The wristwatch is first and foremost a woman's story
It may seem hard to believe today, given the plethora of luxury watches
available for men, but the first complication wristwatch of all time was indeed intended for a woman. Precisely, Abraham-Louis Breguet gave it to Caroline Murat, the queen consort of Naples. This, moreover, explains the presence today in the collections of the Parisian watch and jewelry house of a line of Queen of Naples watches
, "a perfect symbol of refinement and precision."
Refinement was indeed the order of the day in the early 19th century. The official jeweler of the Emperor Napoleon, François-Régnault Nitot (the originator of the House of Chaumet) had already responded to an order for two emerald and pearl-embellished watch bracelets from Empress Josephine. High-ranking women, moreover, at this time, wore watches as jewelry
, as pendants suspended with a chain or ribbon, while these gentlemen adopted the pocket watch.
This same period, and especially the beginning of the twentieth century and mass production, saw the advent of the male wristwatch. In his Parisian workshop, the watchmaker and jeweler Léon Hatot imagined precious watch cases and bracelets for ladies, in the Belle Epoque
and then Art Deco style - he actually designed the Rolls, the first automatic watch for ladies, marketed in 1930 by Blancpain. But on the Swiss side, the major watchmaking houses, first focused on developing the men's watch
, even if it meant feminizing some models later on.
Cartier and Vacheron Constantin, Pioneering Houses
Could the women's watch have been abandoned to its sad fate? That's without counting on Maisons like Cartier or Vacheron Constantin. The Rue de la paix House is committed to designing collections of watches
exclusively for women. In 1912, Tortue broke free from the codes of the round watch, and Cartier went even further with the asymmetrical Crash watch in 1967. Even today, and even if the iconic Santos and Tank have women's watch models, the Panthère (born in 1983), with its extra supple bracelet and clean lines, Maillon and Baignoire collections are exclusively for women.
Another luxury brand shows great boldness in the early 20th century, Vacheron Constantin
. The Swiss manufacture founded in 1755 had already made a name for itself with its enamel soap cases with preciously engraved lids set with precious stones and pearls. Vacheron Constantin began creating jewelry watches
in the 1920s, whose movements were no match for the gentlemen's timepieces. White gold case and hexagonal dial set with diamonds and sapphires in 1923, oval caliber associated with a platinum case and bracelet also set in 1937, secret watches with geometric lines of the Art Deco period... To limitless creativity, Vacheron Constantin added watchmaking know-how by creating the baguette caliber, with miniaturized dimensions (21.5 x 6.5 mm).
Vacheron Constantin will continue to imagine women's watches that will become iconic, 1972 and its asymmetrical shape, Kallista and its 118 emerald-cut diamonds, up to the contemporary collections
emblematic of the brand, Traditionnelle, Patrimony and more recently Egérie.
The most iconic women's watches
Meanwhile, other luxury houses have invested in the women's watch sector, giving birth to legendary women's watches
. Some are banking on classicism, like the Dior VIII Grand Bal and its Dior Inversé caliber, Jaeger-Lecoultre's Rendez-vous collection, which incorporates the moon phase complication, or Hermès' L'Heure H and its double-turn leather strap. Rolex, for its part, imagines the Lady Datejust
, with its small 28mm case and timeless lines that still make it a success, more than sixty years after its creation.
Other Maisons combine watchmaking and jewelry: Chopard Happy Sport, where diamonds dance on the dial; Omega Constellation
- which was also the first chronometer -, characterized by its star at 6 o'clock; Piaget Limelight Gala, with its elongated, asymmetrical horns paved with diamonds and its gold mesh bracelet...
Have the sporty and sporty chic
lines also inspired iconic watches, including Zenith's Defi Midnight, with its deep blue celestial dial and diamond hour markers, Tag Heuer's understated Link watch, and of course the white ceramic Chanel J12
watch, inspired by the silhouette of the America's Cup sailing boats.
In fact, the women's luxury watch has taken such a place that the major houses decline it in all styles. A 21st century woman can just as easily wear a watch with clean lines like the very Art Deco Reverso by Jaeger-Lecoultre or an original timepiece like the brand Hublot knows how to produce with its Big Bang Broderie