The traditional image of the two genders has been blown out of the water in most areas, and that is usually considered a step towards understanding, and understanding is a good thing. Now that is simple. A great man once told me “There is no such thing as women’s work and men’s work. There is work”.
There are some areas where it’s not wrong to be more traditional mind you. When a watchmaker states that this is a gent’s watch and this is a ladies’ watch they are not being trite. They are being simple and grouping preferences to aid their customers to made their decisions. That being said there are styles and features that cross even these simple boundaries.
You might be thinking you know the difference between men’s and women’s watches, but if I showed you 100 pictures of watches are you sure you would separate them 100% correctly?
First, what do they have in common?
A rich and beautiful history:
In ancient times the sundial was the best way of finding out what time it was. Unfortunately, not the most portable of devices and they come a cropper when it’s overcast not to mention at night. Lot’s of alternative methods have come along throughout history with water clocks, candles with hour increments and hour glasses staffed by the very patient were used but they all have their downsides. As time went by we found evermore ingenious ways of telling the time. Although no one is really sure when and where the mechanical clock as we know it was invented but we are fairly sure that it rose to popularity during the 13th century.
It took more than 200 years before we started using springs in clocks which was the first step towards the truly portable timepiece. At the end of the 15th century pendant clocks started appearing around Europe, by the late 17th what we now know as the pocket watch or fob watch became popular. It is generally agreed that under the influence of King Charles the Second, whose interest in fashion was legendary, the pocket watch and the waistcoat with a pocket to put it in, almost became a uniform of the upper echelons of society all across Europe. The seemingly obvious next step of attaching it to your wrist is shrouded in mystery and the mists of time. For the wristwatch apparently you have to step back three royal generations to Queen Elizabeth the first who was gifted an “armlet” which enclosed a clock along with more diamonds and jewels that you could shake a stick at in 1571 although unfortunately it no longer exists to back up the claim of being the first.
The wristwatch seems to have remained a ladies accessory, heavily bejewelled and elegant with what is usually agreed “the first” (however heavily contested) the “Breguet watch number 2639” being made for the Queen of Naples in 1810.
Wristwatches remained second fiddle to the fashionable gentleman’s pocket watch until the outbreak of the First World War where one didn’t have time to take a watch out of one’s pocket while being shot at, dodging explosions and trying to climb over barbed wire. The simplicity and functionality of being able to check the time with a glance at the wrist won the men over and as the world found hope in peace the wristwatch found its place.
Since then the momentum of development hasn’t taken a breath with advancements in the technology of horology, coming in the shape of quartz movements, digital watches, combination watches, binary watches, radio controlled watches, GPS watches, diving watches, solar watches, smart watches.
So why do we wear watches now?
Nowadays we are surrounded by places we can see the time. Our computers and television screens display the time and when we are away from them our phones take over. So why does anyone need a watch? Why are they still made?
There are a number of reasons:
An appreciation of workmanship and the art of horology. Watches are usually given one task, to display the time, and most of the time that’s the only thing they do, and they do it with style and class. There are of course a number of additional functions available on lots of watches but with the exception of smart watches, they don’t tell you how to live your life interrupting you at every turn with notification after notification.
A watch is usually the only significant accepted fashion accessory for men. A well chosen watch can make the difference, get you noticed and say an awful lot about its wearer in the process.
A man can tell the world that he is interested in history, tradition, fashion, aesthetics, attention to detail, and that you are creative and appreciate fine workmanship, all with a watch.
An exemplary brand is Festina for gent’s watches. They offer a wide range of styles all with a great combination of artistry, Swiss skill and knowhow. They offer fashion watches, classics, and sports models all with sophisticated analogue dials and often great special features like stopwatches, date functions and tachymeters.
Ladies looking for the final flourish of adornment for their wardrobe wouldn’t be alone in choosing a watch from Michael Kors. His wide range of styles in various colours and finishes is loved by ladies the world over. For the simple elegance and a classic look Daniel Wellington ladies’ watches are a must have. His subtle refinements on the traditional form are exquisite.
There is also what a watch can say about its wearer. Watches have traditionally been an exclusive luxury item. Nowadays there are more and more affordable brands, often due to improvements in manufacturing processes and mass production but a quality timepiece is still a real demonstration of style refinement and luxury. Just as with the expansion of watchmaking, the clothing market also has become more affordable. As a result dressing well and being smart is accessible to all, it’s just the final touches and flourishes that really stand out and more importantly make you stand out. These subtle but vital touches are the way that we can express who we are and who we aspire to be.
We all know the platitudes regarding first impressions. We know that “you should never judge a book by it’s cover”, but we also know that “saying something doesn’t make it so”. First impressions can really open doors, make a bad impression and that door will often be the exit.
So what are the fundamental differences between ladies’ and gent’s watches?
Men’s watches are generally bigger, more imposing and often have more features built in. They are usually visually more down to earth. Simple yet bold and often monochromatic. Silvers, browns, whites and blacks dominate.
For ladies’ watches the opposite is predominantly true. Ladies’ watches usually have flush fitting thinner cases, and straps that complement the usually slimmer wrists of their wearers. In contrast to the the petite proportions of most ladies’ watches they are more likely to be bold in other ways, with adventurous colours often set with zirconia, Swarovski crystals or even diamonds.
You will often find that men are more interested in what special functions their watches have and what they can do whereas ladies are more often concerned with the how the watch looks and how well it complements their style. This is how the watchmakers cater to their gender designations.
That being said there is also the matter of heritage and prestige, ladies and gents alike appreciate the history and badge of status that can be worn in the shape of a well known and respected brand.
These luxury brands usually range in price from hundreds to literally hundreds of thousands of pounds. Offering mechanically sophisticated and refined timepieces, decades, sometimes centuries of tradition and experience, and the recognition and prestige that is unmistakably associated with them. Some of the more affordable yet still prestigious brands include Certina and Tissot.
All that glitters is not gold, All that’s "Swiss" isn’t necessarily "Swiss"!
Not all watches made by Swiss companies can be considered "quality Swiss". If you really want the real deal, watches that will not only serve you but probably other generations, make sure that they say Swiss made is on their face.
To be able to display “Swiss made” models legally have to have at least 60% original Swiss parts, and have to prove that they were exclusively assembled in Switzerland by the most experienced watchmakers.
Exceptions that prove the rule
Of course there are always those that don’t follow the rules, the salmon who swims against the flow. Take a look at the Festina Classic 16746/2, the Daniel Wellington Classic Canterbury DW00100030 or the Casio Protrek PRG-300-1A4. If you just looked at the pictures would you be confident that you knew if they were men’s or women’s watches?
There are those men’s watches that have traditionally feminine elements just as there are ladies’ watches that would usually be considered more masculine.
Sometimes it’s the watchmakers bending the rules. Sometimes their customers simply break them. There is a growing trend of ladies wearing gents’ watches. Certainly some of the time these are women who want the additional functionality that the watches provide. Sports watches with functions like stopwatches and split timers are great little helpers for fitness training. You will also find women who simply prefer a larger faced watch that make it easier to read not to mention those who simply love “the boyfriend look”.
You will only benefit from wearing the right watch. What is the right kind of watch for you? Whether you want to take the traditional approach or be a little more avant garde, you will know when you find them.