on to Phillips Watches, then Sotheby's - all in I think I've been in the industry about 20 years now. 

What inspired you to start The Shrew Shop?

I just felt that there was some room for a knowledgeable female dealer. I don't just mean in terms of what people are offering as such, because there is plenty out there to choose from, but there's no getting away from the fact that there are fewer female voices, perhaps with a different eye. I know from personal experience that I sometimes prefer dealing with a female for some things and used to find the watch world a little intimidating.

Can you share a little bit about your day to day as a vintage watch dealer?

It depends on many things and each day varies. Some days are made of meeting clients and showing them pieces (I work from a website and I appreciate that people need to try things on before they purchase sometimes and have questions). Some days are made up of admin jobs such as getting watches serviced, and a lot of time is spent on the phone trying to find pieces to sell. I'm fortunate that most of my stock is from people I know and trust, but often from word of mouth. It's also important to keep up with the auction prices if I can.

When you're curating the selection for The Shrew Shop, what are you looking for in the watches you select?

I try to keep a track on trends of course, but I also love to find things that I'd wear myself on a daily basis. I think there is a lot of demand for the rarest pieces, but very often I am asked for good quality classics such as Cartier Tanks, Rolex Datejusts and the like. I turn a lot away if I don't think it's good value for money for buyers, or if it isn't something myself wouldn't wear. 

Vintage Must Cartier Tank
Source: The Shrew Shop

Are there any emerging trends within the vintage watch market that you're seeing?

Hard stone dials are very popular at the moment, as well as a bit more interest in neo vintage pieces - Piaget for example, vintage Bulgari, and of course, vintage Cartier. Unusual case designs and a lot more mixed metals are super popular at the moment for men and women both. But I love that buyers are into more and more unusual pieces these days.

Is there anything you would like to see more of in the watch industry? 

I really had to think about this.  I didn't want to use the usual gender gap adage, but this is still around unfortunately. We're seeing a few more female CEOs, of course, which is still so unusual that they still hit the press! From my personal perspective, I'd like to see more females buying watches of course, and it would be great to see more women buying and trusting the preowned market. This takes time of course, and just goes to show that there is work to be done in this sector for women to feel confident buying watches from the secondary market.  But also I think women will buy more watches when manufacturers finally come up with the magic formula. As Brynn Wallner so rightly put it, we are going to continue to wear men's and unisex watches, but we do deserve more 'intentional designs' just for us and not just with a load of diamonds slapped all over them.


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