High-end watches, with their intricate hand-crafted movements and multifarious complications, used to belong almost entirely to a masculine world. So when Vacheron Constantin, one of the most venerable of Swiss watchmakers, showed nothing but women’s timepieces at January’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) exhibition in Geneva, it caused something of a stir.
It had noticed that women are just as interested in what is going on under the bonnet, so to speak, as men, and they, too, want to wear something beautifully made by craftsmen who belong to a long and honourable tradition. Whereas once many women had to resort to men’s styles if they wanted fine mechanical movements, now there are watches made especially with them in mind.
There is also another mood at play – the desire for understated elegance. Take the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony line. It’s long been one of the brand’s most sought‑after collections, celebrating a particular sort of chic simplicity. Now, for the first time, it includes a watch for women – the Patrimony Traditionnelle (first picture, £19,210) – which uses one of the watchmaker’s finest movements, the calibre 1400. It does sport some diamonds, but in a delicate circle around the bezel. For those who don’t want jewels, the men’s version (£14,900) is unadorned and a mere 5mm in diameter bigger.
At Zenith, too, the dials for the women’s watches in its Elite range have become cleaner and more graceful. The Ultra Thin Lady Moonphase (on left in second picture, £7,300), which has a 3.5mm movement and a slim case, is more refined than ever, reminding one of the sort of watch one’s grandfather used to wear.
Over at Audemars Piguet, another of the great Swiss brands, there is one sublimely simple design that stands out among the diamond-encrusted numbers – the Jules Audemars (£23,330). It has an extra-thin, silver-toned guilloché dial with faceted hour markers and, although the bezel is studded with diamonds, the face itself is so plain that the overall effect is one of extreme elegance.
For the quintessence of chic simplicity, look to Dior. Its Fine Jewellery designer Victoire de Castellane’s La D collection was inspired by her grandfather’s watch and so has overtones of heritage with classic lines. The latest design (third picture, £18,400) has a black‑onyx dial with diamonds for the hours and encircling the bezel as well as a black-satin strap.
Finally, Tag Heuer’s new collection of watches for women includes the Carrera Ladies’ Automatic (on right in second picture, £3,650), also with diamonds, which shows the same trend towards a more timeless aesthetic.