Traditionally, fine mechanical watches were mostly made with men in mind. After all, men tend to appreciate function over form, and watches are supposed to be functional, first and foremost.
It’s all about what the watch can do.
Men want to know how tough it is, how accurate, which complications are included, and all the details about the mechanics “under the hood.”
Men are also usually the adventurers, the climbers and conquerors, the racing enthusiasts and the sportsmen, and they need a watch that fits the lifestyle. They need a robust watch for everyday use and one that accentuates their manly sense of style. It’s no surprise that the industry has such a masculine bias. Almost every important watch is a men’s watch.
Women’s watches tend to be quartz powered, slim and elegant, and more about the aesthetics than functionality or investment perspective. They are usually graceful, beautiful and delicate – just like the wrists, they are intended for. Really it is often jewelry that just happens to have a function. Of course, there are always exceptions, but those tend to be few and far between.
But the tides are turning. These days more women are buying men’s watches – and not just as gifts for their men, but rather, for themselves.
A spokesman for Panerai recently said that between 10 and 15 percent of the brand’s UK customers are women – and this coming from one of the most masculine, utilitarian watch brands out there. Panerai doesn’t officially make women’s watches.
When I think of Panerai, I think of Sylvester Stallone, certainly not Reese Witherspoon.
I’ve had to rethink my position, though. The Momentum boutique in Dubai has seen its fair share of women buying men’s watches – particularly Rolex, and not the tiniest ones either. A Lady Datejust has a diameter of 26mm, but women are buying men’s watches measuring 36 and 40mm.
So I did some digging into the subject, asking clients and fashion-savvy associates and friends why men’s watches have become so appealing to women lately.
At least part of the reason seems to be that more and more trend-setting celebrities have been spotted wearing men’s watches. Victoria Beckham, Charlize Theron, and Jennifer Anniston are just some of those in the media spotlight who often wear men’s watches. And their femininity is somehow enhanced by it. The social taboos have been removed. Lina Mustafa, local fashionista and founder of The Luxury Arcade in Dubai comes in frequently to change straps on her Submariner and 41mm Datejust II. As a fashion conscious person, she is very confident about aesthetics and style. No matter if it’s a cocktail dress or on jeans, she loves to wear her watches, her big watches.
Instead, it’s now seen as a kind of daring, edgy statement about a woman’s confidence. A wristwatch is a perfect size for an accessory to get away with something like that – it’s not overpowering. It’s a quirky, mischievous touch. That is, provided there’s no lug overhang, and it doesn’t look like an alarm clock on the wrist.
Another reason that seems to come up often is that ladies dress watches are too ornate, or too refined and feminine for everyday use. While women still love a delicate dress watch, usually it will be kept for those special occasions. Many women love the fact that men’s watches are practical. They’re often far more legible, bolder, and tougher, and they still look good.
Then there are the more personal reasons. Sometimes a watch inherited from the father, or “borrowed” from a husband or boyfriend. It’s a statement about the enduring bond between people who love each other.
Vintage men’s watches, in particular, have a certain “something” about them that women find appealing, for the same reason they like the smell of Old Spice, perhaps. It’s nostalgic, and it reminds them of what they love about the men in their lives.
It’s the same subtle psychology that’s at work when a woman wear’s her man’s T-shirt. It’s one part playfulness, and one part “staking your territory.”
Lastly, I cannot overlook the fact that some women love these watches for exactly the same reason that men do: The pure passion for horology.
It’s not only men who are capable of showing a deep interest in the art of mechanical watchmaking, the refinement of the technique and the aesthetic appeal of some of the world’s finest artists.
In my opinion – long may it continue.
When a woman wears a man’s watch it shows a certain depth of character, especially if that watch happens to be something special, like a Rolex Daytona or Submariner, and even better if it happens to be a fine vintage specimen!
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