When the options marketed to them leave them wanting, many women will opt to wear a man’s watch, be it for the wider strap and chunkier design, or for the more complicated movements and features. Watch expert Giorgia Mondani, daughter of the famous author and luxury watch book publisher Guido Mondani, owns nothing but men’s watches. In an interview, she describes how men’s watches feel like better investments as they have more collectable value. To explore this trend, we decided to take a look at the watches that were most talked-about by women online, using Linkfluence (a social listening suite). We looked at the posts made about the following watches in 2019, then calculated the percentage of discussions by women. Here they are, starting with the most popular.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
First launched at the 1972 Baselworld, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is considered to be the first luxury sports watch in the world. It has modern design features with its signature octagonal bezel, exposed screw heads, “tapisserie” dial and steel case. Despite its strongly masculine feel, it became the first Audemars Piguet watch to be reimagined as a women’s version from an existing men’s design: the Lady Royal Oak. While some women do still prefer the larger men’s version, most importantly this shows that the Royal Oak’s instantly recognizable look is something everybody can agree on. In 2019 there were 48K posts about this watch, with a huge proportion – 75% – coming from women and, surprisingly, 40% from women in the 18-24 age range. Was this because in May last year Kylie Jenner received a diamond-studded version as a “spontaneous gift” from then boyfriend Travis Scott? If so, is it fair to conclude that style (and celebrity interest) mean more to buyers than the “men’s” or “women’s” label?
One of the most iconic Rolex models, the Daytona has been in production since 1963. Its design was originally made to meet the demands of professional racing drivers who wore it to measure elapsed time and read average speeds. Now that Rolex watches have become symbols of wealth and status among male wearers, for a woman to wear a men’s Rolex makes the statement that women can be just as successful: akin to Lady Gaga wearing a men’s suit. The Daytona has been spotted on celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Chiara Ferragni, the Kardashians and Elle Macpherson, which perhaps goes some way towards explaining its popularity: there were 121K online posts about this watch in 2019. Of these, 20% were by women with the majority coming from 18 to 24 year-olds. Again, this is a surprisingly young age group, especially given that most of the posts by men were from over-55s. This could suggest that the younger age ranges are more open to gender-fluid dressing, although the Daytona’s popularity among celebrities, and the fact that it is a status symbol, could also play a role.
Tudor Black Bay
This is one of the most overtly masculine watches found to be popular among women. With dark red, black and dark blue colourways in a chunky, angular case, it was first released as a men’s watch then as a women’s watch, although the fact that both are similar in design makes it almost unisex. It was the subject of 26K posts, with women aged 18 to 24 accounting for 21%. This demonstrates how even very masculine-looking watches appeal to the younger age ranges. Its popularity could also stem from the fact that it features regularly on Suzanne Wong’s Instagram account, and this age group are the most active on the platform (2 out of 3 adults aged 18-29 use Instagram).
Panerai is famous for its functional yet classic designs, and it’s functionality that is often left out of women’s watches. Think of the easy-to-read luminous dial or the water-resistance, as technically this is a dive watch. Thin wire lugs make it perfect for slimmer wrists while the simple, sleek design makes it easy to pull off as a unisex watch. Around 8K posts were made about this watch by women from all age groups. For a style that is considerably different to most women’s watches on the market, such widespread interest is surprising. This could be because it offers the simplicity that is difficult to find in women’s watches, which more often than not are jewellery watches with diamonds and intricate designs: a kind of horological palate cleanser. Again, women’s preference for this watch is a sign they are looking for less overtly feminine designs.
The Submariner debuted in 1953 and quickly became a reference, if not the reference, among dive watches. Its iconic status grew thanks to its numerous appearances in action films, including the James Bond saga. Regardless of its manly look, the Submariner earned a posse of female fans, helped by celebrities including Charlize Theron, Drew Barrymore and Sharon Stone. It’s also a favourite of watch expert Giorgia Mondani. Wearing such an iconic symbol of masculinity is a real statement on how traditional connotations no longer carry as much weight in today’s culture of understanding gender in less binary terms. In 2019, 173K posts were made about the Submariner, although women accounted for just a tiny percentage of these posts: around 1% of the discussion in each age group came from women, from as young as 13 up to 65+.