men’s watches consistently grew more innovative and exciting.
But the situation wasn’t all bad; there are a handful of very legitimate shewatches that offer heritage, quality and a distinct identity. Breguet’s Queen of Naples comes to mind. Bulgari’s Tubogas and Serpenti as well are exceptionally esteemed women’s timepieces. Chopard’s Happy Sport, Chanel’s J12 and Patek Philippe’s Twenty-4 are all strong icons in their own right—and perennially popular among the ladies.
Towards the end of the 2000s and into the early 2010s, having studied the market, brands realised that it was not enough to make women’s watches by dumbing down a men’s watch.
So it’s clear that simply launching a line dedicated to women isn’t the silver bullet that brand executives might have thought it was. Ulysse Nardin is a classic case study. As a highly technical manufacture with such awe-striking watches and inventions as Freak, Sonata, Moonstruck, Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon and so many more, how it managed to produce such a milquetoast as Jade is beyond comprehension.
Perhaps it should take a leaf from the playbooks of brands such as IWC and Panerai, which have never been especially big on feminine timepieces but are seeing rapid success from this segment lately. IWC’s new Mid-Size models span the Pilot’s Watch, Da Vinci and Portofino lines—note how the brand cleverly avoids fixed gender norms. The Luminor Due in 38mm from Panerai comes with colourful interchangeable straps and a slimmer case profile that’s perfect for slender wrists. Again, the brand has not labelled it as a woman’s watch.
In both cases, the underlying force majeure is how, rather than create something completely new and foreign, the brands have used their most hotly desired attributes as the building blocks of the collections. Both men and women are encouraged to navigate the brand universe through the same product families. These gender-neutral watches come naturally to their manufactures and, given how patriarchal the industry is, could be a viable direction for other brands looking to achieve the same results.
It’s already happening in fashion, so why not watches? Gender-neutral timepieces could certainly co-exist with, rather than replace, the archetypal oversized men’s and dainty women’s watches. Is this going to be the future? We may not know, but it’s definitely part of the present.