Is there a horological equation that states a woman’s desire to purchase a watch increases proportionately to the number of carats of precious stones set on it? Are women a captive audience, won over to the well-worn adage that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” and which continues to boost the bottom line of companies more adept at loading their watches with precious stones than mechanical subtleties? As much of a caricature as this may be – and one that by no means does justice to the gem-setter’s art – it does contain some element of truth. But the tide is turning as brands are forced to admit that mechanical watches are no longer a male preserve.
A watch for life
Granted, the revival of mechanical watchmaking owed much to men and their boyhood memories of a watch given as a gift to treasure for the rest of their life. After hanging around auction rooms in search of a timepiece that could conjure up reminiscences of days gone by, they turned to the companies which had paid their pound of flesh to quartz yet still clung to traditional watchmaking, convinced they could reawaken the rare sentiments that come with a mechanical watch. But what if, to paraphrase Louis Aragon, woman was the future of watchmaking?
Indeed, mechanical watches for women have never been more in the spotlight. Until recently, the majority of feminine timepieces were scaled-down versions of models for men, for the most part laden with stones. Not so today. Now watches designed specifically for female admirers of mechanical movements are legion. That they should dress up in diamonds, emeralds and other sparkling gems takes nothing away from women’s admiration for time measurement that appeals less by its form and more by its substance, that is the enumeration of time through the perpetual motion of flawless mechanics.
Her beating heart
Take these examples: the gem-set Jules Audemars Extra-Thin 41mm, driven by the self-winding Manufacture calibre 2120; the Chronograph Large Date by Blancpain with its asymmetrical dial and 495 parts; Breguet’s Reine de Naples Day/Night with its “feminine” adaptation of the tourbillon complication; the Happy Sport Medium Automatic by Chopard, now with a mechanical movement; Corum’s Ti-Bridge Lady and its iconic linear calibre; Le Temps Suspendu 38mm from Hermès whose hands impose their will; not forgetting Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Rendez-vous Celestial, the Lady 8 by Jaquet Droz, the Tambour Monogram from Louis Vuitton, the Calatrava Reference 7200 by Patek Philippe, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Lady-Datejust Pearlmaster, or Ulysse Nardin’s Jade.
While far from exhaustive, this list is ample proof that a woman’s heart beats mechanical, something watchmakers have finally understood. The revival of the traditional watch was essentially a guy thing; could women’s love of mechanically measured time provide brands with fresh inspiration? If the current offering is anything to go by, women’s watches finally have more going on than just sparkle. About time too.