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Watches and Wonders 2024: How women are driving the luxury watch market

Two women stand in front of Chopard's booth at Watches and Wonders Geneva 2024.
Two women stand in front of Chopard's booth at Watches and Wonders Geneva 2024. Copyright WWGF/KEYSTONE/Valentin Flauraud
Copyright WWGF/KEYSTONE/Valentin Flauraud
By Anca Ulea
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Watchmakers are increasingly aware of the growing voices of female collectors. At Watches and Wonders Geneva, we look at the latest women’s and gender-fluid timepieces.

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In the early 1990s, when Caroline Scheufele was still a young designer at her family’s watchmaking business, she realised Chopard did not make the kind of sportier women’s watch she wanted to wear. So, she took matters into her own hands.

“I used to do a lot of sports, like skiing and swimming and tennis,” the artistic director and co-president of Chopard told Euronews Culture. “I realised we didn’t have anything cool like a sports ladies’ watch. Everything was sort of delicate with white gold or yellow gold, not even rose gold. So I designed the Happy Sport.”

The Happy Sport - first released in 1993 - marked the first time diamonds were put into a steel watch, with Chopard’s signature “dancing diamonds” moving freely across the dial. Over the years, it’s become an icon of women’s watchmaking.

Caroline Scheufele, Chopard co-president and artistic director, wearing a Happy Sport watch in the 1990s.
Caroline Scheufele, Chopard co-president and artistic director, wearing a Happy Sport watch in the 1990s.Chopard

“I think, with the Happy Sport, came a whole breakthrough for Chopard ladies’ watches,” Scheufele said.

At this year’s Watches and Wonders trade show, Chopard released a wide variety of different women’s watches, reflecting just how far the industry has come in the three decades since Scheufele designed her first Happy Sport.

The new releases included a new limited-edition of the Happy Sport with a pale blue alligator leather strap, as well as elaborately embellished jewellery watches, feminine dress watches and minimalist gender-neutral watches.

“I think today a woman’s watch is actually her own choice based on taste, whether that’s a very sporty watch or a watch that’s fully set with diamonds,” Scheufele said. “The dial size also depends on her wrist size. Me, personally, I have tiny wrists but I like to wear big watches.”

Chopard's new limited-edition Happy Sport watch features a pale blue alligator leather strap.
Chopard's new limited-edition Happy Sport watch features a pale blue alligator leather strap.Chopard
Chopard's new releases at Watches and Wonders show the huge range of watches women might want to wear.
Chopard's new releases at Watches and Wonders show the huge range of watches women might want to wear.Chopard

Scheufele hits the nail on the head – today's women's watches are as varied as women themselves. Finding what women want to wear, however, has become a priority across the board.

Women collectors find their voice

The market for women’s watches has been steadily growing as female collectors find their voice in the male-dominated luxury watch world.

Global market research firm Allied Market Research found that the women’s watch segment, valued at $23.7 billion (€22.2 billion) in 2019, would reach $26.7 billion (€25 billion) by 2027. And watchmakers are taking notice.

Across the trade show, women’s timepieces were everywhere – Hermes released its first women’s sport watch “The Cut”, Chanel came out with a new women’s capsule collection integrating symbols from its haute couture history, and Cartier continued its hot streak with a new cuff watch, “Reflection de Cartier”.

For Brynn Wallner, who started the popular “femme forward” watch blog Dimepiece in 2020, the watchmaking industry seems to be making genuine efforts to listen to women and make watches they actually want to wear.

“I feel like the brands are certainly incorporating more strategy around appealing to women, just mentioning them more or featuring more female models in campaigns,” she told Euronews Culture at Watches and Wonders. “I’ve worked with brands in a capacity where it indicates they do want to talk to women.”

When we met Wallner, she was on her way to film a social media video with IWC Schaffhausen’s brand ambassador Gisele Bundchen. She says she’s received a warm welcome from luxury watch brands from the start, even when she “didn’t know anything about watches.”

Like many women she knows, she first saw a watch as a fashion statement before delving deeper into the mechanics.

"I think it just so happens that a lot of women haven't been in the industry for very long, and a lot of women haven't even worn watches because of smartphones," she explained. "So for a lot of younger women, a watch is this kind of foreign object. If they're beginners, they're going to prioritise the look first. But once you get into it, then you start prioritising the movement."

Wallner is part of a growing contingent of women leading media focusing on high-end watches, which also includes Kathleen McGivney, CEO of Redbar Group, the world's largest watch collecting community.

Breaking the gender barrier

Rolf Studer, CEO of independent Swiss brand Oris, sees the increase in female collectors as a sign that the watch world in general is becoming more inclusive.

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“I think it’s a sign of the coming of age of the whole industry,” he told Euronews Culture. “Watch enthusiasm is becoming a thing. Fifteen years ago, watch collecting was a nerdy hobby, and now suddenly it’s a cool lifestyle that women participate in, too.”

Oris' Aquis Date Upcycle comes in a variety of different sizes. CEO Rolf Studer says it's one of the brand's most popular watches with women.
Oris' Aquis Date Upcycle comes in a variety of different sizes. CEO Rolf Studer says it's one of the brand's most popular watches with women.Courtesy of Oris

​​In 2021, Oris’ Divers Sixty-Five 'Cotton Candy' edition broke the gender barrier, becoming a timepiece that both men and women were equally excited about. Studer said the watch was actually inspired by his wife, who wanted a smaller version of the brand's 2020 Hölstein edition watch.

"We made it colourful, called it cotton candy, and it was perfect for the pandemic," he recalled.

"The (Aquis Date Upcycle) stands for caring for the planet and leading a sustainable lifestyle," said Oris CEO Rolf Studer.
"The (Aquis Date Upcycle) stands for caring for the planet and leading a sustainable lifestyle," said Oris CEO Rolf Studer.Courtesy of Oris

More than the aesthetics, Studer said he’s noticed women are attracted to the message behind some of Oris’ timepieces. One of their most popular watches with women collectors is the Aquis Upcycle Date, which is made from recycled plastic.

“The watch stands for caring for the planet and leading a sustainable lifestyle,” he said.

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Oris is one of several major Swiss watchmakers that doesn't categorise its timepieces by gender, instead allowing clients to search by dial size. Unisex and gender-neutral watches have been embraced by brands including Zenith, IWC, Cartier and Patek Philippe.

Studer said Oris is making an effort to break away from gender stereotypes. Last autumn, the brand named athlete, refugee and activist Yusra Mardini as its new brand ambassador.

“I think this way of looking at making watches for women in a contemporary way, I think it will be the future,” he said. “Hopefully personalities like Yusra will shape that, and not just the old-fashioned model who is nothing else other than just pretty.”

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