At the other end of the scale are brands attempting to shore up their women’s technical watch repertoire with complications. A surprising trend is that of ladies’ chronographs.
Chronograph watches, with stopwatch-like functions and designs that evoke athletic virility, have long ignored women collectors given their often testosterone-laden designs. This year, brands like Breguet, Blancpain, Corum, Chopard and Hublot roll out decidedly more ladylike versions in smaller cases and prettier colours to suit feminine wrists and styles.
Still, there remains a sense that watch brands need to do more than make adaptations of existing complications.
“We are seeing the start of a new era of women’s complications, where there needs to be a balance between technical and decorative crafts,” offers Stephane Belmont, JaegerLeCoultre’s marketing and technical director.
Belmont illustrates this with his brand’s Rendez-vous Celestial, which pairs a traditional complication (the celestial display) with artisanal decorations. Adorned with a gorgeous gem-set lapis lazuli dial and encased in white gold, the watch’s ladylike sophistication belies its complex mechanism, which is able to chart the movement of constellations with zodiac indication.
Another proponent of aesthetically driven complications is Van Cleef & Arpels. The new Lady Arpels Ballerine Enchantee from the brand’s renowned Poetic Complications range demonstrates this with an ingenious double-retrograde movement that displays the time on demand, set against a stupendously decorated dial featuring enamelling and gemsetting techniques.
“With our Poetic Complications watches, I think we are among the pioneers of a genre which didn’t exist until 10 years ago – that is women’s complications that express technicality through animation and storytelling,” says Van Cleef & Arpels’ CEO Nicolas Bos.
Cartier’s deputy development director, Carole Forestier, is also of the opinion that truly feminine ladies’ complications work best when they do not adhere to conventional expectations of how such watches ought to look and perform. “We should not even perceive it as a ‘technical’ watch. The technical functions of a women’s complication watch should perform a role of visual enchantment,” she explains.
Illustrating her point with Cartier’s new Rotonde de Cartier Mystery timepieces – which comprise a doubletourbillon complication and a two-hand model, both featuring mechanisms that appear to float weightlessly in a vacuum – Forestier explains that at its core, a watch’s technicality should elicit wonder. She clarifies that while the two watches are not strictly women’s complications, they are great examples of how a watch’s complex mechanism can be transformed into something delightful and accessible even to non-technical watch buffs.
“You see the hands or the tourbillon floating, and you keep wondering how it’s done. Knowing that a watch is complicated shouldn’t keep one from appreciating it,” she says. “For women collectors, it is much more powerful for a brand to convey emotions through mechanical objects, than to make a really complicated watch just for the sake of it.”
Rotonde de Cartier Mystery 42mm 18K
rose gold case, alligator strap, and
hand-wound Calibre 9981MC movement, Cartier Rendez-vous Celestial 37.5mm 18K white gold case, alligator strap, and automatic Calibre 809 movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre
Hong Kong actress-singer Angelababy
Chronograph Grande Date 38.6mm 18K rose gold case, satin strap, and automatic Calibre 26F8G movement, Blancpain