Diamonds are definitely a girl’s best friend, but a watch may be her best investment. Kristen Shirley recognizes that the world of watches is one shrouded in mystery and filled with machismo that makes buying a watch daunting if you’re new to the game. Shirley, an ELLE alum and industry veteran, set out to lift the curtain on watches and their storied past with the Watch Encyclopedia on her new digital platform, La Patiala.
For the uninitiated, La Patiala is a go-to resource and encyclopedia of all things luxury, from how to shuck an oyster, which bottle of champagne to give as a gift, where to travel in Napa Valley, and, yes, how to buy a watch. The Watch Encyclopedia is a collection of 50 articles debunking every watch brand myth out there, with instructions for where to spend your money, what mistakes to avoid when making your first big purchase, and everything in between.
With over 20 years in the industry, Shirley is indeed a trusted source of knowledge for the complicated world of watches, which are not only a utilitarian purchase—they’re investment pieces that stand the test of trends and time (no pun intended). Ahead of the holiday season, we spoke with Shirley about the Watch Encyclopedia, her dream timepiece, and the styles she thinks you should gift (or ask for) this year.
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Why do watches make the best gift?
Watches have been a traditional gift for special occasions and memorable moments for decades—and for good reason. Watch design hasn’t changed significantly—a classic dress watch from the 1950s has a similar look to a contemporary dress watch. So even though watches can be expensive, you know you’re giving them a gift that will last a long time and will remain stylish, no matter what the fashion trends are. People also wear their watches a lot and look at them frequently throughout the day, so they will be reminded of you every time they check the time.
What’s your favorite watch that you own? You must own a lot of them.
My favorite is my Bulgari Serpenti Tubogas watch. As a former fashion editor, I am drawn to its distinctive design. It really does look like a snake wrapping around your wrist, and it’s so fabulous. It stops people in their tracks when they see it, and you don’t see a lot of people wearing one, so you stand out from the crowd. I have the double wrap, which makes a really strong statement.
What’s the number one watch on your wish list?
Honestly, there are too many to count! I’ve always loved Dior’s Grand Bal watches. Automatic watches usually have a rotor (a semi-circular weight) on the back of the watch movement that winds the watch as you wear it. Dior took the unusual approach of putting the rotor on the front of the watch and decorating it using different métiers d’art, including feathers, diamonds, and engraved gold. I love how it twirls above the dial as you move. My favorite is the Dior Grand Bal Plume with brilliantly covered feathers. It’s the perfect combination of style and high horology.
What prompted you to launch La Patiala and the Watch Encyclopedia?
I started my career as a fashion assistant at ELLE, and by the time I left, I had an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion designers. In my next job, I started to cover more categories, and I was astounded by how difficult it was to earn about watches. They were so technical, and there wasn’t a resource that could teach me everything I needed to know. Most of the websites focused on watch news and were geared towards enthusiasts and collectors who already knew a lot about watches. I had to learn the hard way—asking a million questions and doing copious amounts of research.
After close to a decade covering watches, I wanted to share the knowledge I had accumulated and make watches accessible to those who appreciate craftsmanship and design. After all, watches can be extremely stylish. The Watch Encyclopedia includes everything from a glossary of watch terms to movement basics and a breakdown of the main types of watches and complications.
I know women who collect jewelry and handbags, but are scared of timepieces. I wanted to strip away all the fear and intimidation surrounding learning about watches and make it approachable to everyone. And even if you’re not interested in watches but spend a lot of time with someone who is, you can quickly learn the basics and know what they’re talking about.