STOCKHOLM — Lydia Winters moved here from Florida in 2011 for a dream job in the video game industry: fun director for what is now the phenomenally successful game Minecraft. In 2021, she had decided to tackle another world also traditionally dominated by men: watchmaking.
His Instagram feed, @winters.watches, is a tribute to his growing collection of watches and has over 8,900 followers. He combines her love of photography – she was once a professional photographer – with a passion for watches.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to take pictures that I haven’t seen in the watch community; photos that feel very good to me,” she said in an interview that discussed her vision for the account, which features close-ups of watches from her 18-piece collection. “I wanted them to tell a story, and I wanted to take that approach almost like it’s a person, it’s a portrait, but of a watch.”
She models some of the watches herself, as if for a photoshoot in a fashion magazine, while other recent images feature the watches perched on volcanic rocks and nestled in arctic moss, backgrounds she found on a trip to Iceland.
Ms Winters, 34, now travels the world as head storyteller, what she calls a kind of brand evangelist for Minecraft, which is owned by Swedish game company Mojang Studios. The role finds Ms Winters, who said she was the first woman and first expat to join the company, interacting with some of the more than 141 million active players the game had in 2021.
She is also part of a growing international community of watch enthusiasts who use social media to express their love of watchmaking – and do so without fear of criticism, ridicule or harassment.
“This past year in particular, we’ve seen a huge shift because more and more women are joining the hobby,” wrote Kat Shoulders, who, along with Katlen Schmidt, hosts the Tennessee-based watch podcast Tenn & Two, in an email. “And I think we can all step up and support each other in ways that weren’t available before.
“We’re also not afraid to speak up if someone, male or female, is being bullied or talked about inappropriately on social media,” she added.
Ms Winters said traveling a lot for her job has allowed her to add international purchases to her watch collection and create exotic scenes for her photos, which she takes using one of her two cameras. Swedish Hasselblad medium format digital camera. (In February, the camera maker named her one of its Hasselblad Heroines, an award it gives annually to female photographers.)
She also uses the cameras to photograph watches in the house she shares in the countryside near Stockholm with her partner, Vu Bui, chief content officer of Mojang, who is also a watch collector and photographer.
To accompany her photographs, Ms. Winters uses her iPhone to create instructional images that show how she composed each shot. And she and Mr. Bui recently launched a YouTube channel, Winters & Bui, which digs deeper into the art of watch photography.
“The main thrust of it all has been to be creative,” Ms. Winters said. “And then to help inspire others in photography, which is why I take all the behind-the-scenes shots and post them with notes on how I did everything.”
She became a converted watchmaker in 2013, she said, when her Christmas present from Mr. Bui was what she considers her first “serious” watch: a rose-gold Cartier Tank Solo with a strap. brown leather.
“Then it was like, ‘Now I understand why you’re wearing a watch.’ I had worn fashion watches from time to time, and my parents loved watches, so I was next to the watch,” she said. “But wearing the Cartier was like – wow, I really feel something when it’s on me.”
“Growing up in Florida, my style was basketball shorts and t-shirts,” she said. “And now I have this watch that is so elegant and timeless, but also cool. And every time I put it on, I feel very privileged to be able to wear it.
Mrs. Winters thought the Cartier had satisfied her appetite for luxury watches, but soon Mr. Bui asked what his next watch would be. The answer to that question came a month later, when Mrs. Winters bought herself a Rolex Datejust.
Then, in the spring of 2020, as the two were locked down at the start of the pandemic, Mr. Bui suggested that he photograph his collection, which had grown to include a Tudor Mini-Sub purchased for a previous trip to Vietnam and an IWC Fliegerchronograph, purchased during a visit to Tokyo.
At first Ms Winters dismissed the idea, instead turning her camera to flowers in the lush surroundings of the couple’s home – until winter came and her subjects died. That’s when she started pointing her Hasselblads at the watches.
She had also started watching YouTube videos produced by German watch enthusiast Jenni Elle, and began corresponding with Ms. Shoulders and Ms. Schmidt, who then requested an interview for their podcast.
At this point, Mr. Bui encouraged Ms. Winters to go beyond just photography by posting them on Instagram.
“When Tenn & Two asked her to be a guest on their podcast, I resumed my constant nagging,” he wrote in an email. “I thought if she was going to be introduced to the watch community on a podcast, there should be a place where people could find her and interact with her.”
Ms Winters launched the account and said she was shocked at how quickly it gathered a following. She soon found herself making dozens of new watch-loving friends and chatting in WhatsApp groups with hundreds of collectors and enthusiasts around the world.
The camaraderie was a pleasant surprise – and a relief. As a woman who has faced discrimination in the gaming industry, Ms Winters said she expects to receive sexist or discriminatory remarks in the comments section of @winters.watches.
And while she acknowledges she has experienced some jingoism in the online watch world, she said she feels comfortable and supported as a social media influencer in a growing community of watch lovers.
“It wasn’t watches 10 years ago, when there were probably just a few women around who had to lead the way, that’s how I felt in the game,” she said. declared. “You feel like the community is big enough now. You can let your guard down.