For those looking for great leaps forward in terms of materials and design, 2013 was perhaps not the most innovative year that the watch world has ever seen. For women’s watches, however, it marked a watershed with some of the biggest players in the industry staking their claims on the frankly neglected female market. At SIHH, Vacheron Constantin chose to show only women’s watches, while Audemars Piguet’s CEO Francois-Henry Bennahmias announced plans to address the growing demand for women’s mechanical watches with new models plus the launch of a worldwide marketing campaign. And the momentum gained in Geneva was certainly not lost at Baselworld.
The past year has seen new women’s complications hit the market, along with new collections and new styles – all designed from scratch with a female clientele in mind, bringing together beauty and micro-mechanics in an array of small, perfectly-formed packages. And now that the lid has been lifted on the Pandora’s box of what women really want, it is unlikely that it can ever be closed. This relatively untapped market is one that no savvy manufacturer can afford to ignore and I for one wait in anticipation of what 2014 will bring. But for now, here is my personal round up of some of the best from 2013.
Best Women’s Watches of 2013: It’s Complicated
With a female Head of Design in the form of Sandrine Stern, Patek Philippe was one of the first brands to acknowledge women’s interest in complications. The Ladies First Chronograph – a watch containing a brand new, in-house movement making its debut in a timepiece for women – was launched in 2009 and in subsequent years we have been treated to various Moonphases and Annual Calendars. But perhaps the most beautiful of all models came in 2013 with the understated Calatrava Travel Time, powered by the manual wind Calibre 215 PS FUS 24H. The 35mm white-gold case is set with 112 diamonds, while the brown sunburst dial features gold applied numerals plus two perfectly-balanced sub-dials, one indicating 24-hour ‘home’ time, the other seconds. (www.patek.com). Price £29,870
From an established watch family like the Calatrava to a brand new one, 2013 also saw the launch of the Rendez-Vous Perpetual Calendar with moonphase. Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the women-only Rendez-Vous collection in 2012 with some elegant-looking but mechanically basic models. It turned out to be the brand’s most successful, worldwide launch ever and initiated an overwhelming interest from women in JLC’s complications. Meeting this new demand, last year’s SIHH debuted the new star of the range, a watch that uses sub-dials to show day of the week at 9 o’clock, date at 3 o’clock and month at 6 o’clock, plus a window to indicate the current year at 7 o’clock and moonphase at 12 o’clock. Yet, despite its complications, this is a watch that simply exudes feminine style, from its delicate guilloché dial to its diamond-set bezel. (www.jaeger-lecoultre.com). Price £32,200.
Best Women’s Watches of 2013: Linked In
Chunky gold chains have certainly had a comeback in the jewellery world in recent years, and 2013 saw this trend trickling through into watches. And, when it comes to a bit of bling, it appears that and mechanical movements are not at the forefront with all of the most noticeable examples featuring high-precision, time-only, Swiss quartz movements – although current gold prices could well mean that this is an economic and hopefully short-term decision. Bulgari’s covetable Catene features a double tour heavyweight pink-gold chain with simple 31mm ‘Bulgari Bulgari’ style watch face. Inspired by Bulgari’s 20th-century interpretations of historic ‘gourmette’ nameplate bracelets worn by style-icons such as Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, the new Catene boasts 140g of gold, plus a mother-of-pearl dial with 12 brilliant-cut diamond indexes and a rubelite cabochon in the ridged crown. A semi-pave version is also available with 2.5cts of 60 brilliant-cut diamonds. (www.bulgari.com). Price £29,600.
Also playing with the fashionable gold bracelet look is Chanel, whose aptly named Chanel Première was the first watch to be made by the maison back in 1987. The octagonal case is said to have been inspired by the No.5 perfume bottle stopper and, in 2013, the piece was given a mini-makeover with new models in steel and yellow gold, available with or without diamonds in two sizes. Slimmer than the original, and with slightly different proportions, the watch can be worn snugly on the wrist or more loosely and jewellery-like, thanks to openings in the links. The black lacquered dial, 18ct yellow gold case, chain bracelet and clasp plus the onyx cabochon crown make it one of the prettiest statement watches of last year. (www.chanel.com). Price starting from £2,800.
Best Women’s Watches of 2013: Heart of Stone
It is all too easy to ‘feminise’ a watch by adding a sprinkling of diamonds and gemstones. What is clever though, is when this is done with panache and a touch of something different. With the Patrimony Contemporaine Small, Vacheron Constantin has achieved the near impossible: creating a stunning looking piece with a twist, using a top-notch calibre at an accessible price point. Despite succumbing to what is arguably the biggest sin in women’s watchmaking – namely reducing the size of the case of a man’s watch and adding some diamonds – Vacheron has succeeded in creating an entirely new aesthetic by redesigning the details and, in so doing, creating a watch that is totally different, from a manufacturing point of view, to the men’s model. The crowning glory of the watch is the effect created by the 62 brilliant-cut diamonds set not on the dial but into the side of the 36mm case. The watch is available in white or rose gold and is powered by the manual-winding calibre 1400 (the movement that features in all models in the range), bearing the Geneva Hallmark. (www.vacheron-constantin.com). Price £19,400.
Taking a different approach to bling is the 27mm Constellation Star, the latest Omega watch to benefit ORBIS International’s Flying Eye Hospital. The perfect mix of function and elegance, the simple brushed steel case is set off by the diamond-set bezel (which is interrupted only by the Constellation’s signature griffes) providing an ideal frame for the deep blue sunburst dial. The dial itself features 11 applied white-gold stars, which are grouped in a constellation-like arrangement, the Omega logo at 12 o’clock and a date window at 3. On the engineering side, the Constellation Star takes full advantage of horology’s recent love of silicium, incorporating a silicon balance spring into its Co-axial calibre 8520 movement resulting in a tougher and more stable timepiece. (www.omegawatches.com). Price £5,460.
Best Women’s Watches of 2013: Face Painting
Thanks to the surprisingly ubiquitous work of Anita Porchet, dial enamelling is a tend that has been growing in momentum for the past few years and is now seriously in vogue for high-end timepieces. One company that takes the art to altogether new levels is women’s watch manufacturer DeLaneau, which achieved top honours in the 2013 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, Ladies’ Watch category with the exquisite Rondo Tranluscent Champagne pièce unique. As the name suggests, the watch uses a single colour of Grand Feu enamel layered over hand-engraved guilloché, giving a uniform colour that refracts light in a totally unique way. The only interruption to the dial is a single flat stone positioned at 12 o’clock. A quality automatic movement is fitted into a 36mm red gold case set with 272 diamonds and features a crown and red gold buckle that are also diamond set. (www.delaneauwatch.com).
A brand that has been growing in stature and recognition in recent years is Chaumet. In 2013, the brand released a series of six new limited edition automatic watches with dials featuring butterflies, dragonflies, ladybirds and myriad other insects all ‘brought to life’ through the finest enamelling and engraving highlighted by diamonds and mother-of-pearl. The star of the new collection unites high jewellery and high watchmaking in an animated complication that uses the House’s signature bee (representing the minutes) and a spider (the hours) to indicate the time via an elaborate dance of seduction around the dial. (www.chaumet.com). Price range from £35,243 to £80,230. Complication £117,190.
Best Women’s Watches of 2013: Animal Magic
Continuing on the animal theme, fauna is one subject that has always feature heavily in Chopard’s high jewellery and unique timepieces like the one-off Happy Sport watches currently on display in Harrods, London. Celebrating the popular theme, Chopard launched a pop up boutique at the end of 2013 dedicated to beasts of land, air and sea, all showcased in their ‘natural’ habitats. One piece taking centre stage is a diamond-set owl, perched atop a white satin strap. The watch, from the Animal World collection, has eyes that double up as dual time-zone dials surrounded by trapeze diamonds, while the white gold face is paved with more stones. (www.chopard.com)
When it comes to dials bearing panther symbols, there is only one manufacturer that counts: Cartier – and for 2013 the brand gave us the Panthère Divine. The watch is part of the Heures Fabuleuses de Cartier – 41 jewellery timepieces based around the animal kingdom and bearing the tagline, ‘this is not a watch’, referring to the adaptability of many of the pieces that can become brooches, pendants or rings. A frog, elephant, phoenix, iguana, turtle and parrot are all represented in the collection, but it is the panther that best represents the manufacturer. The case of the watch is in 18ct rhodium-plated white gold set with brilliant-cut diamonds, while the white gold panther itself is decorated with enamel spots and sits against a dial in black brass with barley-corn guilloché. Truly a king among beasts. (www.cartier.com)
This article is part of “Best Watches of 2013” series for DreamChrono Blog :
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2014/01/best-watches-of-2013-by-matthew-boston/ (2013 Picks of Matthew Boston)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2013/12/best-watches-of-2013-by-amr-sindi/ (2013 Picks of Amr Sindi)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2013/12/best-watches-of-2013-by-angus-davies/ (2013 Picks of Angus Davies)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2013/12/best-watches-of-2013-by-michael-weare/ (2013 Picks of Michael Weare)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2013/12/best-watches-of-2013-by-ken-kessler/ (2013 Picks of Ken Kessler)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2013/12/best-watches-of-2013-by-eduard-osipov/ (2013 Picks of Eduard Osipov)