The question “What makes a women’s watch” is about as easy to answer as the question “What makes a woman”. In other words, there isn’t an answer, unless we stick to the naïve methods of differentiating by external, biological or anatomical terms.

Now, we are intelligent, sentient beings whose personalities transcend the limits of gender. Our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours are not forced to align themselves strictly with our chromosomal makeup. (Casual observation of social interactions at your local bar on any Friday night may indicate otherwise, but that’s not really the level of civilisation we should be aspiring to.) To get straight to the point: in every single one of us, there are feminine and masculine qualities, the balance of which isn’t always reflective of what we’re packing under the old button and fly.

The gem-set Richard Mille RM011 Asia Edition chronograph, worn by a female admirer of the brand

So what makes a women’s watch? My answer — and I’ve been expounding on this for some years now — is that the term “women’s watch” shouldn’t exist. Neither should there be a separate division of “men’s watches”. Especially in light of modern timepieces, which echo the move in modern dress of closing the gap between gendered items, we should instead be talking about a spectrum of feminine and masculine watches — some clearly more to one extreme than the other, but all existing on the same continuum.

To the very last one, all Richard Mille watches fall in with this philosophy — there are no hard divisions between the masculine and feminine watches of the Richard Mille collection. Women wear aggressive, technical watches such as the RM 011 chronograph; men wear the diamond-encrusted RM 026. Say what you like about Richard Mille watches, they are progressive AF. These strong yet exuberantly designed watches have erased the lines that funnel our horological discourse into narrow XX/XY dichotomies.

The Clé de Cartier Flying Tourbillon, presented at Watches & Wonders 2015

If asked, most people will say that diamonds or gems are a key feature of what feminises a watch. Perhaps they think that the addition of precious stones is necessary to attract women. Presumably men are never drawn by sparkly or shiny things, and someone should tell all those strippers down at the club to stop wasting money on body glitter.

Apart from being incredibly sexist and condescending, this poorly considered point of view completely ignores the fact that throughout the centuries (and, indeed, millennia) of human history, it is men — popes, dukes, pharaohs, maharajahs, caliphs, kings, cardinals, merchant princes — who have worn some of the most elaborate and sumptuous pieces of jewellery ever created.

The Maharajah of Patiala (1891–1938), wearing the fabulous Patiala Necklace by Cartier

The historical royal commissions of Cartier bear this out, and to this day the French maison continues to cleave to their heritage in creating gem-set complicated watches designed for the larger masculine wrist.

Jewellery and jewels weren’t symbols of femininity, they were symbols of virility and power in the most old-school way imaginable. Hence the term “family jewels” to refer to the psychological seat and hormonal source of masculinity. And these museum-worthy pieces of jewellery were worn by real men, during a time when life was far more brutal and harsh than we 21st-century pansies could ever tolerate.

So take all those ideas about gem-set watches and stick them in the same place we left things like geocentrism and emails from munificent Nigerian princes. Women can wear gem-set watches. Men can wear gem-set watches. Essentially, people can wear whatever they like. Isn’t this whole point of living in an advanced time? That we’re actually ahead of people who lived in the past?

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