What modern women want from watches
By Kathryn Bishop
What women want has long been one of life’s unanswerable questions. But the watch industry is in the midst of a breakthrough, discovering that women desire technology as much as style. Kathryn Bishop takes a closer look at the rising trend of womens’ watches that pack a mechanical punch.
Wandering the halls of BaselWorld in March it was clear that there was an emerging trend for women’s watches with a difference. No longer were they just colourful or sparkling with a handful of diamonds, they boasted fine movements, worthy power reserves and refined attention to design detail.
The advent of this development has been welcomed by the watch industry with many luxury brands quick to get on board with the concept of fine women’s watches, creating timepieces that are elegant, functional and most of all, technological.
Gone are the days of overbearing designs on which so much attention had been focused on creating something pleasing to the eye that, despite a price tag of tens of thousands of pounds had, at its heart, a mere quartz movement.
Now, women are intrigued by what goes on inside their watches. They want to know what’s hidden within the case, they want the skeletonised dials and mineral glass backs allowing a glimpse into the beauty of the inner workings, gems and swinging, almost hypnotic, oscillating weights that have been long available to men.
Pioneered in recent years by the rise of the ladies chronograph – no more men’s watches with small cases, the girls finally had something of their own – the trend for well made women’s watches has filtered down into fashion watch brands, with high street fashion retailers making affordable watches that appear to be chronographs, on which the sub dials are stylish and the colours playful. But now female watch shoppers want brains with their beauty and the watch brands have reacted with new collections of chronographs, minute repeaters, tourbillons and automatics.
Aiming to get the designs just right by having a woman design the collection, Frederique Constant has this year unveiled its collection of automatic ladies’ Amour Heart Beat watches, designed by Taiwanese actress Shu Qi. In a clever move, the brand has managed to not only get a woman designing for women, but has also devised a way of capturing the Asian market’s attention by working with filmstar loved on home turf.
The new Frederique Constant watches have been limited to 888 pieces, the number eight being lucky in China, and have been made using the brand’s own in-house FC-310 automatic calibre movement with a 38-hour power reserve. Of course, the design is still important, with Shu Qi’s watches all set with diamonds, and the FC-310SQ2PD4 model crafted with a rose gold-plated case set with 48 diamonds weighing almost 0.75ct. And most importantly the Amour Heart Beat has a see-through case back, allowing for that vital glimpse of the inner workings of the watch.
Like Frederique Constant, Patek Philippe has employed women to make women’s watches. The brand’s first women’s chronograph, its Ladies First Split Second, was designed and made only by women, ensuring that the timepiece truly answered to the styles, shapes and detailing that women are demanding from a luxury timepiece. Crafted in rose gold and with a bezel double set with 154 diamonds, the Ladies First has a height of barely of 5.25 millimetres, in which a calibre CH R 27-525 PS movement is housed, which is the thinnest split-second chronograph in the world.
Aiming to offer a standout watch, Fabergé Horlogerie has created a striking collection called Agathon that includes smaller case sizes designed for women. With a choice of chic monochrome or otherwise colourful guilloché enamel dials, the Agathon has been made as a chronograph and as a regulator, with diamond accents for a subtle but sparkling touch of femininity.
Of course, with such attention to its fine jewellery, Fabergé has invested time in its movements, with all of its watches boasting superior automatic movements, and an entire skeletonised movement on show in its regulator version. The bespoke rotor has been designed to replicate the pleated lines of the traditional guilloché sunray pattern, while delicate finishing touches include crowns set with cabochon gemstones such as sapphires, and gem-set buckles.
Emulating a similar level of detail, Oris has knuckled down to produce some striking women’s timepieces for 2009 - 2015. As the result of enquiries from women who loved the skeletonised style of the brand’s gents’ watches but didn’t want the large size, Oris has created something just for the girls. Its new ladies’ watches aren’t just smaller versions of the gent’s. Instead, Oris’s smaller sized watches have been redesigned with an easy to wear 31mm, an entirely Swiss made mechanical movement and, like the gent’s models before it, the open case that allows for full view of the movement, which is surrounded in turn by more than half a carat of diamonds.
Taking luxury watchmaking and combining it with stunning designs, Swiss watchmaker Jaquet Droz has developed a striking but classic women’s watch in the Petit Heure Minute. It ticks proudly with its own in-house Jaquet Droz 2635 self-winding movement, with double barrel and 22ct white gold oscillating weight and an impressive 68 hours power reserve, with a movement vibrating 28,800 times an hour. That might sound like an awful lot of technology but of course, with this level of craftsmanship, such a woman’s watch needs to be fine in style, so naturally the Petit Heure Minute is crafted with white mother-of-pearl, 18ct red gold hands and a hand-made satin strap. Technological but truly luxurious.
Taking German watchmaking that step further, Glashütte Original has created the women’s PanoMatic Luna watch, based on the beauty of the moon with its all white colour and feminine mother-of-pearl dial. With a diamond-set bezel and swirl detail to the strap, the effort put into the design alone makes it a gorgeous timepiece.
The PanoMatic Luna has more than just good looks, however, with technical details including a moonphase and stainless steel case housing an automatic calibre 90-12 movement and a duplex swan-neck regulating adjustment developed by Glashütte Original in its manufactory to keep its movement regular. Like its counterparts, there is that little something extra: the clear sapphire crystal case back reveals Glashütte’s detailed mechanical movement.
Launching later this year, with a style well and truly aimed at discerning women, Citizen used its appearance at BaselWorld to unveil its Eco-Drive RING, which was first introduced as a concept model in 2009. After several years of research, the watch has finally been realised, showing off an advanced solar cell surrounding the watch face. Called the RING after the shape of the solar cell, the watch has also been specially designed with hollow lugs to let more light in and keep the watch as powerful as possible. The rest of the design is clean and simple, though the movement includes Citizen’s calibre 8712 Eco-Drive, with a moon phase and date, all housed within stainless steel and sapphire glass.
Taking a style not too dissimilar in terms of its chunkier size and slightly sportier look, the T-Race Lady watch by Tissot is definitely one for women who want some personality in their watch, with a look that’s tough yet feminine to boot. With a tachymeter, chronograph counters and Swiss-made quartz movement, the T-Race keeps its design edgy with case markings styled to resemble the brake discs of a high-performance motorbikes, and a choice of bright orange, pink, blue or white silicone straps.
Tissot’s balance between toughness and femininity is typical of the power play that is defining the women’s watch market of the moment. There’s a balance to strike between a functional watch that the female wearer knows is well made, and of a quality that will last her a lifetime, and smart design that is tailored to her taste, whether elegant, practical or adventurous. A choice of hot pink silicone or handcrafted satin straps? Check. Solar powered technology or a sapphire set into the crown? Check. Knowing she no longer has to borrow from the boys? For a woman that’s priceless.