Did you know that the first wristwatch in history was made for a woman? Discover the history of watches for Her in this article and discover some of the essential models in any female jewelry box.
To know the history of women’s watches, we have to go back to the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, the use of time pieces was practically a male exclusive, using only pocket watches. In 1810, Abraham-Louis Breguet went on to create the first wristwatch in history and precisely for a woman: Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples. Years later, in 1869, it would be Patek Philippe’s turn to present a wristwatch, once again feminine and intended for a member of the aristocracy, Countess Koscowicz of Hungary.
But it was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that the use of watches by women intensified, ceasing to be an exclusive of royalty to start pleasing the masses, and always with the prospect of fashion accessories, in addition to the time indicator. Time pieces were worn around the neck, on the belts, as breast pins and, of course, on the wrist.
As for the men, they remained steadfast with their pocket watches, believing that the wrist watches were an ornament used by women to decorate the wrist. And although the first men’s wristwatch was created in 1904 by Cartier for Alberto Santos-Dumont, it was only from the 1950s onwards that this concept changed.
Evolution in the design of women’s wristwatches
The twenties of the last century were marked by the beginning of the Art Deco era and the watches mirrored rectangular designs, while maintaining the ornate decorative aesthetics brought in from the late 19th century. Elegance was the watchword and watches should match dress and be as small as possible, but with ample space for precious stones and engravings.
Despite the Great Depression, and with the Art Deco era in full swing, watchmakers abused creativity. New decorative techniques entered the watchmaking jargon and the designs became more bold and expressive, always maintaining a touch of elegance.
Due to the effects of the Second World War, watch production fell during this period. Although the Art Deco style extended until the beginning of this decade, there was an increasing sense of sobriety and simplicity in the watches produced in this decade.
In the aftermath of the war, watches produced in the 1950s were divided between simplicity and opulence, probably because companies started from where they left off. On the other hand, wristwatches began to be seen as a real necessity, as travel around the world started to become more and more common. Thus, practicality was placed above everything and numerous complications were invented, such as Worldtimer and the alarm function. Creativity was left a little in the background, although the brands continued to produce jewelery watches for the female audience.
In this period, creativity returned in force. As watches generally reflect the zeitgeist, the industry has established a new design language rooted in tradition, but expressed with a lot of talent, even a little bit of madness. Tight bracelets were in fashion, as were cuff watches. The watchmakers of that time exhibited almost zero containment and there seemed to be no limit to the number of shapes a watch could take.
Piaget, in particular, was extremely creative. Experimenting with different stones and techniques, the brand’s watches were very popular with women of the time.
The quartz crisis almost brought mechanical watchmaking to the brink of extinction. Centuries of skill, know-how and Swiss traditions have been replaced by cheap and accurate quartz watches made in Asia. There have been companies that have adapted, such as Patek Philippe, IWC or Longines, introducing quartz models in their product lines. And there were others that stood firm in the tradition, like Chopard or Audemars Piguet.
Arguably, the 1970s were the best and worst times for Swiss watchmaking. It was a difficult period for companies and watchmakers, but some of the most important watches in modern history were created in this decade. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus are two great examples.
Since quartz movements were thinner, smaller and did not require manual winding, most brands concluded that they were ideal for women’s watches. The designs of the time tended towards a futuristic style marked by geometric shapes, many colors and, occasionally, the word “Quartz” proudly stamped on the dials. Still, the designers have retained a touch of elegance, which is why we continue to see traces of previous decades on many women’s watches from the 70s.
Moving away from the 70s, women’s watches from the 80s exuded a new, more elegant, serious spirit, suitable for the modern woman who thinks about a professional career. There was a cleaner aesthetic that reflected the changing attitude of women towards femininity. Still, most watches were still quartz. Mechanical watchmaking remained dormant.
In this period, consumers began to question the role of watches in their lives. Why have a watch when you could check the time on the television, the computer or the dashboard of the car? And they realized that there were watches and luxury watches, the latter made by hand by a skilled watchmaker, in strict accordance with watchmaking tradition, true mechanical works of art.
Waking up the deep sleep industry, this growing demand for mechanical watches was the catalyst that started the idea of collecting and buying a watch, not to see the time, but simply to admire its beauty.
The new millennium
At the turn of the century, mechanical watches were back in the limelight. Male consumers around the world participated in this newfound interest in watchmaking, and their “appetites” kept increasing. Meanwhile, women watched and recognized that there were not many options for them. The industry seemed obsessed with constantly surpassing itself and creating the next “world premiere”.
Several brands, however, have made watches dedicated to women, rather than simply scaled-down versions of existing male models. This was the case with Breguet, which in 2002 presented the Reine de Naples collection, or Omega, which recovered a female icon from the 50s, the Ladymatic. Even predominantly male brands, such as Panerai, IWC or Breitling started to speak directly to the consumer of women’s watches.
Today, practically all brands of mechanical watch have women’s collections among their offerings. In addition, in recent years we have seen an increasing trend in the creation of unisex watches, with sizes and designs easily adaptable to male and female tastes and wrists.
The offer is wide and the choice is often difficult. For this reason, Turbilhão selected some of the essential models in any female jewelry box.
The mythical Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is dressed in diamonds to make way for an ultra-feminine version. Totally faithful to the spirit of the original, this feminine declination is presented in a 37 mm steel case, with a diamond-coated bezel, a night blue Tapisserie dial and a rubber bracelet in the color of the dial.
Inside, the automatic caliber 2385 brings the functions of hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date to life.
Reine de Naples
A symbol of feminine refinement, the Breguet Reine de Naples was born with royal blood. Created by Abraham-Louis Breguet for the sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, Carolina, Queen of Naples, this iconic model has enjoyed great success and is, today, still one of Breguet’s bestsellers, revisited by Maison in several declines.
Here we highlight the Reine de Naples 8918, whose red color highlights the 36.5 × 28.45 mm ovoid case in white gold. The bezel and flange of the dial display 117 diamonds, while the crown is set with a ruby cabochon. On the face of this model, the Arabic Breguet numerals are also dressed in red and add a touch of color to the hour scale in white mother-of-pearl, which culminates in a pear diamond at 6h. In the center of the dial, the highlight is white gold engraved with a guilloche pattern from Paris.
The sapphire glass caseback reveals the automatic manufacture movement, caliber 537/3, with 45 hours of power reserve. The final touch of refinement is given by the red crocodile leather strap, whose clasp displays 26 diamonds.
Elegant and stylish, the retro-modern Chronomat 32 is the sporty and chic watch for any occasion. It is available in a range of materials, from relaxed stainless steel to bicolor, which matches everything, or even luxurious red gold.
Women who love an extra sparkle can opt for bezels and indexes with stones and colored dials. With the iconic and comfortable «Rouleaux» bracelet with a butterfly clasp, the Chronomat 32 is powered by the Breitling Caliber 77 SuperQuartz ™, certified by COSC.
With a new design, which preserves the iconic drop-shaped case – aesthetics that come from the Serpenti Tubogas model -, crowned by diamonds, the Serpenti Seduttori decline in a collection that offers models in gold, steel or bicolor.
Serpenti Seduttori is thinner than ever and is accompanied by a flexible bracelet with a stylized hexagonal motif, inspired by the original Serpenti watches. The final touch is given by the crown, which encloses a rubelite, in honor of Bulgari jeweler DNA.
Part of the list of Maison’s creative collections, the Maillon de Cartier watch stands out for its bracelet, where the links appear diagonally, generous and opulent, giving an ultra feminine elegance to the models in the collection.
At the Maillon de Cartier, everything lies in the twisting of its lines, which brings a perspective into which the watch face is integrated. The case and the links appear intertwined in the same graphic movement, through rectangular links, hexagonal dial and hooks on the frame.
Cut, separated, adjusted and combined, black and white boldly collide. A creative and technical performance that, on the back, reveals the Caliber 12.1, an automatic winding movement created exclusively for Chanel. A structured composition, marked by an asymmetry of colors.
In fact, the J12 Paradoxe is bicolor. Two-thirds of the case comes in white ceramic and the rest in black ceramic.
Each section is attached to the frame with two screws, which are visible on the back of the watch. And the movement is also contained in the frame. Due to the construction in several parts of the case, the water resistance is 50 m, instead of the 200 m of the standard J12, which has a single piece ceramic case.
The dial and bezel remain the colors of the case, but each component is a single piece that has been treated to create a two-color finish. The steel bezel is first printed in black, followed by white at the top and then covered by a scratch-resistant transparent sapphire insert. Likewise, the dial is lacquered in white and a narrow black band.
Despite substantial changes in the construction of the case, its dimensions remain unchanged, at 38 mm in diameter.
Since 1984, Portofino watches have brought a touch of glamor and timeless elegance to Mediterranean relaxation. Available in a 34 mm or 37 mm diameter case in gold or steel, with or without diamonds, the IWC Portofino also offers Santoni leather straps in different colors, which can be easily exchanged, thanks to an easy-to-change bracelet system.
Powered by an automatic movement, the Portofino presents itself with the functions of time, date or Moonphase.
The Omega Constellation Manhattan collection encompasses a variety of models, born in different sizes and combinations of materials.
Omega recently revisited and updated the Constellation Manhattan, essentially maintaining the basic features of the watch, but giving them a more modern and lighter look. Thus, the bezel – set with diamonds or Roman numerals – is now thinner to give the dial a greater amplitude and the “claws” have been reduced and integrated more smoothly into the case. The design of the crown was also reformulated, with each of the notches taking the shape of a small half-moon, in order to echo the facets of the case. In addition, the clasp of the bracelet offers an adjustable widening, which allows the size of the bracelet to be increased by approximately 2 mm, in order to bridge fluctuations in the wrist diameter throughout the day.
Finally, the hands have been updated and take the form of a skeletonized leaf and, as far as the indices are concerned, some models have indices inspired by the Manhattan skyline, with emphasis on the triangular facets of the Freedom Tower, while others have round diamonds as indices .
The Constellation Manhattan is available in Sedna gold, yellow gold, steel and two-tone models (steel / Sedna gold or steel / yellow gold), in three different sizes, 25mm, 28mm and 29mm – the first two being equipped with quartz movements , while the 29 mm model houses the Master Chronometer 8700 or 8701 calibers – and seven dial colors.
Radiating great femininity, Piaget Limelight Gala Milanese showcases the classic design of the Limelight Gala line, launched in the seventies of the last century. With the unmistakable asymmetrical and elongated wings and the voluptuous curves of the bezel set with diamonds, the Limelight Gala Milanese stands out for its rose gold Milanese mesh strap.
Available with a 32 mm or 26 mm case and a bezel set with brilliant-cut diamonds, this model is equipped with an automatic manufacture or quartz movement (26 mm).
In 2003, Vacheron Constantin launched its last collection exclusively for women. Baptized Égérie (Muse in Portuguese), this line of time pieces focused on a simple tonneau watch. Now, 17 years later, the Swiss brand recovers the name of what was the last collection of the Maison dedicated exclusively to female wrists to give life to a new line of watches exclusively for women, with an absolutely new design.
Inspired by the complexities of haute horlogerie and haute couture, the new Égérie collection stands out for details such as the textured dial reminiscent of a fan (reminiscent of the Heures Créatives Heure Discrète watch that literally looks like a fan), the crown decentralized, the date or moonphase window, Arabic numerals and, of course, diamonds.
The new line offers three different models: Égérie Data, with 35 mm steel case with diamonds or rose gold with diamonds; Égérie Moonphase, with 37 mm steel or pink gold case, both with diamonds; and Égerie Moonphase Pavé, with a 37 mm white gold case with diamond pavé. All watches are powered by the automatic caliber 1088 (1088L, in the case of the Moonphase) and accompanied – except for the steel versions – by interchangeable straps with an easy-to-change system (three straps in the case of Égérie Data and Égerie Moonphase, both in pink gold; two in the Moonphase Pavé version).
The new Égérie of Vacheron Constantin thus gives life to a traditional and, at the same time, contemporary collection, which promises to conquer the feminine wrists.