Ladies First: Building The Ultimate Women’s Watch Wardrobe
While the press gives more play to the guys, women’s watches have so much more variety. Here, we attempt to create a list of essential ladies timepieces.
The lazy days of August often turn to long nights discussing all kinds of important matters such as ranking Rory’s boyfriends on Gilmore Girls or debating the social impact of Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road.
If you’re watch obsessed, you might find yourself spending a sultry summer’s eve making lists of the most essential women’s watches. There are plenty of top fives for men (Rolex Daytona, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus, IWC Portugieser, Omega Speedmaster off the top of my head).
The challenge of ranking ladies’ timepieces is defining the parameters of any such list. Do we leave off scaled-down versions of men’s watches like the Rolex Datejust or the Patek Phillipe Nautilus (even though an ideal collection should include both)?
Do we include only examples of haute horology? Or, do we include exemplary jewelry watches like the quartz-powered Chanel Premiere or the time-only Cartier Tank (both of which are amazingly elegant)?
Well, we decided to list our faves in each category. Let’s break it down.
Good Things Come in Smaller Packages
Some watches transcend gender that’s one of the top benefits of being a female watch collector. You can wear men’s or women’s watches. But, as a financial expenditure, ladies’ timepieces are usually a little more affordable.
For example, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is the signature watch for both LeBron James and Serena Williams. In fact, in June, Williams – the 23 time Grand Slam singles title winner – received one of the highest accolades in the world of athletics: the Wheaties cereal box (whilst wearing a Rose Gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Quartz).
Another classic favored by women is the Rolex Datejust. Introduced in 1945, Rolex rolled out the smaller Lady Datejust in 1957. Today, celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock can be spotted wearing the men’s version. But there’s something a little more refined about the smaller, 28mm iteration of this timepiece. Ladies also have a broader range of presentation choice, from simple stainless steel or blinged up Everose gold with diamonds. Rihanna wears one and she is a business, man.
And finally, who wouldn’t want to possess a Patek Philippe 7118 Nautilus Ladies Automatic? Patek has been making his and hers versions of this legendary timepiece since its introduction in 1976. The 2019 versions of this sporty, self-winding watch come in stainless steel with a blue, grey, or silvery opaline dial and rose gold with the same dial option minus the blue. Both come with the option of a diamond-studded bezel.
Run the Jewels
Of course, a truly iconic watch must be instantly recognizable. As in, I should be able to spot it from across a crowded room. While most jewelry watches are time-only, there is an argument to be made that the design is the extra complication. The following watches are perfect examples of this.
Cartier has one of the most memorable watch designs, the Tank. There are several iterations of this rectangular timepiece, and like the previously mentioned watches, it is gender-neutral. But while Andy Warhol and Jeff Goldblum were/are fans, this watch is most closely associated with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In 2017, her Cartier Tank sold for $379,500 (triple its pre-auction estimate of $120,000) at Christie's New York “Rare Watches and American Icons Sale.”
There is nothing like the Bulgari Serpenti in the world of watchmaking. Mimicking a snake coiled around the wrist, the history of this stunning timepiece starts in the 1940s. Over the years it has seen many variations — from realistic-looking reptiles to more abstract designs. But each bracelet is formed by the Tubogas technique which uses long bands of gold or steel coiled around a long, flexible steel tube. In addition to creating its unique appearance, it makes the bracelet incredibly flexible. Likewise, instantly recognizable celebrities like Naomi Campbell or Julianne Moore are often spotted on the red carpet wearing a Serpenti.
A simpler but equally notable watch is the Chanel Première that made its debut in 1987. The faceted crystal is shaped like the stopper of a bottle of Chanel No. 5. The chain bracelet is laced with leather-like one of Coco’s signature belts. Like a knitted-wool suit worn with a string of pearls, this timepiece is timeless.
While simple movements allow manufacturers to play around with the design, there is also a significant number of female collectors who are into the art of haute horology. There is a rising demand for luxury watches for women, and brands are racing to meet it. Luckily, some manufactures have long acknowledged the desires of those lacking a Y-chromosome. Breguet, for instance, always provided its women customers with serious watchmaking skills. The company’s founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet, made watches for both Marie-Antoinette and Napoleon’s sister Catherine Murat, the Queen of Naples. Today, the Breguet Reine de Naples collection (inspired by a bracelet watch made for the aforementioned Murat) produces some of the industry’s most distinctive wristwatch designs. Our new favorite is the Reine de Naples 8967 with its swirly blue mother-of-pearl dial and denim strap. But for horophiles, the best feature is the automatic calibre 591C with its beautifully hand-finished rotor and 169 components (which can be admired through the sapphire case back).
Girard Perregaux has also long recognized the passion of female fans of Haute Horlogerie with a range of ladies’ timepieces all manufactured in-house mechanical movements. While the manufacture just launched its first ladies chronograph – the Laureato Chronograph Lady – we’re kind of fond of the Cat’s Eye Tourbillon with Gold Bridge. Gearheads gotta have an example of a tourbillon in their collection but this white gold elliptical, diamond-set case and aventurine simply take the arts of watchmaking and gemsetting to the next level.
And finally, what’s a watch wardrobe without a little something from A. Lange & Söhne? This German manufacture is one of the biggest players in the luxury watch market and they offer a wide range of sophisticated complications. This is why women love the Little Lange 1 Moon Phase. It’s not a dainty watch, but with its pink gold case and silvery guilloche dial, it has a feminine fluidity. Not to mention that Lange mastered the art of balancing the subdials and indicators. And the calibre L121.2 movement’s moonphase will remain accurate for up to 122.6 years.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)