Time on Her Hands

The expanding market of women’s watches is growing even faster in 2005, as more brands add more timepieces—including fine mechanical watches—specifically for female self-purchasers, who have become an important target for many watchmakers.

Much of their focus is on women under 40 who want fine watches not only for evening wear but also for work, and what a spokesman for one luxury brand calls “today’s more relaxed lifestyle.” Among 2005’s many newcomers are Breitling’s Starliner, its first line for women; Cartier’s Tankissime, the first woman’s watch in its iconic Tank family; Oris’s first Artelier for women; and Pulsar’s Double Time, whose twistable bracelets have a different style on each side.

Others are adapting lines for women. Philip Stein Teslar’s dual-time watches (containing a chip protecting wearers from electronic pollution) has new “mini” styles. Jorg Hysek has a new version of his signature curved Bridge watch called Lady Bridge (with lateral tracks of diamonds or gems), his first for women. Frederique Constant’s Ladies Heart Beat (in a limited edition of 888) is a variation on his Heart Beat series, with moonphase, date pointer, and diamond bezel and numerals, on a pink rubber strap. Roger Dubuis is adding more women’s models to its Sports Activity Watch and Sympathie lines, plus many new dials.

STYLISHLY SPORTY.

Many of the new women’s timepieces are stylish sport watches, like Guess Collection’s enamel Diver Chic chrono; Patek Philippe’s “causal chic” Aquanaut Luce line with diamond “cushion” bezels, colorful rubberlike straps, and matching dials and rings (with interchangeable color inserts); and TAG Heuer’s Link Chronograph Lady Diamonds and Formula 1 with 100 diamonds, the first woman’s watch in that popular series.

This year’s horological debutantes come dressed in a variety of feminine designs. Among them are Maurice Lacroix’s hourglass-shape Divina (also in a limited edition with a starfish design in diamonds and sapphires on the cover and side); Van Cleef & Arpels’s Secret, whose petite watch slides right-side out from its pavé-covered case; Raymond Weil’s pink-gold Don Giovanni Cosi Grande Jewelry chrono, with lateral bezel bands of diamonds, on a white alligator strap; Bertolucci’s yellow-gold Fascino, with up to 100 diamonds; and Rado’s Sintra Jubilé, in white, black, or pink high-tech ceramic, with alternating rows of diamonds in the bracelet.

Eye-Catching. Other eye-catchers include Bulgari’s woman-size white-gold and diamond Assioma, with curved lateral arches flanking a rounded case; Xen’s round and square stainless-steel watches with inset diamonds; TechnoMarine’s all-white diamond tonneau Butterfly additions; David Yurman’s red-gold cocktail watch; and Hermès’s Arcole, whose curved rectangular case is based on Paris’s same-named bridge.

Watches with interchangeable straps, such as Façonnable’s Hydra Lady and Michele’s Coquette Retro Diamond watches, keep growing. In a variation, Cyma, Pippo Italia, and Montblanc offer women’s watches with pull-through straps, while Façonnable’s Diamond Roll not only has changeable straps but also changeable rotating gemstone bars (between the case lugs).

Targeting Women. More brands are making women focal points in marketing and growth strategies. Baume & Mercier, for example, “intends to be the first luxury watch women buy,” says Rodolphe Cadoret, product manager. A prime candidate is its new steel Diamant, with sculpted square case, curved crystal, and an oval crown set with an off-center diamond.

At Montblanc, “Women are more and more important for us, so we’re adding more and more for them specifically,” says Wolff Heinrichsdorff, managing director for marketing and international sales. Among its debuts are more mechanicals, including chronometers. “More women like mechanical watches, not only for the designs but also the technical features,” he notes.

Others agree. Longines’s Masters Collection of vintage-style automatics is aimed at “young watch connoisseurs, especially women, who are doing more collecting of fine watches, especially automatics,” says U.S. manager Linda Passaro. Patek Philippe has its first annual calendar for women, which includes a patented mechanism.

“Women now are much more interested in mechanical timepieces,” says U.S. marketing director Barrie Olsen, “but with feminine features, like mother-of-pearl dials and diamonds.”

Complications. Even on top of the luxury-watch pyramid, women are getting attention. Glashütte Original’s Star collection aims for “the cosmopolitan woman with a sense of aesthetics and technology by uniting design on the outside with precision mechanics inside,” says a spokesman. Harry Winston’s 34 mm Excenter Biretro, with 278 diamonds (4.175 cts.), is “a complication watch for women of character, one combining fine jewelry- and watchmaking” says Max Büsser, timepiece managing director. It’s also a world first: Its movement combines retrograde indicators of seconds and weekdays. DeWitt, known for limited editions, has its first women’s line—the oval-case Alma (not a limited edition) with alternating dial zones of mother-of-pearl. Alma Utopia has a new patented way to read the day of the month, using two different retrograde hands—one for digits at the dial’s top, the other those at the bottom.

Perhaps most significant are the many brands creating limited-edition tourbillons for women connoisseurs. Examples include Girard-Perregaux’s oval Cat’s Eye Tourbillon, with diamonds and 75-hour power reserve; Chanel’s J12 tourbillon, its first ever; Van Cleef & Arpels’s Monsieur Arpels flying tourbillon, with a mother-of-pearl-set bridge on the back; and Zenith’s Starissime Tourbillon, its first for women, with 230 diamonds (9.8 cts.), and a diamond star replacing the tourbillon bridge.