Watch Femme: An Uprising Of Female Voices In The Watch Industry
A movement made of female collectors, enthusiasts, writers, or women who work in the watch industry has come together on a new social media platform to share the good and bad of being part of this luxurious and male-dominated industry.
In December 2020, Sharmila Bertin, Editor-in-Chief of The Watches Magazine, wrote an editorial about her less than satisfying experience in a boutique. In the editorial titled, "Gender Is So Has-Been," Bertin called for watches to not be "genderized," expressing her frustrations with the "sectarian" nature of the watch industry, brands splitting collections into "men's watches" and "women's watches," and outdated vocabulary like the term "ladies." Later on, in early February, Cara Barrett at Hodinkee shook the English-speaking watch world with her article "All Watches Should Be Unisex – And Here's Why.”
This dissatisfaction with the industry has been an ongoing problem for a long time. But it wasn’t until recently that women really began expressing their frustrations in print and out loud. While wanting our proverbial seat at the table, we often shied away from asking for it. Well, guess what? It's time they hear us!
What is Watch Femme?
Founded by Laetitia Hirschy, Founder & CEO of Kaaviar PR, and Suzanne Wong, Editor-in-Chief at WorldTempus, Watch Femme is here for women to learn and express themselves. What can we, as part of the watch industry, do to be more inclusive to women? What are the steps we should take to be more welcoming to future generations of watch women? How can we have a seat at the horological table? Both Laetitia and Suzanne have worked in the industry in different facets for years, and both have experienced sexism and inappropriate comments.
When asked what triggered their decision to start Watch Femme, Suzanne said, “For whatever reason, although the overall industry workforce is pretty much equal parts men and women, the gender distribution is completely skewed at the leadership level. For years, I was looking for some network, official or informal, to offer mentorship opportunities and support to young women in the watch world. When I didn't find one, I quickly realized that I couldn't just sit around waiting for someone else to do something about it.”
This rising movement needed a platform, and what better than the burgeoning social networking app Clubhouse? For those unfamiliar with the new Hype app, it's like a live podcast, where there are rooms with themes, and you're only allowed to talk if the moderator invites you on stage (either by raising your hand or by appointment of a moderator). No one sees you, but as soon as you click that unmute button, you can express your thoughts with the "speakers" and the "listeners." It's the perfect way to be yourself in the comfort of your home and express yourself freely.
Also, nobody is allowed to record, what happens on Clubhouse, stays on Clubhouse.
“When I joined Clubhouse in January, I felt like this was finally the perfect platform for having a more extensive dialogue on the subject,” Laetitia Hirschy told Watchonista. “The platform is user-friendly. No one is looking at you and judging how you look, etc. You can listen or participate if you want. As [Watchonista Editor-in-Chief] Josh very correctly said in his Time+Tide interview, Clubhouse feels like having a discussion at a bar with a mix of everyone in the industry, including consumers.”
I can already see you, dear reader, asking yourself: Wait, is this a pro-misandry group? No, no, and no!
While being made for women to express themselves, Watch Femme welcomes feedback, opinions, and men's questions. Watch Femme is created to empower women and to find mentorship between each other. Men's opinions and views are always more than welcome because many gents haven't realized what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry or hobby.
"Watches Are A Men's Hobby"
How many times have I heard, "That is not a women's watch you're wearing," or, "This watch is too big for your wrist," and wanting to be polite, I responded in a friendly ladylike manner. But I should not have to defend myself on my choice of wristwear. No one should.
Saying that watches are a men's hobby is like saying that only women should learn to cook. Try telling this to Wolfgang Puck or Thomas Keller. Once you use your eyes to do more than just look at your watch, you will see Founder and Editor-in-Chief of atimelyperspective.com Roberta Naas, the first female watch journalist in North America. You will see the dynamic duo of Kat and Katlen at Tenn & Two Media. You will see Cara Barrett at Hodinkee, Suzanne Wong at WorldTempus, Sharmila Bertin at The Watches Magazine and Brynn Wallner at dimepiece.co. And, of course, at Watchonista, where we proudly have more women editors than we have men. This list is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more.
Watch Femme’s Mission
Change never comes overnight, and the voices of Watch Femme are not asking for that kind of change. Watch Femme is here to guide, listen, and counsel. If brands have questions or need opinions, Watch Femme is the place to find answers.
“Every day I'm more and more convinced that what we're doing with Watch Femme is completely necessary for the watch industry's future.” – Suzanne Wong
Watch Femme is also the perfect platform for women to connect and support each other. Speaking from personal experience, I met some amazing women to whom I otherwise would never get the chance to talk. Sharing experiences consistently reinforces a feeling of community and strengthens us to be the best of ourselves, to support each other, and to guide the generations of watch women to come.
As Suzanne explained to Watchonista, “Ultimately, I want every woman who joins this industry to feel like she belongs here, whether she joins as an intern or a CEO. I want her to know where to go when she needs advice and guidance from someone who has faced the same challenges that she's going through. I want her to feel valued, to feel heard, to feel safe. And I want this to become so normal that she can't imagine how it was before. I don't presume that Watch Femme will accomplish all this. But I know we have taken a step towards it.”
Laetitia shares Suzanne’s expectations for Watch Femme, telling Watchonista, “We want to strengthen each other's voices, bring more female perspectives to fine watchmaking and hopefully help the industry become more inclusive in general. The most rewarding part has been women who've thought in the past they can't speak up or are too shy feel like Watch Femme is a safe and inclusive space to do so.
Are You Ready To Be Heard?
Every Thursday on the Clubhouse app, we gather to share our experiences and discuss how we can change perspectives. Once a month, starting tomorrow, Watch Femme will host a dedicated French-language discussion for women who do not speak English or do not feel comfortable expressing themselves in a second language. You can come to speak and share your experience or to listen and learn. Everyone is welcome, so don't shy away!
Do you still need a bit more convincing? Suzanne said it best, “Every day I'm more and more convinced that what we're doing with Watch Femme is completely necessary for the future of the watch industry. The response has been amazing. After every session, the conversations continue, on WhatsApp, on Instagram, in person. And we've had so many people come up to us and reaffirm what we believed all along — that people have been waiting for something like Watch Femme to come along.”
Join Watch Femme every Thursday on Clubhouse.
Need a Clubhouse invite? Hit me up at @vivi.watches on Instagram with your phone number, and I'll be more than happy to extend an invitation to you.
(Photography by Watchonista)