Women’s watches have moved on from being just small, pink and battery powered. Here are a few examples that illustrate just how much things have changed. By Laura McCreddie-Doak
It’s no surprise that, when it comes to women’s watch trends, the boyfriend look is the one that has prevailed. After all, up until recently, the only way a woman could get something on her wrist that wasn’t diminutive, diamond-encrusted and pastel-hued, was by stealing from her other half.
Patek Philippe made the first step to redressing this imbalance back in 2009 when it launched its Ladies First collection with a column-wheel controlled CH 29-535 PS chronograph calibre. It was not only the first time Patek had put it in a women’s watch, it was the first time it had ever put it in a watch, regardless of gender. Since then there has been a steady trickle of more intelligent launches aimed at the fairer sex but that was nothing compared to the near deluge (comparatively at least) that we’ve seen in the last few years.
It says a lot about how far the watch industry has come in its understanding of what women want that this year, on October 20 on the 24th floor of The Shard, the first-ever women’s watch awards was held. Hosted by women’s watch magazine Eve’s Watch, it celebrated female-oriented timepieces across categories as diverse as Best Jewellery Watch, Best Complication, Best Design and Best Innovation.
One of the watches that illustrated how thinking has changed is the winner of the Best Smart Watch category, which was taken home by the Samsung Gear S2 by De Grisogono. It marries all that technical capability of a Samsung Gear but surrounds it in black and white diamonds and turns it into a piece of haute joaillerie creating something that is far removed from the “boys toys” origins of the smart watch.
Also playing with the parameters of what is considered a woman’s watch is Nomos, which was given the Eve’s Watch award for Best Design for its Metro Neomatik Champagner. As a brand Nomos has resisted gendering its watches, choosing instead to offer them under a “one style suits all” umbrella. This Metro Neomatik, with is delicate peach-blush dial and strap, is undoubtedly a woman’s watch but, aside from the colour, there is very little about it that has been feminised. Nomos hasn’t even stinted on its mechanical capabilities, choosing instead to furnish the watch with the brand’s new movement – the DUW 3001, its in-house slimline automatic calibre and the reason it has the word “neomatik” on the dial.
It’s not just appropriations of more masculine styles and technologies that have been stealing women’s watch headlines this year. At completely the other end of the spectrum, but no less surprising or innovative, was the latest launch from Chanel – the J12.XS.
Working with two of its metiers d’art network – Lesage, couture embroidery atelier that Chanel acquired in 2002, and glovemakers Causse, which became part of the network in 2012 – it shrunk the J12 to 19mm and put it on a selection of rather fierce cuffs.
At the most basic end of the collection there is a simple black patent calfskin cuff edged with silver, then it starts to get creative. There are cropped fingerless leather gloves, Karl-Lagerfeld style, or longer leather creations that encase the arm past the elbow, onto which the watch can be looped at wrist level; other cuffs are delicately embroidered by Lesage with sequins and glass beads or have multiple-looped straps and a more S&M vibe.
It’s an incredible collection that brings together the three central tenets of the Maison – fashion, jewellery and watchmaking – blurring the lines between them in an extraordinary and wholly feminine way.
And if you want one final indication of just how seriously watch makers and designers are now taking women, you just have to look at what was on offer at this year’s Salon QP, which was held at the Saatchi Gallery from November 3-5.
Montblanc was there with its Boheme featuring an cageless ExoTourbillon and an in-house movement, Czapel & Cie’s Quai de Berges with its elegantly hand-less sub dials and, most remarkable of all, FP Journe’s Élégante, which houses Francois-Paul’s clever ‘hibernating’ electro-mechanical quartz movement, which has hands that stop moving if the watch isn’t worn for half an hour. Thanks to a microprocessor the watch continues to keep time, while the mechanical parts stop moving. This means that, when the watch is picked up again and mechanism starts moving, the hands return to the correct time.
It’s intelligent, elegant and serves as a perfect metaphor for how the watch industry is starting to view women – as a complex, discerning group of people looking for timepieces that are as individual as they are.