“If you asked me to spend $10,000 on a bag, I’d rather use the money to buy a watch,” said watch collector Yu Chye Fong when The Peak interviewed her last year. The owner of timepieces ranging from a 1989 Patek Philippe Calatrava to a diamond-studded, aventurine-dial watch by Parmigiani, mused: “A number of my friends like designer bags, but I can’t see the same amount of details and effort that go into a watch going into the making of a bag.”
While she might seem like the exception rather than the norm today, especially when the majority of luxury watches cater to masculine tastes, this was not always the case. Camille (the brand declined to reveal her surname), designer of Vacheron Constantin’s new ladies’ watch collection Egerie, shared in an e-mail interview that the fairer sex was actually the first to favour wristwatches.
She said: “At the end of the 19th century, ladies started to wear wristwatches as men did not want to put the traditional pocket watch aside. It was only in the first half of the 20th century that men started to wear wristwatches as well.” In the early days, ladies’ watches were typically jewellery pieces fixed on bracelets or bangles. Today, horological offerings for women have greatly expanded.
In a Financial Times feature last March, John Guy, a luxury analyst at London’s Mainfirst Bank, noted that women accounted for almost a third of Swiss luxury watch sales. Responding to the demand for options beyond the dainty and blingy quartz timepieces that have long dominated the women’s market, watchmakers have in recent years begun to create ladies’ offerings that pack a greater horological punch.
Vacheron Constantin’s Egerie collection, which debuted in February with five automatic self-winding models with either a date or moon-phase display, is the brand’s first new ladies’ collection in 17 years. Last month, Chanel unveiled three new J12 models – including one entirely made from sapphire crystal – to mark the 20th anniversary of its signature ceramic watch, which was the luxury house’s first automatic watch when it was launched in 2000.
At the end of the day, here’s what women want: the array of choices male watch lovers have, but designed with them in mind. Says arts manager and watch collector Cham Gee Len: “I look for watches with timeless designs, and which are almost unisex in look and size. My biggest peeve with women’s diamond watches is that many were not originally designed that way. They are actually men’s watches that have been made smaller – and to which diamonds have been added to make them more feminine. I think having a specific purpose in mind when you first start designing something new works best.”
This article first appeared in The Peak.