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
Kelly San Martin is a collector from Colombia who now lives in New York City. She was one of the first few Complecto members and you’ll often find her actively engaging with fellow watch enthusiasts in the community. Her love of colorful dive watches and diverse collection shows that any watch can be worn by a woman so long as they enjoy it and it’s comfortable on her wrist. In her spare time, Kelly also loves to travel and explore new places.
* Responses below have been edited and condensed *
How did you get interested in watches?
I don’t necessarily have a specific moment in my life when I discovered that I loved watches, but my first memory of a watch is receiving a Casio Rainbow when I was very young in the 1990s. After I got it, I wore it everywhere and it kicked off my interest in watches. In old family pictures, you’ll usually find me wearing a watch of some sort because I always wore one growing up.
Although I now have a variety of different watches, I started out with mainly quartz ones because they were accessible and available in Colombia, where I’m from. If I recall correctly, I believe I only had one automatic piece in the first few watches I brought with me when I moved to the US.
When I first started collecting, I was also mainly focused on time-only watches where I could easily tell the time and watches that caught my eye aesthetically, whether it be the dial, strap, or design. While I initially wasn’t drawn to complications, I really began to appreciate the complexity of the movements and the intricacies of a watch’s design after meeting fellow watch enthusiasts and learning from them.
Are there any types of watches you particularly love?
Overall, my watch collection is, I would say, fairly eclectic so you’ll find everything from a more formal, dressy piece to a casual, 70’s inspired gold watch. I do, however, particularly love dive watches and most of the watches in my collection are dive watches.
To me, a dive watch is a piece that is universally wearable and versatile. I can choose whether I want to wear it on a strap or a bracelet and have fun with the color pairings with a strap. The dial and bezel also often come in bright colors, which I love. Most importantly, I can wear a dive watch just as easily on a beach vacation as I can in the office. It’s a great everyday watch that I don’t have to worry about babying it or being too careful with it. Personally, I also think a dive watch looks so good on a woman’s wrist because of its larger wrist presence. They make for a cool, sexy look that doesn’t fall within the traditional (and frankly outdated) definition of what people think a woman’s watch is.
How has your collecting journey evolved over time?
Up until this year, I felt like I was more spontaneous in the way I bought my watches. If something was within my budget and I liked it, I would likely get it, but this year I’m looking to change that approach. For 2023, I’m trying to be much more intentional about selecting the watches I want to add to my collection and am willing to wait to get the pieces I really want.
I’m also trying to give myself the opportunity to buy nicer watches without feeling a lot of guilt. Sometimes when I want to get a new watch, I think about how I could be spending the money on a vacation or putting it towards my investments, but ultimately I know that I will be enjoying these pieces and wearing them for many years to come. While it’s nice to know that watches do hold their value, I don’t really track the secondary market prices since I don’t see my watches as a monetary investment, but rather a well-built tool that will be with me for many years.
In your opinion, what are some ways brands can make watches more inclusive for women?
Overall, I think brands can be more inclusive in their marketing campaigns and in the way they position the watches in their collections. There’s an outdated assumption that we as women want smaller watches that are pink, bedazzled in diamonds, and have a quartz movement. As a result, many stores have traditionally set up their stores in a way where the “women’s” collection is in a separate section and does not have a lot of variety. In reality, women who collect watches have diverse tastes and preferences, which are often very different from the watches currently being marketed towards women. I also see campaigns highlighting the functionality of certain watches and how they’re made for the “everyday man” but what about us women? We also love functional, practical watches for everyday wear as well.
Brands can also be more inclusive by removing gender designations from their offerings. These archaic stereotypes of “men’s” and “women’s” watches often alienate many audiences, from men who may want to wear smaller, gem-set pieces to women who only want to wear large sporty models. These labels also don’t provide any meaningful guidance during the shopping experience for me personally, and I can imagine other women potentially feeling the same way. For example, I like to wear larger watches so I’ll typically go to the “men’s watches” page on a brand’s site or case in a store since that’s where I know I’ll be able to find something that suits me. Whether they’re attracted to the complications, materials, or design, people can decide what watches are right for them and how they want to wear them.
Any brands that come to mind that do a great job of being inclusive of female watch enthusiasts?
My personal experience with Brew Watches was a great example of how a brand actively speaks to and builds relationships with female watch collectors in the community. When the Metric Gold chronograph was released, I fell in love with it and wanted to see some additional pictures of a watch before I made my purchase. I generally like to see a watch on a woman’s wrist in product photos since it’ll help me get a better sense of how it might wear on me so I reached out to John. He sent me photos of a woman wearing the Metric Gold and was incredibly helpful throughout the entire conversation. I love that he made the conscious decision to market his watches to everyone, rather than specifically for men or women.
Are you an early bird or night owl?
Definitely a night owl!
Moment you're most proud of
Graduating debt-free from college and getting accepted/graduating from NYU with my masters
When do you feel most like yourself?
When I’m wearing a nice pair of shoes and my hair is done or when I’m on vacation
Sports watch or dress watch?
One that’s right in between and works for all occasions
Steel or precious metal?
Watches on your wishlist?
Trilobe Nuit Fantastique
Cartier Tank Française