The secondary watch market, particularly the auction market, is focused on vintage watches for men, a place where Rolex and Patek Philippe reign supreme. Consider the $17.7-million Paul Newman Daytona at the Phillips sale in October, and other spectacular records – all men’s watches, unless you imagine a woman walking around with the 550-gram, 74-mm Henry Graves Supercomplication, perhaps in a custom handbag. For a refreshing change of pace, let’s look at some timepieces made in 2017 – timepieces made for women, with feminine aesthetics and fit. These 10 watches are all outstanding in some way, and every one of them has a movement that is newer and better than the one in the Paul Newman Daytona. Many new men’s pieces are identified as future collectors’ items, so why could the same not be said for limited-edition ladies’ pieces? Anything’s possible, so why not invest in a great ladies’ watch? There is no reason any one of these remarkable timepieces couldn’t be the star of a future auction… sometime in the future when women’s watches are considered as valuable and collectible as men’s.
Montblanc Bohème ExoTourbillon Jewellery
The ExoTourbillon Caliber MB M29.24 is a scaled-down version of the elite manual-wound ExoTourbillon Caliber made in Montblanc’s Villeret workshop. It has already been produced in an automatic version, but the Slim version is even smaller, thanks to the use of a micro-rotor. The movement was introduced last year in the ExoTourbillon Slim – a man’s watch – but it is the perfect size for a ladies’ watch. The Bohème ExoTourbillon Jewellery is only 10.14mm thick, compared to the 14.79mm thickness of the Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph (automatic), and the 16.67mm thickness of the ExoTourbillon Chronograph (manual wound) – both men’s watches. It is set with 51 blue, rose and purple diamonds.
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate
This one took the High-Mech prize in the recent Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. An automaton module drives the wings of a butterfly, causing them to flutter randomly, the way a real-life butterfly moves. The number of times the wings beat, and how often, is linked to the barrel– the greater the power reserve, the more often the butterfly comes alive. Métiers include mother-of-pearl marquetry, gemsetting and enamel using three separate techniques – champlevé, plique-à-jour and paillonné. Van Cleef created a curved version of plique-à-jour enamel in order to make the dial composition three-dimensional. It is set with round and pear-shaped diamonds as well as sapphires in blue, mauve and violet shades.
Breguet Classique Tradition Dame 7038
Breguet is recognizing female aficionados with the introduction of ladies’ pieces in its Classique collection, so-named because it represents the traditional, classic design and horological elements of watchmaking. Openworked to showcase the workings of the mechanical movement, the escapement, bridges, gear train and mainspring barrel are visible on the dial, with the barrel engraved in a rosette motif. The pattern is repeated on the rotor on the caseback. Breguet’s signature coin-edge caseband is a nice touch. It contains the automatic Caliber 505SR, with silicon balance spring and palettes – elite components normally reserved for men’s watches.
Audemars Piguet Diamond Outrage
Known chiefly for its iconic Royal Oak sports watches, Audemars Piguet also hits it out of the ballpark with its exclusive high jewelry timepieces. The Diamond Outrage, the third in a trilogy, is a cuff watch constructed of 20 spiky 18k gold cones that resemble stalactites. There are two versions: one set with over 10,000 diamonds totaling about 66 carats, and the other set with 11,043 blue sapphires totaling 65.47 carats. The sapphires are graduated in six tones, with lighter hues set toward the top of each cone. The time is hidden under a gem-set cover.
Graff Mastergraff Floral Tourbillon
This is part of a trend at the high end toward feminized tourbillons, a tribute to high watchmaking and métiers in the service of mostly floral motifs. The tourbillon escapement is situated in a garden setting that is alive with movement: the carriage rotates on its own axis, as do the enameled flowers that surround it. The flowers are individually hand-painted over gold and then applied in a process that takes 50 hours for one dial. The case is 38mm wide and contains an automatic tourbillon caliber made by Swiss boutique movement-maker Concepto.
Panthère de Cartier
Men’s classic timepieces are resurrected frequently, so why not a ladies’ icon? The Cartier Panthère was originally introduced in 1984 and discontinued in the early 2000s. The watch was – and is again – a volume quartz collection, with multiple references and price points. The design is exactly the same as the original: square case with screws on the bezel, Roman numerals, railway track index, and a tiny Cartier logo embossed in the numeral X. There are three sizes, with a pavé version, a lacquer and gold version, and a yellow gold version.
A. Lange & Söhne Little Lange 1 Moonphase
The Lange 1 model for men is a modern classic, with its two offset subdials and massive date window, and the new ladies’ version seems like a respectful and inclusive way to invite women into the club of high watchmaking. It is slightly smaller (at 36.8mm wide and 9.5mm thick; the men’s is 38.5mm wide and 10.2mm thick), but this is not just a scaled-down copy of the men’s. It contains a new caliber, the hand-wound L121.2, with an instantaneous jumping date and an added moon phase indication. Lange is known for its superb finish, and this watch is decorated accordingly, with a beautiful guilloché dial, gold moon and finished movement.
Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Small Model
An ultra-slim chronograph caliber is the perfect development to bring ladies’ mechanical timepieces into the 21st century. The Harmony Chronograph Small Model contains the manual-wound Caliber 1142, an enhanced version of an existing caliber that is now made to Poinçon de Genève standards, and has a higher frequency (3 Hz rather than 2.5 Hz) to improve reliability and shock-resistance. The watch is 11.74mm thick and 37mm wide.
Chanel Première Camélia Skeleton
This watch is a masterpiece – an example of creative, original movement design coupled with a subtle reference to brand identity – that a man could also wear. The Caliber 2, Chanel’s second in-house movement, is machined from the ground up as a skeletonized movement, rather than a carved-out version of an existing caliber. Bridges and plates are cut and arranged as an abstract version of the multi-layered petals of Coco Chanel’s favorite flower. Diamonds are set flush into the 0.5mm-thick gold bridges – no easy feat – as well as the bezel and case for a total weight of 7.82 carats on the strap version and 22.66 carats on the bracelet model. There is also a model with ADLC blackened bridges with diamond-set hands, and a ruby version.
Patek Philippe Ladies’ Minute Repeater Ref. 7000/250
This is the special New York City edition of the ladies’ minute repeater Ref. 7000, with a beautiful blue enamel dial. Both this and the watches in the permanent collection contain the Caliber R 27 PS. The case is set with 160 diamonds using Patek’s proprietary Flamme setting, which exposes more of the gem. The special edition is one of nine new models, including a world premier world time/minute repeater watch, made to commemorate the brand’s Art of Watches exhibition in New York City last summer, all of which are engraved on the caseback. Highly collectible, only three pieces of the 7000/250 were made, each selling for just under $500,000.