Our top 10 picks are certainly not overburdened with moving butterflies and flowers or intense enameling and gemsetting – the sort of elements that make one feel compelled to take onlookers through an explanation of these showpiece watches. All are evidence of how far the Swiss watch industry has progressed when it comes to designing for women. They have found the balance between a watch design that is recognizably feminine without overdoing it and a watch that is purpose-made to incorporate – to scale – all the attributes of a man’s great watch: state-of-the-art movement, classic design, excellent finish, readability and wearability. These 10 brands knocked it out of the ballpark this year.
Patek Philippe Twenty-4
Instead of debuting a single model in gold or platinum and then making us wait for a stainless steel version, Patek Philippe introduced five references immediately, including a steel model. And instead of a diminutive 28mm or 31mm size, it is a more contemporary 36mm in diameter. The luminated numerals and hands could not be more legible – almost pilot’s-watch-like – and the date window at 6 o’clock is large enough to read! Patek Philippe’s fine craftsmanship is evident everywhere, from the complex bracelet construction to the movement, automatic calibre 324 S C.
A men’s watch you say? The Santos was originally designed for a diminutive socialite/aviator, and has always been classic enough for women – as are most Cartier watches. Two key new features of the redesigned Santos also make it ideal for women. One is the QuickSwitch strap system that works via a hidden mechanism in the case. The other is a fingernail-saving bracelet adjustment system that allows you to remove or add links without using a tool. It has a new, robust movement, the Cartier automatic calibre 1847 MC.
Patek Philippe Ladies Chronograph
Under the leadership of Sandrine Stern, Patek Philippe has been doing real justice to the ladies’ category. The new chronograph calibre, when it was introduced in 2009, made its debut in a ladies’ watch that is now made even better. This year’s redesign results in a more classic, more Patek Philippe Ref. 7150 that is also more wearable. Combining a chronograph and pulsometer with a diamond bezel in a 38mm case is an ideal combination. Now we’d love to see it in steel.
Grand Seiko Ladies Automatic
It’s great to see that Seiko’s premium brand is not just for men. A new movement was created specifically for this piece, scaled for a 28mm case. The calibre 9S25 automatic has a 50-hour power reserve. The debut model, set with large diamonds, is a 50-piece limited edition, but we hope to see it rolled out into a full, more accessible collection, with some of the same fine finishes – etched dial, the faceted bezel and large tapered crown. A steel model would be great.
Breitling Navitimer 38 Automatic
Although the Navitimer 38 is big enough for men, it is scaled for women who are fans of the Breitling aesthetic, including the slide rule, and the beaded bezel, which some have always interpreted as a feminine look. It contains the chronometer-rated Breitling Calibre 17, with the robust ETA base calibre 2824, also the base of the movement in the small Tudor Black Bay and several Swatch brands, including Longines. The readable seconds hand with the red arrow tip is a bonus.
Tudor Small Black Bay
The 32mm Black Bay is a scaled-down version of a watch with all the attributes we love about men’s models but which are rarely seen together in a ladies’ piece: the NATO strap (I have never seen a NATO strap on a woman’s watch with the exception, a few years ago, of a Chanel J12, but it was leather and limited); the 150-metre water resistance; the ultra-luminated dial; the large snowflake hour hand and a readable seconds hand; and a great automatic movement – the robust ETA-based calibre 2824.
Rolex Datejust 31
There is nothing tougher than a Rolex, even when it’s dressed up with diamonds and mother-of-pearl. The ladies’ Datejust is quite simply the perfect day watch. This new-generation model has redesigned sides and lugs and is equipped with a new automatic movement, calibre 2236, with Rolex’s Superlative Chronometer certification and a 55-hour power reserve. The seconds hand and date, with its famous cyclops window, along with 100-metre water resistance make it as functional and hardy as anything James Bond might don.
Panerai Luminor Due 38mm
The Due 38mm is the smallest Panerai to date – 47mm is a typical Luminor case size – making the brand accessible to women who appreciate the minimalist dials and iconic cushion-shaped cases. Even the signature Luminor crown protector is included on this watch, which is scaled to fit a smaller wrist. The quick-release strap system is a bonus – no tool necessary and since you push rather than pull, it saves fingernails. And it comes in steel.
Chopard Happy Sport
The Happy Sport has always been and always will be a ladies’ watch: those mobile diamonds are just too whimsical for men. But this year, the Happy Sport got more serious, with a new in-house and purpose-built movement: calibre 09.01-C with a 42-hour power reserve. The large stylized Roman numerals are easy to read, and it is a wearable 36mm, with many references, including steel.
The ideal day watch collection has a wide range of options, and that is what Longines delivers with the upgraded Record. It now has an automatic movement, calibre L592.4, a COSC-certified chronometer with a silicon balance spring. It comes in steel, 18k rose gold and two-tone (18k rose gold and steel) versions, and four size options (26mm, 30mm, 28.5mm and 40mm), plus a variety of straps and dials with or without diamonds. Also, it has a date window big enough to read.