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Top 20 ladies’ watches of 2011
New Models

Top 20 ladies’ watches of 2011

Monday, 06 June 2011
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Carol Besler

“Watches are functional art.”

Carol Besler covers watches and jewelry worldwide.

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4 min read

The ladies’ watch segment, neglected somewhat during the great recession, has rebounded with a renewed sense of purpose: wearability, functionality and craftsmanship are the key elements.

Several brands have launched, revised or relaunched classic collections, offering full dial, strap, metal and function options, representing a major commitment to the ladies’ segment. At the high end, ladies’ watches are emerging as the ideal venue for showcasing the industry’s growing mastery of metiers, particularly gemsetting and enameling. These trend categories reveal the top 20 picks of new ladies’ watches introduced so far this year.


New collections by Tiffany (the Gemea), and Cartier (Delices) represent full collections from top producers, starting at accessible price points. They exude an aura of classic authenticity, as do extensions of iconic collections such as Chopard’s redesign of the classically inspired Imperiale (now in steel or red gold) and Ebel’s Beluga (now in steel). These models, all with Roman numerals, represent a distinct return to classic elegance in ladies’ everyday watches.

Ebel’s iconic Beluga in steel © Ebel
Ebel’s iconic Beluga in steel © Ebel

Just as men’s sports watches have become progressively uncluttered and dressier, ladies’ have followed suit, with classic Roman numerals, subtle markers, diamond accents and sleek dials. The standout in this category is Breguet’s Marine Ladies’ Chronograph, with a discreetly guilloched dial with white mother-of-pearl inserts and white strap.

Slimmer, smaller

Just as men’s watches have adopted a slimmer profile recently, ladies’ models have slimmed down. Unlike men’s, however, there is a trend in women’s watches toward smaller case widths as well, possibly aimed at the booming Asian market. The tiny (18mm) case of Boucheron’s Serpent watch is in dramatic contrast to the outsized textured links of the gold bracelet. Chanel’s steel-and-ceramic Première Triple Row watch follows the same principle of dramatic bracelet and tiny dial, and Gucci introduced a super-slim version of its G-Frame, with a 14mm by 18mm rectangular dial. These practical, feminine watches function like day-wear versions of the bejewelled cocktail watch.

Gucci’s super-slim G-Frame is 14mm by 18mm © Gucci
Gucci’s super-slim G-Frame is 14mm by 18mm © Gucci

Diamond watches remain the ultimate expression of the ladies’ luxury watch segment, and the masters of this category never fail to astonish. This year, a nature theme dominated, with Chopard’s snail-motif High Jewellery watch, set with more than 27 carats, Hermès’ Heure H Baguette, with a dial set to resemble a spider web, and Piaget’s rotating diamond birds from the Limelight Garden Party collection.


Ladies’ watches have become the perfect venue for the expression of watchmaking’s metiers d’art, including enameling, inlay and gemsetting. The stars of that category this year are Boucheron, with its Crazy Jungle Hathi (Elephant) collection, set with gems on a mineral dial, incorporating a colourful, gem-set “crazy seconds” dial; Cartier’s Crocodile Tourbillon boldly demonstrates the ultimate art of combining haute Horlogerie with haute joaillerie – set with more than 8 carats of diamonds, it contains a Cartier manufacture movement; the Hermès Cape Cod Puzzle watch, created by master enameler Anita Porchet, is a cloisonné depiction of the brand’s Puzzle silk scarf. Rolex’s new ladies’ Datejust collection is outstanding for its shimmering “gold crystal” dial, created using a proprietary technique in which a gold dial is chemically treated to reveal its natural crystal structure. Jaquet Droz introduced one of the more subtle examples of dial craftsmanship with its trio of Petite Heure Art Deco watches with “ramolayé” (cameo-style) engraved mother-of pearl. At the other end of the spectrum, Van Cleef & Arpels, the reigning master of the metiers, introduced a virtuoso array of dials, enameled by Dominique Baron and set by Olivier Vaucher, for its Les Voyages Extraordinaire collection.

Enamel and diamond depiction of mother and baby antelope, from Les Voyages Extraordinaire collection by Van Cleef & Arpels© Van Cleef & Arpels
Enamel and diamond depiction of mother and baby antelope, from Les Voyages Extraordinaire collection by Van Cleef & Arpels© Van Cleef & Arpels

Several Haute Horology brands are ensuring the world’s most important and authentic complications are represented in ladies’ watches. Leading this category is Patek Philippe – 50% of whose introductions this year were ladies’ mechanical watches. Notable is the Ref. 7059, Patek’s first ladies’ split-seconds chronograph, containing the calibre CHR27-535, the world’s thinnest column-wheel split-seconds chronograph movement. Ulysse Nardin, never afraid to boldly feminize its complicated watches, introduced the colourful, diamond-set, and highly functional Executive Lady Dual Time with patented quick-set second time set.

Scaled-down men’s

The notion of the ladies’ watch as a scaled-down version of a men’s model has been much maligned in recent years; as one industry wag observed, “if there is one thing we know about women, it is that they are not petite versions of men.” However, in defense of what is a notable return to ladies’ watches that are revised versions of men’s models, they are undeniably well-designed, distinctively iconic and wonderfully dignified (i.e., not overly applied with silly, flowery feminine motifs.) Corum’s Admirals Cup Legend 38 automatic is a case in point: a great, iconic watch, like the men’s version, but with diamonds (0.58 carats) – and more petite.

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