You may have noticed a significant increase in the number of high-end watches for women. Since the dawn of time keeping, fawning over the celestial dance, and agonising over how accurately each and every second has been recorded has been an idiosyncratically male pursuit.
The pernickety nature of watchmaking on all levels suits men perfectly. The creation of a timepiece requires the commonly male traits of single-mindedness and obsessiveness. But although that appears ‘obvious’ it is not, nor has it ever been, exclusively the case.
Women like watches too, and, quite crucially, for the same reasons as men. Even in these difficult times, it is the women’s sector that is growing the quickest. This is perhaps facilitated by the trend of larger watch diameters. This means that women’s watches are finally boast enough space to harbour a seriously complicated movement, while remaining fashionable. The advances in material technologies too have enable designers to shrink calibre that would once have required a six month gym membership to lift, into a wafer-thin engine suitable for use in a piece that is suitably elegant to appeal to modern, more gracile sensibilities.
Prior to this reassuring rise in ‘proper watchmaking’ for women, the major maisons would occasionally throw a bone to the fairer sex in the form of a patronisingly diamond-studded, quartz-driven, ambassador-bolstered billboard for their male collection. The big players in the watch industry wanted women to wear their watches, but only because it permitted the men they assumed would be buying them for their wives and girlfriends, to get clearance to buy more of their higher-priced, range-defining pieces. Pieces like the Hermes Le Temps Suspendu and the Van Cleef and Arpels Pont des Amoureux have set the bar very high, and this is only the beginning.
Candidly speaking, I’ve always thought the industry to be massively sexist and behind the times. Perhaps we have the global economic crisis to thank for this new dawn – the old guard of watchmaking have been forced to look closely at their consumer base and ask, what is it that people really want? And, for the first time in history, a huge proportion of the market is made up of self-sufficient, independent women, with means an inclination to buy a watch of their choosing that displays their character in the same dextrous way in which men have been able to do for decades.
Having worked at the bench for several luxury brands, it is apparent to me that the industry is still too reliant on men’s pieces. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact that the difference in size between a woman’s and a man’s watch is lesser now than it has been in the past, but I think it is likely to shift further towards an even split. Although I do not expect the industry’s output to ever reach a true 50/50 divide, it is worth noting that the wealth of female watchmakers (which is a much higher percentage of the overall work force than the percentage of watches designed specifically for women) may have something to say about this in the future, as women continue to become a serious force in an industry that was once incredibly male. It’s only right their watches are taken seriously too.
About the Author: Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.