The conference hosted a panel discussion titled “Watch Out: Women See New Opportunity in Male-Oriented Business”. Speakers on the panel included Sarah Zaouk, Director of Marketing and Communications for Baume & Mercier North America, Sharon Buntain, Vice President of Sales for Montblanc North America, Rebecca Fisher, horologist for The RealReal, and Sara Orlando, publisher of WatchTime in America. The main subject for the discussion was how women can play a more active role in the watch business, which has been predominantly male for centuries. Questions revolved around the concept of there being “double standards” for men and women in the workplace for job promotions, pay, and more, and considered the challenges faced by women in the all-male watch world and what attributes women bring to the table.
Generally speaking, it seems men are judged on their potential, women are judged on their accomplishments.
After opening the discussion by quoting a statistic Billie Jean King had given in an interview a few nights earlier – that white women in America are paid 79 cents to each dollar that white men are paid – each of the panelists gave their views on the subject of equality in promotions. “Women are typically better multi-taskers, and are better with time management and communications,” said Buntain. “They also tend to excel when it comes to empathy. All beneficial attributes when it comes to executive roles.” Later in the panel, Buntain candidly stated that “generally speaking, it seems men are judged on their potential, women are judged on their accomplishments.”
For Zaouk of Baume & Mercier in North America, the tables are slightly different, as the team is highly female, raising the question of how she empowers or encourages that team. “Our team in the office in North America is 90% female, each specialized in the fields of marketing, sales, operations and customer service. All working for the same goals for the benefit of the brand,” explained Zaouk. “The way I work with my team is to lead by example, coach them, be a mentor to them, and provide them the autonomy and empowerment allowing them to learn from their experiences while ensuring that they have the similar opportunities that I had by exposing them and making sure they move forward with their career.”
In some ways, the industry looks at men to buy these watches for their females.
Everyone on the panel agreed that it is important for women to have role models and mentors. This fact was also the subject under discussion at a different panel a week earlier, which featured Billie Jean King and Emma Stone from the movie Battle of the Sexes. Also in attendance was screenwriter Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, among others). During that panel, sponsored by Citizen Watch, Rhimes said that by placing women in the role of doctors and chiefs of staff on Grey’s Anatomy, women could see women leaders reflected in life, and aspire to success. Additionally, the panel agreed that watch brands need to market to women, using lifestyle and storytelling approaches, just as they do for men. “In some ways, the industry looks at men to buy these watches for their females, and I think they’re looking at it the wrong way because a lot of women are very successful and make very decent salaries and they can buy their own timepieces, but they just have to understand the value,” said Sara Orlando, publisher of WatchTime in the USA. “Through events, I think women will become more educated, and I think that’s how brands can really capture the affluent female who’s maybe spending her money elsewhere, maybe with more travel or accessories that are not watches.”
Finally, thanks to incredible audience interest and many questions, the discussion transformed into women and the watches they wear. While some women in the room made the distinction that they would not wear the ultra-feminine “butterflies and flowers” watches, most said they were interested in more complicated watches, especially with the wealth of information and educational material available on the Internet. Buntain also stated that trying to categorize watches by gender is no longer particularly viable, especially with ecommerce. In fact many women today are purchasing men’s watches if they don’t find the equivalent functions, features and complications in a women’s timepiece. Interestingly enough, Rebecca Fischer of The RealReal stated that the mechanical timepieces they are putting up on the site are starting to attract more men to The RealReal than ever before. And that more women were interested, as well.
If you know your watches, you will earn your seat at the table.
Discussion continued around the fact that many of today’s top brands are releasing women’s collections that show off brains and beauty – with something special packed under the hood. Complex watches have become the new playground for today’s successful women, many of whom are now buying watches for themselves. For this reason, women’s watches have evolved from small men’s watches with quartz movements, to frivolous designs with butterflies and flowers, to something – finally – with substance. Calendars, chronographs, alarms and a host of other functions and features are now being offered for women, so they can make their own statement on the wrist. “It’s a unique opportunity to enter this field, and if you know your watches, you will earn your seat at the table,” said Fisher.