Say goodbye to that tired old design trope of “shrink it and pink it” when thinking about what women want in their luxury watches. For what seems like forever, the major Swiss watch brands have focused most of their creative and mechanical prowess on men’s watches, as they typically represent the bulk of enthusiasts and collectors. Women, however, are joining the community in increasing numbers and want more brand offerings that reflect a wider variety of tastes.
For example, in an interview with Prestige Magazine, Zoe Abelson, Watchbox senior client advisor, said, “We ought to stop splitting watches into ‘men’s’ and ‘ladies’ categories and offer further consideration to designs that work as unisex. Personally, I prefer wearing timepieces that are 36mm-40mm, and at the moment those are all labeled as ‘men’s watches.'”
So what do serious female collectors want to see in a luxury timepiece? To answer that, our watch repair experts took a look at some of today’s five hottest trends in ladies’ luxury watches.
1. Keep It Simple
Unpretentious designs like Rado’s Coupole and the Piaget Possession represent the epitome of minimalist elegance. The fact is, simple doesn’t have to be dull or boring, and it goes with just about everything.
Take the sleek and sophisticated A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin, for example. Its solid silver dial with light silver-finished face and pink gold appliques will complement any outfit, whether you’re lounging around at home, prepping for that meeting with investors, or sipping champagne with your friends at a charity gala.
Another benefit to the minimalist look – fewer gems and expensive complications mean watch brands can bring in additional customers into the luxury sector at a lower price point.
2. Gender-Universal Sizing
As Ms. Abelson’s comment above illustrates, many women today prefer watches outside the normal case size range, which usually hovers between 26mm and 36mm in diameter. In response, brands like Zenith and Rolex recently launched oversized watches that would appeal to any gender orientation. With a diameter of 40mm, the Rolex Daytona Meteorite looks both rugged and sparkly, while the 44mm skeleton case of the El Primero 21 dazzles in bright orange.
While some women opt for the ‘bigger is better’ look, others go for the retro petite face that dominated the ladies’ market in the 1960s. For example, the Bulgari Piccolo Catene spans a mere 22mm, while the Longines Mini and the Hermès Faubourg Lapis extend only 16mm and 15.5mm, respectively.
In addition, some luxury brands now offer their classic men’s timepieces – like the Oris Sixty-Five and the IWC Pilot’s Watch – in smaller, 36mm versions.
3. Let’s Complicate Things
Men aren’t the only ones who enjoy a quality complication or two. Chronographs, perpetual calendars, diving bezels, tourbillons – women watch enthusiasts want more than good looks in their timepieces. They want to be wowed by the same cutting-edge functionality and creativity as their male counterparts.
A CEO of a multinational company may prefer the Panerai Luminor 1950 8 GMT model, which features a dual time zone display. Panerai watchmakers originally designed their distinctly male product for the Royal Italian Navy. Still, today you’ll find this popular brand on the wrists of powerful women like supermodel Heidi Klum and fitness empire entrepreneur Jillian Michaels.
Professional and hobby divers value high-powered dive models like the Rolex Sea-Dweller or the Omega Seamaster, both historically identified as men’s watches. You can thank women like Dr. Sylvia “Her Deepness” Earle, legendary diver and oceanographer, for paving the way by wearing a Sea-Dweller long before it was trendy for women to wear men’s watches.
Famous athletes, including tennis great Serena Williams and golf pro Stacy Lewis, love their luxury chronographs for their exceptional functionality and timeless style. Women can rock just about any look with multi-functional watches, which is why they are so incredibly popular right now.
4. Color Me Beautiful
While oversized and minimalist watches are in with female collectors, that’s not to say they don’t still have plenty of appetite for beauty and bling. Bold colors, rich artistry, dazzling gems, and unique complications and shapes all make lovely additions to a discerning woman’s ensemble of favored timepieces.
Van Cleef & Arpel’s Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier draws its wearer into a three-dimensional garden scene where 12 hand-painted flowers blossom and close, telling time with poetic eloquence. Another timepiece that’s as much a work of art as it is a watch is the Cartier Libre, a tiny quartz movement watch encased in a rose gold bracelet surrounded by diamonds, sapphires, corals, chrysoprase stones, and black spinels.
Moonphase watches continue to trend high with women, especially since this particular complication is more borne out of beauty and emotion than function. The Parmigiani Fleurier Tondre Métropolitaine Sélène, for example, sets the moon phase atop a lacework Mother-of-Pearl dial punctuated with rose gold appliques and surrounded by a diamond bezel.
Bovet 1822 owner and managing director Pascal Raffy said it best in a 2014 New York Times interview: “Ladies appreciate the moon-phase, … it’s a complication women need, it’s an animation of the movement, it’s emotional.”
5. Going Old School
Vintage watch collecting is hot right now, no matter what gender you are. But you might be surprised at the models you’ll find in any given woman’s collection. Are you thinking of Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Chanel, and Bulgari? You’d only be half right.
While women enjoy collecting distinctively feminine vintage timepieces like Cartier’s Ballon Bleu and Bulgari’s Serpenti, you’re just as likely to find famous men’s watches in their ensemble. We’re talking mechanical legends like the Zenith A386 El Primero from 1969, Patek Philippe’s Ref. 2508 Calatrava, a 1973 Rolex Daytona, or a Tag Heuer Autavia from 1962. And let’s not forget the relatively androgynous Cartier Tank lines immortalized by Jackie Kennedy, Andy Warhol, and Lady Diana.
To put it simply, when it comes to collecting vintage watches, it’s more about personal preference and enjoyment than it is about gender.
The world where watches clearly fall into specific gender categories is quickly disappearing. Female collectors are here to stay, so don’t be surprised if the next online watch forum you visit has as many women as men debating the differences between chronographs and dive watches or comparing notes on who offers the best Rolex watch repair service.