A most welcome — yet long overdue — focus on the women’s market was one of the leading trends among luxury brands at last year’s international watch fairs. There is rapidly growing interest in what might traditionally have been perceived as “boy’s toys”, and the industry is finally waking up, with more complicated, innovative women’s pieces specifically catering to the desire for premium movements. Brands are moving beyond the traditional bejewelled women’s watches, and we are seeing more complications and larger, sporty timepieces for this demographic of active new collectors, who favour provenance and meaning over fleeting fashion.
At the top end, high-jewellery houses continue to create haute horlogerie, with novelties that are guaranteed to capture the imagination. An example is the Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Complications collection: the 2017 highlight is the exquisite Lady Arpels Papillon Automate, priced at about R5-million, with a miniature butterfly feature flapping its tiny wings in time to a lucky owner’s wrist movements.
Fabergé has relaunched only recently, but the brand known for its priceless, jewel-encrusted eggs has been excelling. It has collaborated on new timepieces with Swiss complicated movement manu-facturer Agenhor, which is also responsible for the wonderfully quirky Hermès L’heure Impatiente and Le temps Suspendu watches. The Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock, which pays homage to the famous Peacock Egg of 1908, won the prestigious 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève; and Fabergé continues to update this collection, this year in elegant black. Hours rotate on the outermost mother-of-pearl disc and are read at the crown, with a retrograde minute indicator literally fanning out each hour, returning to zero when the lead tail fan reaches 60.
Very few of these fine pieces would make it to our shores; however, the real movement, so to speak, is to be seen in “more accessible”, practical timepieces for daily wear. The most prominent complication in this category is the moon phase, which references the origins of timekeeping and the evolution of the modern wristwatch. Larger dials and colour-and-metal combinations offer more variety, while automatic movements and increased power reserves enhance practicality.
Jeweller and premium watch dealer Oresti Mavrodaris of Elegance Jewels in Johannesburg says there is a growing trend of mechanical rather than quartz movements for ladies. “Quartz movements are for the smart watches you wear while you exercise. My customers are opting for a standard automatic piece from Longines, rather than going for a premium jewellery watch brand that has a quartz movement,” he says.
When it comes to the most premium brands, such as Vacheron Constantin, Breguet, Blancpain, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet, Mavrodaris says captains of industry, no matter their gender, will always seek out exceptional complications for unique features, and, of course, as symbols of personal success.
When it comes to the most premium brands, captains of industry, no matter their gender, will always seek out exceptional complications
Christopher Becker of the Swatch Group says that Omega is slowly doing away with quartz and pushing the boundaries on watchmaking and technology for its ladies collections. “With the launch of the Seamaster Aqua Terra Master Chronometer 150M for ladies at BaselWorld (in 2017), the quartz version has now been discontinued,” Becker says. The refined Speedmaster 38mm collection is clearly aimed at women, although it is marketed as unisex. The collection has retained the chronograph’s famous look and heritage, but Omega has introduced an extensive range of colours, including millennial pink and cappuccino, which is made from stainless steel and the brand’s trademarked 18k Sedna gold, and features a bicolour dial on a taupe leather strap. The dual bezel design leaves space for an outer ring of diamonds, without affecting the famous tachymeter scale.
A moon phase indicator is about as useful as a wristwatch to those with no interest in such things. But the genius in the calculations and the complexity of these sophisticated movements make allowances for extra days and eliminate the need for adjustments, since the indicator traces the lunar cycle over the years. Accuracy is at the heart of the Swiss industry, and the competition is fierce at the top. High-end brands, such as H Moser, are claiming accuracy to 1 027 years from the Perpetual Moon Calibre HMC 348, which, in the Endeavour Moon watch, a gear train that translates the time it takes the moon to orbit the Earth so precisely that The moon takes 29.5 days to go through eight phases: from new moon to full moon and back again. This monthly orbit is represented by a disc with one or two identical moons, which rotates a complete cycle in 29.53059 days, to be precise. The curved edges of the moon phase aperture in the dial create the waxing and waning faces of the moon.
Blancpain is responsible for the reintroduction of the moon phase from the early 1980s, a horological complication that had almost vanished from the scene. The new Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune comes in a 29.2mm stainless steel or 18k red gold case, topped by a bezel adorned with 48 full-cut diamonds. A transparent sapphire case back reveals the automatic 913QL in-house movement with its 40-hour power reserve. The opaline dial features solid, leaf-shaped hands; a pointer-type date display; and a sapphire moon-phase indication. The beauty spot at the corner of the moon’s smiling mouth is a reference to the playful marking used as a message or symbol by ladies at Court in 18th century France.
The A Lange & Söhne Little Lange 1 Moon Phase has a sizable 36.8mm diameter rose gold case, featuring an asymmetric guilloché finished dial. The caliber L121.2 movement has a more “modest” moon phase accuracy of up to 122.6 years, and a 72-hour power reserve.
Master movement makers Jaeger LeCoultre’s ode to the moon is the pink gold 34mm Rendez-Vous Moon Medium, set with 60 diamonds of 0.69 carats each. The timepiece illustrates the brand’s jewellery and watchmaking expertise, with a Calibre 935A automatic movement that needs to be corrected only once every 972 years.