Women's Watches Are Not Just Pretty Faces Anymore

Breguet_Classique Phase de Lune Dame - Publicity - P 2016
Courtesy of Breguet

Breguet_Classique Phase de Lune Dame - Publicity - P 2016

The Swiss are now responding to female customers — like top stylist Jeanne Yang — who want "value and technology": "It’s like buying a Tesla: great-looking, but also dang fast."

Once upon a time, says Greg Simonian, president of Beverly Hills watch retailer Westime, "a women's watch simply would have been a smaller version of a men's watch." The Swiss timepiece industry, dominated by male execs and watchmakers, often treated pieces for women as an afterthought. That meant offering them with quartz batteries — instead of truly mechanical winding movements — or sprinkling a few diamonds around the dial.

That's changing, as female watch lovers increasingly demand the same exacting precision and technical functions that are offered as a matter of course in most high-end men's watches. A-list stylist and watch collector Jeanne Yang (whose clients include Christian Bale and Robert Downey Jr.) wouldn't dream of investing serious money in anything but a fully mechanical Swiss watch. "There's something nice about buying a watch for its value and its technology," says Yang, a fan of timepieces by Patek Philippe and Cartier, "not just because it's pretty."

Danielle Gelber, executive producer of NBC's Chicago franchise, agrees: "There's nothing like a brilliantly made Swiss watch." However, as she has built her timepiece collection over the years, she sometimes has bought men's pieces, including vintage Rolexes, because of the lack of serious options for women.

Omega’s Constellation Small Seconds is the first Master Chronometer for women; $12,400, at Westime, West Hollywood.

The watch industry now is paying attention to customers like these, women who value craftsmanship and instrumentation as much as design. "There seems to be a real expansion into the world of mechanical watches for women," says Simonian.

Indeed, at the recent Baselworld fair, the world's biggest watch trade show, some observers proclaimed it the Year of the Woman. Dozens of makers upped their game, including Omega, which brought out the first Master Chronometer for women (meaning it's certified for its precision by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology), and Bremont, which debuted its first women's line, the mechanical Solo-32 collection, with models named after pioneering female aviators. "In launching our women's collection, we knew we had to apply the same respect and technology we give our men's pieces," says Nick English, co-founder of the brand.

Bremont’s pilot-inspired Solo-32 LC; $4,095, at Feldmar Watch Company, Los Angeles. 

This year, Roger Dubuis introduced its Velvet Secret Heart with a bi-retrograde jumping date (in which you see the marker that moves around the dial of dates jump back to 1 at the start of the month), while Breguet debuted an in-house moonphase movement for female customers. Other functions — which watchmakers in years past had not bothered to make for the women's market — are on offer, from minute repeaters (which chime the time) to perpetual calendars (which take into account leap years).

For Yang, it comes down to applying the same high standards for a watch as for a luxury car. "It's like a buying a Tesla: Yes, it's a great-looking car, but it's also dang fast. With a great watch, you know that there are thousands of hours of development that went into it."

Roger Dubuis’ Velvet Secret Heart offers a bi-retrograde jumping date; $83,000, at Roger Dubuis, New York


Keeping Time on the Film Fest Circuit

This month, IWC Schaffhausen debured a limited-edition watch exclusively for the Tribeca Film Festival, which it sponsors. Its Portugieser Annual Calendar Edition Tribeca Film Festival features a slate gray dial meant to evoke the streets of New York. “As a brand that believes in craft and innovation, we feel closely linked to the film industry,” says Edouard d’Arbaumont, IWC’s North American president. The brand donated $50,000 to the Tribeca Film Institute this year and awarded the $50,000 IWC Filmmaker Award on April 14. … On May 19, at Cannes’ amfAR benefit, expect to see actresses wearing event sponsor Harry Winston’s new limited-edition Countdown to a Cure Midnight watch, with 20 percent of proceeds going to the AIDS research organization.

This story first appeared in the May 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.