If it takes a thief to know a thief, then equally it takes a woman to know a woman. The watch industry is finally waking up to this reports watch journalist Ken Kessler
For decades, the watch industry has been producing what it thinks women want, and yet, for at least three of those decades, women of style have been treating watches not as his-or-hers, but as joyously “unisex.”
Watches may be about technical excellence and, of course, precision timekeeping, but the advent of mobile phones and other omnipresent devices have ensured that we needn’t wear a watch to know the time. For men, watches have become statements of power or taste, but women have known all along that watches are also about fashion.
Because of this, how they’re worn is as important as whether or not they’re expressly women’s or men’s models. Completely undermining the argument that watches need to be gender specific are the women of Milan, Rome, Paris and Monaco, who have been wearing “full-size” (is that term acceptable?) Rolexes since the 1980s. They let them dangle insouciantly from their wrists, preferring to go for the full-strength 39mm-and-larger rather than opt for the daintier 28mm or 31mm models. “Unisex” indeed.
Creating watches that marry the sensibilities of the modern woman
Piaget ambassador Jessica Chastain
Still, there are timepieces that fall unquestionably under the heading of “women’s watches,” sidestepping or ignoring any concerns about current political ramifications of being labelled as such. The difference is that modern watches aimed at distaff clients are not simply based on the notion of having to fit a smaller wrist, but are just as technically complex and clever and impressive as anything offered ostensibly for men.
Companies including Piaget, Van Cleef & Arpels, Fabergé, Richard Mille, Patek Philippe, Omega, Cartier, Jaquet Droz, Chopard and too many others to list are now producing haute horlogerie masterpieces for discerning clients. They are creating watches that marry the sensibilities of the modern woman, the high achiever who buys her own watches, with elements many women are not ashamed to enjoy: the presence of precious stones and pastel colours, with themes that embrace nature.
There is a levelling of the playing field, with a high-end lady’s watch as good as any
As an act of defiance, a demonstration of success or other indicator of the levelling of the playing field, a high-end lady’s watch is as good as any. A full-sized Rolex is only “girly” if it happens to exhibit what traditionalists regard as such: rose gold with a coating of diamonds. Then again, there are plenty of rappers, Russian gangsters and others with XY rather than XX chromosomes who would gladly don such watches and call them “bling”.
More importantly is the change in the industry itself. While there are still gender issues at CEO level, the watch manufactures are filled with women, from the design studios to the assembly lines. Companies as bold as Cartier have placed women in charge of complicated watch design. The resident historical authorities for Patek Philippe’s and TAG Heuer’s magnificent museums are women. Crucially perhaps, a new wave of master watchmakers, including our own Rebecca Struthers, are women.
Ironically, they’ve also excelled at making watches… for men.
Main featured image is Alessandra Ambrosio with an OMEGA Aqua Terra