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A Lady’s View: What do women really want?

Musings on what women want in watches.
by Suzanne Vallance on July 13, 2016

The way women are wearing watches has changed. Just like men, women want stylish watches that are made with quality and boast all the complications we desire. Thankfully, the industry has taken notice and watches are getting bigger and better, so what does this mean for the future of female watch design?

A historical perspective on Female Watches

Female watches caught on in royal and aristocratic circles around the early-1800s. At the time bejewelled watches were very expensive and the height of luxury. Custom made watches were often made to be worn as bracelets and during that period. An example is the Reine de Naples made by Abraham Louis Breguet for the Queen of Naples. We carried more details in our impressions review of the modern version of the watch here. 

 

The Queen of Naples, a modern interpretation of the first wristwatch A.L. Breguet created for the Queen of Naples in 1850.

The Breguet Reine de Naples, a modern interpretation of the first wristwatch A.L. Breguet created for the Queen of Naples in 1850.

 

The watch industry started to change when women were becoming workers and by the end of the 19th century, women made up an astonishing third and a half of the Swiss watchmakers’ work force. Women were encouraged to work at watch factories to make money, rather than face poverty, in a time were society feared communism.

For many years, it could be argued that the female watch market was side-lined, with energy and design focused on big-spending male audience. Bill Prince, Deputy Editor of GQ, argues that watch companies are directing their marketing at men who would not have purchased a high-end watch before, but are now interested in style and grooming. He argues that designers are targeting men because “a beautiful watch is traditionally the one bit of jewellery a man, a conservative man, can wear.”

A change in why we wear watches

Today there is much more to a watch than a piece of apparatus that tells the time. We wear watches to reflect our personalities, to show our level of success and to showcase our lifestyle without the need to communicate via words. This is important as we live such busy lives the art of conversation is lost and we’ve been forced to communicate in new ways.

Today women enjoy more rights than ever, and use their watches to symbolize the status they hold in society.

Women are paving the way as ambassadors for technical watches; Oscar winner Natalie Portman has represented Richard Mille since 2011. In 2014 Richard Mille introduced over eight new watches including the collaboration with the actress to create the Tourbillon Spider RM 19-01. After all, “complication” is a feminine French noun.

 

The Richard Mille RM-19-01 Natalie Portman Black Sapphire Asia Exclusive with black statin strap.

The Richard Mille RM-19-01 Natalie Portman Black Sapphire Asia Exclusive with black statin strap.

 

 

Women are combining the joy of watches and jewellery; and though we are as interested in the complications as ever wonderful example of watches crossing borders of high-end complications and jewellery is Bulgari’s new Serpenti Tourbillon:

  • magnificent diamond studded snake coiled around the stunning skeleton dial.
  • 209 brilliant-cut diamonds and 2 rubellites and comes with a burgundy leather strap and pink gold folding clasp studded with brilliant cut diamonds.
  • BVL Calibre 208 mechanical hand-wound Manufacture skeleton-worked tourbillon movement in 18kt pink gives the watch life. It has a 64h power reserve which powers the hours and minutes.

 

Bulgari Serpenti Incantati: high jewelery with a mechanical heart.

Bulgari Serpenti Incantati: high jewelery with a mechanical heart.

 

The Future of Female Watches

Women’s watches are the next big thing for the industry and Hermes have confirmed that they are putting female watch design at the top of their priority list. The designer has taken notice that women’s needs are changing and they want to invest in their desires.

The head of Hermes Watches wants to give the brand a more feminine touch. Laurent Dordet, who is currently leading the famous Paris fashion house, expressed that he wanted to focus more heavily on women’s timepieces. As female watches account for 80% of the brand’s sales, they are putting customer care for females the forefront of the business.

The brand plan on developing “feminine creation” as they want to explore how they can modify their current ranges and include new elements of design such as adding jewels on the timepieces.

 

The Blancpain Ladybird is another example of watch companies who are cued into the increasing sophistication of women collectors who demand a mechanical movement with their jeweled watch.

The Blancpain Ladybird is another example of watch companies who are cued into the increasing sophistication of women collectors who demand a mechanical movement with their jeweled watch.

 

Bill Prince may be right that women have taken a back seat in the industry for years, but he also believes that the industry is changing and designers will be focusing on the needs of women in the near future:

“They used to believe women wanted quartz working even in a high-end watch…But now they are beginning to put the same kind of intricate craftsmanship into the mechanisms and that’s the real shift.”

There is definitely a change in the way designers are designing watches for women and we hope to see more stylish but innovative pieces on the market for females.

 

Editor’s Note:
Suzanne Vallance joins the Deployant team as a guest writer. She currently works for a watch repair company, and is based in the UK. She has a keen interest in the emotional attachment we hold with timepieces and writes to reflect that.

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