Long gone are the days when a lady’s watch was just a pretty exterior, a sparkly diamond and mother-of-pearl watch with the single choice of a quartz movement inside. Yes, there’s been improvement, but would it be wrong of me to ask for more?
A Little Backstory…
I was born during the early 90’s so not only am I a little younger than most of the individuals within the “watch world”, but I’m also typically the only woman in the room. I’ve been dabbling in watches for over eight years now, and how I felt as a young female in the industry then is totally different to how I feel now. Let me explain…
One of my first jobs was in online watch sales, managing a talented team of individuals who were predominantly women. I don’t consider myself your typical “salesman” type, but I absolutely loved this job. It was here where my love of watches began and I could sit and talk to people about them all day, every day. It was also here that I first began writing about and reviewing watches – but I digress.
During an average month, it was not uncommon to pick up the phone to a gentleman caller who would only speak to a male about his possible watch purchase. If one was available, and if they’d asked nicely, we’d accommodate it. On other occasions, we’d tell them they’d have to make do. Don’t get me wrong, most interactions were pleasant but there were a handful that stand out as being both laughable and heart-breaking. I won’t go into too much detail, because that’s not what this article is about, but it was rare instances like this that made me question whether the world of watches was welcoming of women.
It was also during this time that most watch brands – luxury names in particular – offered only a handful of designs tailored for the wrists of women. Take Breitling, for example. Ten years ago, they pretty much had only one collection dedicated to women: the Galactic. Their more attractive models – in my opinion at least – like the Navitimer and Chronomat were only available in larger case sizes. That’s of course totally different now, but this is what I was seeing at the time.
Breitling Blackbird - Credit WatchGecko
As you guessed it, my initial concerns surrounding discrimination and opportunity didn’t last long. When I first visited Baselworld in 2016 I felt wonderfully welcomed and as subsequent trips to Geneva have shown, there are a growing number of young female attendees at these events. I should also mention that 99% of those I’ve met in the industry have been kind and welcoming, and incredibly enthusiastic about meeting a woman who knows what a balance spring does. I also know 99% of those of you reading this will be the very same, but in the case you come across that annoying 1%, do me a favour and flick them on the nose.
Funnily enough, it has also always been men that have encouraged me to wear and review men’s watches. Don’t get me wrong, I have tiny-ass wrists so I’m not about to wear a 47mm watch for a week and be able to accurately judge whether it wears comfortably. However, with some men’s watches sized a little smaller nowadays, I feel I’m in a fortunate position to be able to test drive designs from both worlds.
NTH Amphion, DevilRay and Todaro - Credit WatchGecko
So, What Do I Really Think?
Ok, let’s talk actual watches. In the decade I have been involved in the watch world, I have seen a distinctive increase in the number of women’s watches available. In particular, the “unisex watch” has been an essential gateway for me to find less “feminine” watches with slightly smaller cases. This is purely down to the increase of men wanting to swap out their hulking sports watches for smaller cases typically below 38mm– so thanks guys.
As someone who loves a vintage-inspired aesthetic, I love designs like the 36mm Oris Big Crown Pointer Date watch. This is a good size for my wrist – still not too big and fairly slender in height– plus they have cases in bronze which is not a common sight in watches this small. And come on, those cathedral hands! I’m also a sucker for an integrated sports watch, so designs like the 35mm Maurice Lacroix Aikon speak loudly do me. I also have my eyes set on the Oris ProPilot X with the bright coral pink dial and the Calibre 400 movement. The 10 year warranty alone is impressive for the price point.
Oris Big Crown Pointer Date - Credit WatchGecko
Something else I love on a watch is a colourful dial. Black, silver, blue and mother of pearl have been done a million times over, so I’m pleased to see more brands experimenting with different shades. Alongside the coral pink Oris ProPilot X, I loved the Kermit Edition launched at this year’s Watches & Wonders 2023. That shade of green is gorgeous and seeing Kermit’s face appear one day of the month is a small price to pay for the rest of the watch. I’m also obsessed, along with everyone else it seems, with that “Tiffany blue” shade that has gone crazy following the sell-out collaboration between Rolex and Tiffany & Co. I’m patiently waiting for Tissot to launch their PRX 35mm watch with a mint green dial (this dial is currently only available in 40mm).
Oris Pro Pilot X - Credit WatchGecko
It's probably also for this reason that I enjoy German watch brands like Junghans and NOMOS Glashutte. The Bauhaus style is reduced and minimalistic as standard so even the largest watches in their collections feel comfortable on my wrist and they’re also not afraid to experiment with colour. The NOMOS Tangente is a classic, and for good reason. They’re simple and unfussy in style and yet house masterful mechanical movements. I also love the freshly launched bracelets NOMOS have recently introduced into their line of handmade straps.
There are also some smaller, lesser-known micro-brands that have mastered the art of reasonably sized, beautifully made watches. Take for example Scottish watchmaker an Ordain. They specialise in the creation of enamel dials and deliver the complex process within case sizes ranging from 35mm to 39.5mm. Their fumé dials in particular are breathtaking, with the Model 1 Plum Fume being a personal favourite.
I’m also a huge fan of what NORQAIN are doing at the moment. Although I’m not someone that is typically tempted by sports watches, I know several women that feel female sports watches are greatly lacking. NORQAIN however has a decent range of designs in their Adventure collection measuring to 37mm. This isn’t a case of “shrinking and pinking” either – a term used to describe when brands simply reduce the size of their men’s watches and add in a few diamonds to make it more feminine. In fact, there is little diamond and mother of pearl in sight, plus they’re all 100 metres water resistant and automatic with exhibition case backs – hallelujah!
Super Squale Diver's Watch - Sunray Grey Dial - Credit WatchGecko
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that as a woman in the watch world, things are much better than they used to be. We have a hell-of-a-lot more choice than before and brands are certainly realising that women are buying watches for themselves now. They aren’t just pieces of jewellery gifted by our fathers and husbands, but instruments that we can afford to pick out ourselves. As with anything, there’s always room for improvement and I’d particularly love to see more brand’s pushing men’s style watches with slightly smaller cases and ideally at cheaper prices - but we can’t have everything.