Watching Women

In a March 21 Financial Times article, “Watchmakers Heed Women’s Demands to Dial Up Size,” Sarah Shannon writes that while women are a growing segment of watch buyers, dated ideas from this male-dominated industry about what female consumers want have kept this market woefully underserved.

Shannon points out that the idea that women want dainty, small watches is not the reality. Her report also underscores that perceptions of femininity and masculinity are evolving and conventions are moving gender neutral. As women’s wealth grows worldwide, they’re low hanging fruit for the industry to court with new iterations of men’s styles with varying colors of dials and sizes that cater to this “unisexification”. The message to brands: stop carving up collections by gender.

Barbara Palumbo, watch and jewelry journalist and blogger for whatsonherwrist.com, is seeing more women going for gender neutrality as it pertains to style. “For years, so-called “women’s watches” were made with white or pink straps, mother-of-pearl dials, a quartz movement, and they were embellished with diamonds. While several watches created specifically for women still include one or more of those characteristics, women took it upon themselves to start buying men’s timepieces because they liked the versatility of a standard gold or stainless steel watch without feeling like they had to be dressed up to wear it. But, even in men’s watches, we’re seeing a shift toward smaller case sizes. A lot of that has to do with brands wanting to offer more gender-neutral options.”

Carol Besler, veteran watch and jewelry journalist and founder of the blog watchdetail.com, concurs, underscoring that men’s watches typically have fewer unnecessary frills and more functional features. “Designs for men have changed and gotten a lot more interesting,” she cites. “There is greater interest among women in watches that look more like men’s models, but smaller versions, something that used to be frowned upon, but is no longer anymore.”

Besler finds style and technology the buzzwords trending in products and marketing for women’s watches. Trends trackers also call out the growing “athleisure” movement inspiring the trend for everyday diamonds and watches that pair well with both casual-wear and special occasions. “It’s rare to see a ladies watch without some diamond accent.”

Step Up Women’s Design

Watch brands like Citizen and Bulova, topping best-of lists for watches under $5,000 at the recent international watch fair Baselworld. say they are committed to creating more compelling women’s designs to grow a part of the business that has no where to go but up.

Citizen brings its Eco-Drive technology to sleek, curvaceous silhouettes for the fall/winter season in its latest Capella and Ceci collections. “Capella is inspired by the crescent moon against a dark sky, including diamond dial and bezels, and inset hidden crown,” describes Susan Chandler, Chief Merchandising Officer, Citizen Watch America. “Created with the finesse of fine jewelry, Ceci is inspired by feminine curves. Its subtle C-shaped case is a nod to the brand, an identifiable signature detail.”

Bulova reports a robust ladies watch business. “Our ladies business at Bulova continues to outpace the industry and we’re fueling this excitement with our new Rhapsody collection,” Chandler shares. Rhapsody landed on Town & Country’s 10 Noteworthy New Watches Introduced at Baselworld 2019 — the only women’s watch on the list.

With a sleek minimalist and distinctly feminine design, our new Rhapsody collection is named after a heritage Bulova ladies timepiece and focuses on a new delicately slim bracelet and patent leather straps,” says Chandler.

The brand also is introducing additions to its iconic Rubyiat collection, Chandler says, showcasing elegant diamond applications and subtle ladies moon phase. And new classics in its Regatta series of ultra slim timepieces inspired from a 1960’s Bulova collection of the same name. Available in a range of case sizes from 30mm to 40mm, the style includes both Automatic and Quartz movements. “We consider this new collection quite versatile!”

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