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IT TOOK them long enough but watch companies today have finally found that sweet spot where feminine elegance and technical sophistication overlap. Responding to the growing number of woman connoisseurs who have a serious interest in – and the ability to buy – luxury mechanical timepieces, watch companies have slowly but steadily released more and better thought-out concepts that promise to appeal to this target group.
Far more than mere downsized versions of existing men's watches gussied up by cursory design features such as diamonds or pink accents, this new breed of feminine timepieces are ready to give any gent's watch a run for its money.
Patek Philippe's feminine grand complications aren't significantly different from its men's models but that's all right because the manufacture's quintessential watchmaking style is equally loved by all. The new Ladies Grand Complication Ref 7140G-001 adds a perpetual calendar to the mix which already includes a chronograph, a minute repeater, and an ultra-thin model.
Powered by the distinguished Calibre 240 Q, this watch packs all the calendrical displays within a nifty 35.1mm case and keeps its dial near perfectly symmetrical. Its bezel is neatly set with 68 brilliant cut diamonds but connoisseurs know that the main attraction lies beneath the dial and can be seen through the exhibition case back. Beautifully finished, Calibre 240 Q comes with a 22K gold micro-rotor and the manufacture's proprietary Gyromax balance and Spiromax hairspring. Without question, this exceptional timepiece is intended for the most ardent watch aficionados.
The Royal Oak is Audemars Piguet's bestselling model and the manufacturer regularly produces smaller versions of it for the women, but the latest addition to the collection was the one that every trendsetting female has her eyes on. The Royal Oak Frosted Gold looks – and feels – different from a standard Royal Oak thanks to the application of an ancient Florentine gold hammering technique on its case, bezel, and bracelet.
A collaboration with the jewellery designer, Carolina Bucci, this watch is covered with tiny indentations left by a diamond-tipped tool. Radiating a unique shimmer not unlike diamond dust or freshly fallen snow, this watch deftly balances glamour and simplicity while staying true to the iconography of the inimitable Royal Oak.
Inspired by the aurora borealis, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Celestial is the star piece for the Rendez-Vous collection. Its dial is a rich spectacle formed of various crafts from the manufacture's Metiers Rare portfolio of traditional decorative techniques. The hour numerals arch across a backdrop of hand-painted grand feu enamel reminiscent of the dramatic Northern Lights while the celestial complication is displayed on a lapis lazuli dial hand-painted with the 12 zodiac signs as seen from the northern hemisphere.
Echoing the dial's captivating colour palette is the bezel set with baguette-cut sapphires in varying hues from deep and light blue to dazzling violets and intense purples. This timepiece is also equipped with a Rendez-Vous alarm function set using the white gold star controlled by the second crown.
Omega celebrated the 60th anniversary of its iconic Speedmaster this year and the new Speedmaster 38mm is one of the many special editions created to mark the occasion. Not only is it significantly smaller than the classic 42mm Speedmaster, this model comes with an updated look featuring elliptical chronograph counters, an oval date aperture, and a dual bezel design. Dressed in a host of exciting colourways, this unisex collection will undoubtedly appeal to women who appreciate the Speedmaster's storied history and its indelible impact on modern horology.
Practically every Cartier timepiece is an icon of its time and this latest debutante is no exception. Panthere de Cartier bears all the familiar hallmarks of a timeless Cartier watch – Roman hour numerals, blue-steel sword-shaped hands, blue sapphire cabochon on the crown – but it is not without its own unique traits. This watch distinguishes itself from the other square shaped Cartier watches by the softened angles hugging the bezel and case middle, as well as an octagonal crown.
Dating back to 1983, this bold bracelet watch is further identified by eight strategically placed screws around the bezel. In white gold, yellow gold, pink gold and steel, with or without diamonds, the new Panthere de Cartier is also elegantly sized and makes for an ideal everyday watch.
Making a glorious comeback this year, the IWC Da Vinci collection embraces the classical tenets of fine watchmaking. This timepiece also holds special meaning for women watch connoisseurs because the first feminine wristwatch by IWC was a Da Vinci Lady Chronograph. Powered by a semi-mechanical 630 Calibre, it had a generous moonphase display positioned on the edge of the dial at 12 o'clock.
Redesigned with movable lugs and a more refined round case, the new Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36 kept the moon phase indicator at the same spot but went with a mechanical self-winding movement. The 36mm diameter is perfectly sized for all wrists and the accompanying leather strap made for IWC by the famed leather smith Santoni makes this a watch to seriously consider.
Few brands rival Hublot when it comes to design audacity. The new Big Bang Broderie Sugar Skull Fluo is one example of its polarising and groundbreaking approach to watchmaking. In a continued partnership with the Swiss embroidery specialist, Bischoff, Hublot produced a selection of timepieces that melds traditional handcraftsmanship with 21st century counterculture.
Silk organza stitched with metallic Lurex threads cover the dial and strap while the bezel is studded with precious gems in a matching colour – tsavorites, blue sapphires, yellow sapphires, or pink sapphires – and 12 more take the place of hour markers. Cased in black ceramic, these watches, like many others created by Hublot, are certain to appeal to the much vaunted millennial set.
There is a lot more to Chopard than the Happy Diamonds, especially since the manufacture opened up the LUC line to woman watch connoisseurs in 2014. This year, the LUC XP Esprit de Fleurier Peony offers a combination of fine watchmaking finesse, time-honoured metiers d'arts, and feminine elegance.
Beautiful inside and out, this exquisite timepiece showcases the best of Fleurisanne relief engraving, which is a rare traditional craft native to Fleurier, Switzerland.
Here, the polished raised surfaces forming the peony motif are juxtaposed against a background that is recessed and covered with a matte, grainy finish. This is achieved by an arduous process known as stippling and it requires the engraver to take a chisel and a hammer to punch tiny indentations over the entire surface, one dot at a time.
It isn't easy to make feminine timepieces that pass muster by today's standards. The work is demanding, but so are women, especially when it comes to luxury watches.
- The writer specialises in watches. She had been a watch editor at August Man magazine and managing editor at World of Watches magazine.