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Editorial - Same But Different

Editorial Same But Different

Making progress can be a slow process…

Tomorrow, as you all know, is International Women’s Day. Or maybe you didn’t know it, but now you do. As a woman who loves watches and literally changed her life by moving halfway around the world to be closer to the watch industry, I’ve always had a deep sense of how unbalanced the watch world is in all things related to women, whether in terms of leadership or products on offer to the feminine side of the consumer market. Every year, I ask myself, have things improved for us over the last 12 months?

The answer is the same every year: Yes, but not as much as I would like. Look, I’m not crazy. I’m idealistic, but I also have a solid understanding that my personal vision of gender equality is a long way from becoming a reality. It probably won’t happen within my professional lifetime, perhaps not even within my biological lifetime. Then you might justifiably ask, So what is this crazy unattainable vision of egalitarianism that you cherish so ardently, Suzanne?

I’m glad you asked! I do have three benchmarks in mind, and I think at least one of them might surprise you.

1) To see equal representation of women across the industry, especially in areas traditionally considered “men’s domains” — such as executive leadership, product development and sales

2) To see more companies offering watches that reach into the feminine side of the product spectrum, in the same proportions and with the same level of creativity and innovation that they give to so-called men’s watches

3) For men to feel as comfortable wearing feminine watches as women do wearing masculine watches

Is that third benchmark making you wonder? It shouldn’t. People think that feminism is all about empowering women; people who hold mistaken ideas about feminism think that feminists want to take things away from men. They couldn’t be more wrong. Feminism is about empowering women, yes of course it is, but that’s just one part of it. There are so many interpretations of feminism that it would be wrong of me to insist that mine is the one and only correct vision, but I believe it’s safe to say that feminism is about liberating men as much as it is about empowering women. 

Why don’t more men wear feminine watches? Is it because traditional women’s watches are qualitatively inferior to traditional men’s watches? Yes. This isn’t even a debate. There are exceptional feminine watches, obviously. Beautifully designed, innovative movements, all that. But they are vastly outnumbered by so-called men’s watches that are more complicated, more prestigious, and generally higher up in the hierarchy of watchmaking. There is also a lot of cultural and social discomfort around the idea of men expressing themselves in ways considered to be feminine, whether it’s the watch they wear or the jobs they hold. A male doctor wearing a Patek Philippe Nautilus is an admired figure. A male nurse wearing a Chopard Happy Sport is an object of ridicule. I don’t think I need to point out how problematic this is.

Same But Different

Royal Oak Frosted Gold © Audemars Piguet

This is why I hold such great appreciation for brands such as Audemars Piguet, Hublot and Richard Mille — because their feminine product offerings are often as strong as their more masculine products. What’s more, they appeal equally across all gender divisions. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these brands are also among the top watch brands of today. 

There is an article in the last issue of Lady by GMT, by our beloved Sophie Furley, where she asked a few men of renown and reputation in our industry what traditionally feminine watch they’d secretly love to wear if they had the chance. I love this article, I’ve said it multiple times before. What I’d love even more is if it didn’t have to be a secret. I wish every man out there could openly wear whatever feminine watch he likes. Because that would mean that finally we have the range of qualitative, desirable timepieces that the female consumer really deserves.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had long ago with a friend — 10 years ago now, in fact. His name is Michel Navas, watchmaker and co-founder of La Fabrique du Temps, the movement specialist department of Louis Vuitton. We were talking about the need for progress and advancement in the horological world, and he said he was often motivated by the hypothetical idea of Abraham-Louis Breguet returning to life and observing the state of modern watchmaking. He imagined Breguet asking, “What have you all been doing in the centuries since I was gone? Still on the tourbillon? Seriously?”

This is how I feel about the situation of women in the watch world (of women in the world at large, really). We really ought to have settled this and moved on by now. The world of watches could be so much more exciting and beautiful than it already is.

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