Midtown Forever with Dimepiece’s Brynn Wallner
The Black Rock building is a weird place. A gloomy, grey, 38-story monolith plonked right in New York’s Midtown. A perfectly rectangular amalgamation of dark concrete, polished glass and bad vibes. The only skyscraper built by the Finnish-American starchitect and furniture designer Eero Saarinen, it represents a strange and specific period of American ambition and endeavour — now well-faded. Power suits and power lunches replaced by direct-to-consumer chinos, North Face backpacks and a particularly melancholy Starbucks stuffed into a dim corner of the lobby.
“This is where capitalism is born and bred," says Brynn Wallner, smiling broadly in a corner of the building’s buffed marble reception. She throws her hands in the air, “New York City, baby!”
A sense of humour and a sense of timing has seen Wallner turn that staid and very male symbol of luxury and success — the watch, into a fun, accessible and (please forgive me) disruptive platform. Dimepiece started off as a pandemic project, an Instagram account and then a website dedicated to cool women wearing cool watches. Sounds simple, but no one had done it before. The tone is irreverent, the photos are flash-heavy, grainy and glamorous. It’s a resource, moodboard and, perhaps most importantly, there are zero top-down photos of hairy wrists.
In the world of Swiss watchmaking, where new ’novelties’ are discussed in a manner comparable to a breakthrough for Type 1 diabetes, cold fusion, or baldness, and minuscule adjustment to a case, face or bracelet can cause an uproar, women’s watches are often relegated to an afterthought — tiny, sparkly pieces of delicate jewellery for bored husbands to give to bored wives.
“I noticed that there was a total gap in the narrative,” says Wallner who, before going all in on Dimepiece, was working for the auction house Sotheby’s, writing editorials about rare art and antiques. “The watches department wanted me to create some content, but the only watch brand I knew at the time was Rolex. I said, ‘I’m not the girl for you!’ I was YouTubing how to pronounce Audemars Piguet, I felt so in over my head.”
On 23rd of March, 2020, the day that New York officially shut down, Wallner was let go from Sotheby’s. “I was sobbing in the HR office,” she says, now laughing at the memory of it all. “I was like, ‘I’m going to die!!’ I’m losing my health insurance!’ But then I had three months to reprioritise. I had really enjoyed writing about watches, and felt immediately inclined to them, but I wondered why I hand’t been into them before? Then it hit me that watch brands just weren’t marketing to women right.”
“I started the Instagram account and it snowballed,” she adds. "Every industry under the sun has been disrupted, but not one of the wealthiest public-facing ones? I was shocked that no one had come in before me.”
Dimepiece has made Wallner something of a star in the watch world. She appears on panels, regularly gets flown to Switzerland and partners with the Big Names, but it wasn’t until a year after starting the platform that she bought her own luxury dimepiece, a stainless steel Cartier Tank, which she flashes proudly. “It was a real American Dream moment. I got my little platform, now I can buy myself a watch. Girl power!”
Outside the sun is beginning to drop behind the glass and steel, casting a blue-ish hue over the wide streets. Men in AirPods and jumpers begin to file down from the offices above. At one point we’re chased off by a glum security guard, who apparently doesn’t appreciate the aesthetic of flash photography… his loss.
“I could have asked for us to meet downtown,” says Wallner, who lives in the East Village. “But around here is this surreal grey area that represents New York's shameless rat race and all the ensuing disparity.”
“There's a consistency here,” she adds. “If you can overlook the salad chains, you'll feel the same churn that captivated, I imagine, those who built this city up.”