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Women's watches - The ladies only watch club

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.

The ladies only watch club

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.

The ladies only watch club

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.

The ladies only watch club

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.

The ladies only watch club

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.

The ladies only watch club

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.

The ladies only watch club

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.

The ladies only watch club

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.

The ladies only watch club

Hortensia © Chaumet

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