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
Charity Mhende is an NYC-based watch collector and experienced professional in the tech industry who is originally from the UK. For a few years, she also was a YouTube content creator that covered career development for millennials. Charity’s watches complement her impeccable style, which has had a key influence in how she’s approached watch collecting. Although she is still in the earlier stages of her journey into the watch world, she’s quickly become incredibly knowledgeable about the space and continues to share her passion with her fellow collectors.
* Responses below have been edited and condensed *
How did you get into watches?
My interest in watch collecting was a happy accident that developed from a friend’s passion. My friend loved watches and that inspired me to learn more about them as well. I studied history in university so I enjoyed learning about the history and heritage behind watch brands and their timepieces. As a former YouTube content creator, I naturally looked to YouTube to educate myself on all things watches and found a number of watch content creators like Jenni Elle (@jenni_elle_ on IG), Britt Pearce (@watchgringa on IG), Teddy Baldassare, and Theo & Harris.
After learning a lot of information through these YouTube videos, I wanted to find opportunities to see watches in person and meet fellow watch enthusiasts in the community. A friend and I both ended up getting tickets to WatchTime New York in October where I got introduced to many community groups like Complecto, propelling me further into the watch world.
How do you curate your personal style and how do watches fit into it?
Over the last few years, I’ve embraced a coordinated, monochrome aesthetic that is both comfortable and versatile. In terms of my wardrobe, I have an affinity towards neutral color tones and monochrome black outfits whether it be for formal or casual occasions. Outside of watches, I also absolutely love incorporating jewelry into my looks from rings to bracelets to necklaces. Specifically for rings, you’ll always find me with bolder designs whereas my other jewelry choices like necklaces may be more subtle. Almost all of my jewelry pieces are also from women-owned businesses and friends who have founded their own jewelry brands in the UK.
Since I’m at the start of my collecting journey, I am still building my watch collection based on my personal style. For example, I bought a two-tone Movado as my first watch so it could pair well with my gold and silver jewelry. In addition, I want something that slightly elevates my look but is still comfortable to wear. I generally like to build my collection slowly and love watches that embody understated luxury. My first big purchase was a Rolex Cellini because it was a Rolex that doesn’t loudly say “it’s a Rolex”.
Any watches with a personal story?
One of my favorite watches I had actually didn’t come from a well-known watch brand. I had a watch with a world map dial and an airplane on the second hand that I really loved and wore on a family trip to Disney. I love to travel and still travel often and this watch perfectly captures my wanderlust. Unfortunately it broke a few years ago so I’m not able to wear it now, but it will always hold a special place in my heart because of the role it played both in my travels and my journey as a watch enthusiast.
What are your thoughts on the representation of women within the watch world?
From my research on the history of watches, it seems that women’s watches were originally designed as jewelry and functionality wasn’t necessarily a huge focus for these pieces. Historically, men’s watches were designed and marketed with high complications whereas the women’s pieces were marketed purely for their aesthetics.
As the gender gap has narrowed, this approach hasn’t changed much, but brands are definitely starting to catch on to the fact that there’s a large group of female watch enthusiasts and collectors who are serious about expanding their knowledge and collections. Their recent partnerships with brand ambassadors and strategy for marketing campaigns is a step in the right direction when it comes to speaking to us women in the community. Richard Mille’s latest campaign featuring many accomplished women in their new pieces did a great job of representing the diversity among women as well. For the everyday woman wearing a watch, it’s great to see athletes, business women, tech stars, and more getting represented in the watch world.
How can watch brands be more inclusive of people of color?
Personally, I look at representation within the watch industry through the lens of the Black experience and brands working with prominent figures such as Lewis Hamilton for IWC, Serena Williams for Audemars Piguet, and Giannis Antetokounmpo for Breitling is a great step in the right direction. From the Billionaire Boys Club collaboration with Jacob & Co. to Jay Z and Kevin Hart being ambassadors for some of the biggest watch brands, Black people have been able to learn about these brands and be represented in the watch community. To more actively engage people of color, I think brands should work with watch community groups and create integrated cross-platform marketing campaigns with people of color who are representative of those in watch collector circles.
As someone who feels very passionate about career representation as well, I think that brands can be more inclusive by educating and making positions within the watch industry more accessible to people who are interested in pursuing a career in watches. The average person may not know that being a watchmaker could be a great career option if they enjoy working with the movements of a watch. Even if I myself wanted to work for a brand or retailer, I wouldn’t know what types of roles are available to me. Making these career options known can inspire people who will want to continue to learn and spread their knowledge of watches as well, which will ultimately break down barriers and make everyone’s experience in the watch community all the more rich.
How can the watch industry be more inclusive of women?
It’s empowering to see more easily accessible knowledge being developed for female watch enthusiasts to consume and learn. As women we’re accomplished in our careers, in motherhood, and more so it’s great to see content that reflects our taste in watches and speaks to us as serious collectors. From a brand partnership perspective, you have Serena Williams rocking an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Jennifer Anniston with her Day Date, which definitely inspires women to wear bolder statement pieces. At the same time, Jenni Elle is a great example of a serious female collector who has so much knowledge about watches but still loves to wear pieces that are perceived as more feminine. At the end of the day, I think inclusion in the watch community means that people can wear whatever makes them happy and share their voices and stories.
Although the watch world may currently be male-dominated, I think men can also empower their partners by helping educate them about their watches if they’re new to collecting. This way, men can help change the outdated stereotype that women may not have much to contribute to watch-related conversations. I think this can also help women be perceived as more than a mere observer during these conversations at watch meetups.
Are you an early bird or night owl?
Moment in your life you're most proud of
Most proud of moving to America in 2015, having never visited the country before. Many years later, I’m still standing and thriving!
Favorite memory from your travels
I recently celebrated my birthday in Jamaica with my friends and had the most beautiful day. We enjoyed bamboo rafting, a very serene beachside massage, and rooftop dinner with an ocean view. Absolute heaven.
Dual time because I travel a lot, but also I love a day-date complication. Call me old school, but the idea of having an at-a-glance view of the date and time outside of my phone in this day and age is pretty neat.
Sports watch or dress watch?
Steel or precious metal?
Watches on your wishlist?
Breguet Reine De Naples Automatic Mini Breitling Navitimer Automatic 41 (in the green or white dial) A. Lange & Söhne Little Lange 1 182.086
A Breguet Reine de Naples and a Breitling Navitimer with a green dial