Journal / Read

Sonya Yu on the Magic of Analog Experiences

In Bezel's exclusive interview, we sit down with the creative, coach, and strategist to explore her introduction to the world of watch collecting, her love of analog experiences, plus the most prized watches in her growing collection.


Team Bezel

June 16, 2023


7 min read

Sonya Yu is a creative with roots in the art, fashion, startup and branding worlds. As the founder of Four One Nine – a creative ecosystem focused on cultivating culture and artists in San Francisco – Sonya nurtures local creative communities and ignites positive social change by championing artists and their visions. 

In Bezel's exclusive interview, we sit down with the innovator, coach, and strategist to explore her introduction to the world of watch collecting, her love of analog experiences, plus the most prized watches in her growing collection.

In Conversation with Sonya Yu

Bezel: How did you get into watches? 

SY: My love of watches and all things analog started with my dad. He was an avid watch collector, who even had a unique ritual he used to select a piece. He taught me that every watch holds a story, a sentiment, and a significance that extends beyond its functional purpose alone, and pulls us back to the present moment. I developed a deep sense of appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into creating a timepiece. It’s all so romantic and complex, almost like creating an entire universe that you wear on your body.

Bezel: Were there any other analog proponents amongst those closest to you? 

SY: Absolutely. My love for analog experiences was further shaped by my grandfather's passion for making instruments, along with his extensive collection of vinyl records. There’s something that’s so satisfying and tangible in the experience of listening to music on vinyl, and it’s something that digital formats simply cannot replicate. You really can hear the attention and care that went into creating every record. 

I feel the same way about watches. When you buy a watch, you create a relationship with the watchmaker, and I think that’s really beautiful. Watches are worn so close to our hearts, and it serves as a way to dispel the siren song of convenience and speed that often takes precedence in today’s world. My love for watches and analog experiences reminds me to slow down, appreciate the finer details, and find magic in the world around me.

Bezel: What was your first watch and what’s the story behind it? 

SY: My first watch was my Rolex GMT-Master “Pepsi”. I was on the hunt for something that really represented the GMT’s history as I scoured vintage shops across Europe. I stumbled on a shop of a reputable dealer, told him what I was looking for, and he brought out a GMT that he had planned on keeping for himself – I fell in love at first sight.

Bezel: What about that particular example spoke to you as a collector? 

SY:  It’s a gilt dial reference 1675 from the early 60s – I appreciated how it still had all of its original parts, including the radioactive luminous applications. It’s such an incredible representation of where watchmaking was at the time, and the amalgamation of history and dedication to watchmaking just made my heart flutter. The hunt for this piece was also so invigorating. I was on foot the entire time, which just made it an entire experience and built a story around it, making this piece that much more special to me.

Bezel: What’s your favorite watch in your collection? 

SY: My favorite has to be my 1988 Rolex Day Date with an Onyx dial. It beautifully blends my love of everything vintage with gemstones and crystals, which is so in line with my California mindset. It’s developed a slight patina already, which I know I’m adding to when I wear it, but I’m so fascinated with how watches react to wear, ultimately telling our stories.

Bezel: After Rolex, which other watchmakers have captured your attention? 

SY:  I've always loved the DNA-makers in any craft, like Gerald Genta, so watchmakers like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet will always have a special place in my heart. Grand Seiko has been, and continues to be, producing understated but incredible designs that add flair to the traditional brands. G-Shock, especially with their recent Yohji Yamamoto collab, gives my inner child joy. I also love the Bulgari Serpenti which melds my love of snakes, jewelry, and watchmaking. 

Bezel: Can you share 3 must-have watches listed on Bezel right now?

SY: These three have definitely captured my attention as of late:

Rolex Milgauss "Z-Blue"

Hermès H08 Limited Edition for HODINKEE

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-014

Bezel: Why do you continue to enjoy collecting watches? 

SY: Collecting is a modality of personal expression, and my watches are most definitely a reflection of myself. They require thoughtfulness and attention to detail when it comes to how I wear and style them. Even just by glancing down at my watch, I’m pulled back into the present moment. I’m not distracted by digital devices that pull me out of the present, I’m fully in the moment in time. Timepieces continue to inspire me to include more analog moments in my day, whether it’s how I make my coffee or how I listen to music, I am always looking for ways to stay present.

Bezel: Watch collecting can definitely prove to be quite the test of patience, as well. 

SY: Absolutely, but I love the thrill of the hunt, and I’m always willing to wait for the right one and get exactly what I want. Plus I love being able to dive into the details researching the pieces I want, and really nerding out. I’ve always been drawn to the process of educating myself on whatever it is I’m after, being able to speak to its significance intelligently, and understanding the history behind the craft. It’s my philosophy for collecting anything - art, sneakers, watches - my collection should feel like a representation of me, not just “one of everything” or putting another grail in my collection. 

All the little decisions I make when it comes to looking for my next piece stem from my hunger to learn more. I wholly understand that it’s a privilege to have access to delve into the history and the process of collecting timepieces, and I didn’t grow up with access to this kind of learning. Now that I have learned so much, I’m eager to share what I know and make sure that my collection reflects my personality and style while honoring the history behind the craft. My philosophy of collecting always comes down to the process, not the outcome.

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- Isaac Wingold, Senior Editor


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