Women and watches: everything’s changing

The just-closed Watches and Wonders trade show in Geneva underlined what we’ve noticed in the industry: more women buying and discussing watches and brand stories that are less gender-focused

The just-closed Watches and Wonders trade show in Geneva underlined what we’ve noticed in the industry: more women buying and discussing watches and brand stories that are less gender-focused

“What is a ladies watch? It’s a woman’s watch.” Watch writer and co-founder of Watch Femme, Suzanne Wong’s observation sums up today’s reality, in which individuals choose designs regardless of gender labels.

This may not seem groundbreaking to an outsider, but it is a revolutionary idea within the luxury watch world, which is moving at an icy pace compared to other industries. Obvious differences in size, complications and gems that once defined men’s and women’s watches are now fading. In fact, I’ve noticed over the past year that watch brands are increasingly throwing away labels when marketing their products — inviting everyone to wear their “serious” designs, rather than pushing women toward pieces that use the “pink it and shrink it.” have undergone treatment.

The booth of Swiss luxury watchmaker and jeweler Piaget

The booth of Swiss luxury watchmaker and jeweler Piaget | Photo credit: AFP

I saw more of this last week at Watches and Wonders (W&W) in Geneva. The first post-Covid watch fair drew more than 22,000 visitors to Palexpo, and the mood was euphoric, with unabashed hugs, smiles everywhere and frequent echoes of ‘I’m so glad to finally see you’. The latest edition also featured women coming together after talking digitally about timepieces over the past two years. There were more collectors, as well as writers and watch influencers such as Wong and Laetitia Hirschy of Watch Femme, a virtual community founded in February 2021 to “promote and amplify women’s voices within the watch world,” and Brynn Wallner, founder of Dimepiece, a two-year-old female-focused website and Instagram page, among others.

Brynn Wallner, founder of Dimepiece

Brynn Wallner, founder of Dimepiece | Photo credit: Ava Van Osdol

And the buzz continued online, with names like Jessica Wang (@jessicawang), a luxury influencer from China, and Karishma Karer (@kari_watch), co-founder of Mumbai-based platform The Hour Markers, informing their followers loved the events. Watch Girls Off Duty, a WhatsApp group of 182 women from around the world (created by watch collector and dealer Zoe Ableton aka @watchgirloffduty) that I’m part of, was just as busy as members shared photos and videos and made plans.

Its mechanics

Watch fashion week, as I would like to call W&W (formerly Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie or SIHH), had several things to offer, but two stood out. The first was blotting out the gender when it came to wearing the designs (him, her, she, or anyone else). Brands like IWC and Zenith have removed all gender splits, including on their website, while Hublot’s Big Bang series saw bright shades in their Integral line that can lend itself to any wrist. And the second was durability, but more on that later.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Extra Thin

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Extra Thin

In defense of little

I feel like an outlier in the watch world, and blatantly prefer smaller, more graceful watches. Yes, I love a bossy 40mm Rolex Daytona, but I also love the small one (about 26mm); and you can only find these if you shop in the secondary market. Somehow we’ve come to a point where the smallest Royal Oak available at retail is 33mm (for context, the 35mm was considered huge for any gender in the 1960s). I hope to see a resurgence of smaller watches, and brands getting more creative with their designs instead of making a “men’s watch” but showing it as progressive because of the genderless label. One brand that stands out is Cartier, according to Brynn Wallner, founder of Dimepiece. “It’s been making gender-fluid watches for over a century, deliberately designed with every wrist size and style in mind. [The Tank, for example, was commercialised in 1919 in one size]†

Also read:How the pandemic has shaped the Indian watch community; interviews with the heads of Bulgari, Chopard and Montblanc; eye-catching watches at Watches and Wonders 2022; luxury watches and NFTs and much more

“As women become more successful and have more disposable income, they buy for themselves, and what better piece to buy than a watch that will last a lifetime?” says Laetitia Hirschy, co-founder of Watch Femme (@watch_femme). “It wasn’t that long ago that men were the biggest target audience, but follow the numbers: women are starting to take up that space.” For example, Julien Tornare, Zenith’s chief executive, said: The New York Times recently: “Our clientele now consists of 26% women. Our data shows that women tend to buy large models and men small or diamond-encrusted watches.”

Conversations of complications and tourbillons abound in Geneva, with women cheering how iconic models such as the Chopard Happy Diamonds, Chanel Boy.Friend and Bulgari Serpenti (with its Piccolissimo timepiece) have been given a mechanical redoux. This reminds me of when Antoine Pin, head of the watch division at Bulgari, said: The Hindu weekend in January: “How can we be more generous in our approach than by developing the culture of mechanical watchmaking for men’s and women’s calibers? Isn’t that the true nature of this issue of gender fluidity?” The bold watches on slender wrists with complications to match – Karer’s Hautlence Avant-Garde certainly caught my attention – are proof that the brands are getting it right.

  Bulgari Serpenti with the Piccolissimo movement

Bulgari Serpenti with the Piccolissimo movement

Women at the helm

The other big focus at W&W, as I mentioned earlier, was creating a sustainable future. And women play a big role. An example of this is Caroline Scheufele, co-president and creative director of Chopard, who turned the company completely towards ethical practices in 2013. Appropriately titled ‘Journey to Sustainability’, it was the brand’s first step into the world of Fairmined gold working closely with the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM). When I meet Scheufele at the private bar in the Chopard booth at Palexpo, she tells me it’s a slow process, but that “luxury more than ever should stand for ethics and transparency”.

Another woman in power who is doing great things is Christelle Rosnoblet, CEO and president of Speake-Marin. The boutique watch brand stands for sophisticated timepieces and each of their lines is defined by a unique voice, mechanical movement and design language. They are also rarely limited by gender. Ripples, this year’s limited edition release of 100 pieces, is inspired by the architecture of London’s financial district (a nod to the brand’s British heritage), and the 40.3mm dial is front and center with horizontal stripes and ‘Big Ben’ hands. What stands out, however, is her willingness to share. It’s no secret that having one’s own production is considered one of the highest forms of fine timepieces, but with the rise of independents, not everyone has that luxury. Rosnoblet has opened its workshop in the heart of Swiss watchmaking, Neuchâtel, to anyone who needs it.

Caroline Scheufele, co-president and creative director of Chopard and (right) Christelle Rosnoblet, CEO and president of Speake-Marin

Caroline Scheufele, co-president and creative director of Chopard and (right) Christelle Rosnoblet, CEO and president of Speake-Marin

Digital companionship

The world may have fallen apart in the past two years, but digital communication has had a cascading effect, especially when it comes to watches. Social media is where the growing community of female watch enthusiasts come together. “The interest has always been there, but there was never an outlet. Lockdown forced women in some ways to discover more and more new things [or dormant] hobbies on social media,” says Hirschy. They were also able to open up without worrying about criticism or ridicule.

“The industry still has a long way to go, but the lack of face-to-face communication during the pandemic has opened doors for people to meet through platforms such as Instagram and Clubhouse in ways they never had before,” said JJ Owens. , who works in marketing at online magazine, watchonista† “There were always female collectors and women in the industry, but now the sense of community and conversation feels stronger than ever.”

Laetitia Hirschy, co-founder of Watch Femme and (right) JJ Owens, who works in marketing at Watchonista

Laetitia Hirschy, co-founder of Watch Femme and (right) JJ Owens, who works in marketing at watchonista

Lydia Winters (@winters.watches) is a strong example. Minecraft’s main open-ended narrator launched her page last year to celebrate her growing watch collection. Her photos — think a Rolex covered in sprinkles or an IWC Schaffhausen in the snow — have since earned her more than 9,000 followers. And her latest post sums up the genderless approach everyone is looking for: “We all love watches. It’s great to have opinions, but yours are not more important or valid than anyone else’s. The community is better with more diversity, more respect and more fun!”

SOURCE : www.thehindu.com

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