During a recent press introduction of a new watch I was sitting next to an editor of a major fashion magazine. She was expressing her unhappiness about her watch. This had very little to do with the brand it was from, but everything with the fact that it was an automatic. She loved the watch, but didn’t care for the mechanics. This statement was even agreed with by the brand-manager, who confirmed that their female clientele still had a large preference of quartz over automatic even despite the fact that the brand offers both options.
In the last two decades, watch brands have tried to re-evaluate their approach to ladies watches, with special emphasis on the movement part. Gold, diamonds and quartz is the classical proposition for a ladies watch and even today remains a winning combination. Ladies watches gain most of their value because of the gold and the diamonds. When you can add mechanical complications to the mix, the potential for added value increases.
Brands have approached this quite differently. Most brands offer both, with the majority of their ladies watches still being quartz powered, with some mechanical options for female clientele that might prefer it. Some like Piaget or Jaeger-LeCoultre make both mechanical and quartz movements in house, guaranteeing a manufacture movement in the watch either way.
IWC created a ladie’s favorite a while back with the introduction of a smaller DaVinci powered by a complicated quartz movement. Although this caliber 630 is in fact a Jaeger-LeCoultre movement, and also used by them in watches of their own, it was especially successful in the IWC DaVinci. Although at heart a quartz movement, it is fitted with a mechanical chronograph. This makes the watch a hybrid, referred to by Jaeger-LeCoultre as Meccaquartz. The mechanical chronograph in this movement is not powered by the mainspring, but by a stepping motor, offering the best of both worlds, in a very small package.
Other brands take a total different approach. Blancpain doesn’t really have the option of using quartz-movements, unless they let go of their slogan “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be”. Being one of the founding principles when Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet resurrected the brand in 1983, this would be highly unlikely. Instead Blancpain caters to the fairer sex through mechanical elegance. From the historic Ladybird to more sporty watches like the Chronographe Flyback.
This approach is also adopted by Patek Philippe, although partially. Famous models like the Aquanaut and Nautilus are available in ladies sizes with quartz movements, but Patek also clearly caters to ladies who have a passion for complicated, mechanical movements. Their annual calendar and world time are available in a distinct, yet diamond studded, ladies versions. Perhaps the most remarkable move by Patek was that when they introduced caliber CH 29-535 PS, a manual wind chronograph movement, it was at first only available in a ladies watch.
And then there is François-Paul Journe. Master of mechanical marvels that could very well be worn by ladies, but did not in particular catered to them. Crafted with the utmost care, with golden bridges and main plate, his watches are on the highest tier of the watchmaking universe. That same Journe just introduced its first collection dedicated to ladies and…..they are quartz! Of course not just any quartz, his Elegante watches also feature an 18K rose gold movement plate, are hand made and even comes with a sensor that activates a power saving sleeping mode when the watch is motionless for a certain period of time, and also to bring it back to life (and the exact time) in moments when it is picked up and worn again.
Has Journe fallen of the wagon by doing this, or is it simply a brilliant move to give women what they want in the most high tech, high quality way possible? Mechanical, quartz or a bit of both, the Haute Horlogerie brands offer it all. So ladies….what will it be?
Eclectic taste in Haute Horlogerie, passion for diamond set watches, loves the classics