Women's watches The ladies only watch club
Watchmaking has succumbed to a kind of de facto unisex-ness. If we ignore all the repurposed and prettied-up men’s watches, genuine women’s timepieces are a relatively rare breed. Here is a portrait of a very exclusive club.
What is a women’s watch? In days gone by, it was a watch designed for women. Today, it’s a watch bought by women. The difference is significant. Women have been buying men’s watches for a long time, and brands responded by launching men’s watch collections, for women. What this meant, by and large, was adding a bit of bling to the dial and the bracelet. So what happened to the watches designed solely for women? There are a few left.
Serpenti Tubogas 3 gold colours © Bulgari
The great men’s watch heist has been one of the main drivers of watch trends this century. Because women were borrowing their men’s watches, and then started buying the very same models, the chaps felt pressured into upping the testosterone levels. They started to go for bigger, chunkier timepieces whose virility could not be called into doubt, a trend that was particularly striking in sports watches.
Panthère de Cartier with triple tour strap © Cartier
Then, watch brands began extending their existing collections into a new in-between segment, by making a few subtle changes. You want a women’s watch? Nothing could be easier. Try this shortcut: choose a men’s watch, ideally one that’s neither too broad nor too deep, and add a bit of lipstick, a touch of eyeliner and a subtle dewy foundation. Or, translated into watch-speak: a mother-of-pearl dial, a diamond bezel and a white or pearl grey satin strap. Precious metals entirely optional. One side benefit of this approach is that they provide an introduction to mechanical movements, something that women don’t always gravitate towards naturally.
L'Allegra by de Grisogono © WorldTempus/David Chokron
But these are all exercises in repurposing, refitting, remodelling. There are hundreds of these watches that could be, or are, worn by men but in fact are worn by women! Even the smallest diameter timepieces have male customers in China, Japan, and even in the Old Continent, where 34 mm isn’t necessarily considered girly. They’re everywhere, their unisex styling often accompanied by safe, complacent design choices. And that explains the ubiquity of these gender-fluid styles, with their middle-of-the-road appeal, specifically designed not to lose sales. Engineered to please everyone, which is to say, often pleasing no one.
Cat's Eye Celestial © Girard-Perregaux
But it’s time to get off the fence and make a statement. While some watches easily navigate the gender gap, however blurred it may have become, there remains a legitimate place for uniquely feminine creations.
Promesse © Baume & Mercier
It’s not just a question of diameter, although that can be a factor. It’s a matter of style. The same phenomenon applies in the clothing sector. A pantsuit is not the same thing as a suit. Shorties are not the same as boxers. A down jacket that looks sharply fitted on a man would not suit a slender-waisted woman.
Code Coco © Chanel
These watches are often the work of jewellery companies, or watchmakers with a strong jewellery tradition. They are the Hortensia by Chaumet. Chopard’s Impériale. Code Coco or Première by Chanel. Cartier’s Panthère, Baignoire or Ballon Blanc. For Bulgari, it means Lucea or Diva. Allegra and so many more by De Grisogono. They are often set with jewels, always available in gold or, sometimes, steel. They are often smaller in size, but that’s a relatively recent fashion choice.
Longines Symphonette © Longines
Watch brands too have produced creations for women, without a thought for men. Baume & Mercier’s Promesse. The Cat’s Eye by Girard-Perregaux. Symphonette from Longines. While masculinity dictates many of the canons of contemporary watchmaking, it is possible to sidestep these aesthetic codes with the creative use of different colours, materials and dimensions.
Hortensia © Chaumet
The Baume & Mercier watchmaking Maison has always had powerful emotional and celebratory connotations, while expressing watchmaking excellence in all its creations. Since 1830, it has embodied a...Find out more >
Bulgari has its own clear definition of excellence, which involves the perfect balance between design, added-value, quality of its products and its worldwide service. In the case of Bulgari...Find out more >
Characterised by audacity and inventiveness, Cartier’s watchmaking history reflects a unique state of mind: “jeweller of kings and king of jewellers”. Its renown is bound up in the tradition of...Find out more >
Through her life, Gabrielle Chanel embodied strength, character and a fierce desire for independence. Maison CHANEL, avant-garde and constantly innovative, has come down through the decades to...Find out more >
Maison Chopard epitomises the alliance between watchmaking and jewellery. It has always known how to meet the expectations of its day, relying on four essential values: expertise, tradition,...Find out more >
Keen to develop technical timepieces with a refined and distinctive aesthetic appearance, in less than twenty years de GRISOGONO has successfully carved out a niche in the world of watchmaking. Its...Find out more >
Ever since 1791, Girard-Perregaux has been pursuing its course in the best tradition of Fine Watchmaking. The Maison’s history has been characterised by legendary timepieces that combine...Find out more >
Based in St. Imier since 1832, Longines has a long tradition in watchmaking, characterised by the elegance of its watches. Using expertise gained as the company has evolved, Longines has gradually...Find out more >