Making the Wristwatch Non-Binary
Updated: Jun 17
This week I found myself sitting at our kitchen island doing what I normally do, showing my wife my Chrono 24 wishlist while I explain to her, in great detail, how each piece is unique and why I need each one. I’d like to say she finds these conversations interesting and wants to know more but I’d be lying. But then, a breakthrough…. Nay… A miracle! She mouths the words every watch guy wants to hear his wife say,
“Why don’t we look at some watches for me?”
I tried my best to contain my excitement as I reached for the iPad. This was actually happening, the moment I had been waiting for, my wife was about to join me on a quest for a new watch. Maybe all those times I spoke about movements and complications had got her thinking and sparked her curiosity? Maybe she was a watch enthusiast at heart but just didn’t express it the same way I did. Whatever it was, I wasn’t going to waste this moment.
I was hoping to sell her on the movement of a watch rather than just the aesthetics. I was aiming for a classic piece that she could wear every day that would stand the test of time. We work our way through the different websites and watch brands looking at watch after watch, brand after brand. I wanted her to enjoy the process but I also wanted to gauge her reaction to different pieces. In all honesty, I was looking out for the subtlest of non-verbal’s that would give me an edge when a birthday or Christmas approached. But nothing. On the whole she was just so uninspired.
By the end of our search she had settled on just two watches. Hours spent trawling only to narrow it down to two. The first; A Patek Philippe Twenty-4 (ref: 7300/1200A) valued at just under £20,000. Not being funny, but that’s a GMT Master 2 and a Submariner!
The second was a 39mm Cartier Santos with a leather strap which was a good shout actually. I love what they did to it in 2018 and the fact that you can so easily change the straps is great… it meant we could share it. When I suggested this she was like,
“So this watch is actually for you?”.
Yes, I do want a Santos but I honestly think the Santos looks great on any wrist. It’s a fantastic size and the way the lugs are shaped and the flexibility in the strap means it feels comfortable on anyone, regardless of gender.
But this whole experience got me thinking about women’s watches. The thing that irked my wife so much was, as she explained it, a lack of care in the watches compared to men’s. It was as if watch manufacturers assume that, because it’s for a woman, we’ll just make it small, dainty and sparkly. Additionally, because of their smaller size it becomes increasingly more difficult to fit a mechanical movement and so manufacturers opt for quartz. Even my wife found this offensive arguing that companies scrimp on the movement and then “doll it up” with rose gold and diamonds, but they don’t actually know what women want.
Sure, it could be argued that the watch world is predominantly male but, in 2020, I actually don’t think that this the case. In my opinion, watch brands just aren’t listening to the customer or market as much as they should be.
This was highlighted by Sarah Shannon of the Financial Times (article here) who noted that women actually account for one third of all swiss luxury watch sales and that the days of petite timepieces with lesser internals should be behind us. The article also recognises Cartier and their “unisexification” of their watches. Additionally, an article by Wired (here) shows that by being bolder and caring about the mechanics can actually have a “beautiful effect” and such watches don’t actually need measure in the low 30mm’s and a 40mm automatic can look just as natural on a woman’s wrist as it does on a man’s.
Interestingly though, the lines are becoming more and more obscure regarding what actually classifies as a “woman’s watch”. After all, there’s no rulebook saying what women can and can’t wear on their wrists, nor should there be. There are some absolutely amazing watches out there and they should be enjoyed by everyone! Furthermore, sometimes, having a ‘larger’ watch on a smaller wrist can be quite the statement.
While watch brands and manufacturers are still a long way off catering specifically to women, it actually seems like a moot point as women have just decided to remove those limitations themselves by wearing whatever the hell want and personally, I think that’s how it should be. There are a growing number of profiles on Instagram which show how good “men’s watches” can actually look on a female wrist.
It just goes to show woman clearly know what they want more than watch manufacturers. Might this hurt their brand or sales? Not necessarily, men’s watches are more expensive and have different movements so, if women were to opt for these instead, it would probably be better for brands like Rolex, IWC and Cartier as profits would only increase due to more demand. However, they should certainly be a little embarrassed at how long it’s taken to get here and that they haven’t really done anything exciting or made a larger impact; instead opting to play it safe and not really take any risks. Personally, I’m actually looking forward to a day where my wife and I look at one another and say,
“Hey, I was going to wear that!”
Thanks for your time and see you in the next one!
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