04/24/2024
 4 minutes

The Movements Powering Women’s Watches

By Chrono24
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The Movements Powering Women’s Watches

The annals of horological history impart that women have long had a special relationship with quartz watches. It’s partly down to size and the slenderness of wrists, and partly down to convenience. But appetites have since shifted to what our predecessors once wore or were encouraged to wear. Sporting a watch as a woman today means free reign. Case sizes have ramped up, materials include more metal, and diamonds are there for preference, as opposed to precedent.

It’s fair game these days, and you can wrist-up with whatever takes your fancy, be it a modest millimeter quartz watch or a sizable manual-winding model. And while it’s no secret that the quartz craze among women is a familiar stereotype, it’s high time we stop typecasting quartz as a negative attribute and acknowledge that quartz watches can be valuable timepieces for any collector, as well as a celebration of bringing time back to the wrist.

Women’s Movement Preferences

The fact that the watch market is open to all is reflected in the figures: 58% of female buyers opted for automatic mechanical models, as opposed to the 31.8% who bought quartz. You could argue that this is a reactionary move against cultural homogenization, but you could also argue that it’s simply a matter of broadening tastes and accessibility. We buy what we like, and we like what we buy. Think of it in terms of the runway in the not-so-distant luxury sphere of fashion: Why wear ready-to-wear when you have access to its more exclusive haute couture counterpart? 

After all, we’ve been conditioned to believe that a mechanical watch is the ticket to the inner sanctum of watchmaking in its most pious form, regardless of gender. So naturally, when you find yourself in the coterie – whether by saving up the right amount of pennies or making it to the top of the waiting list – logic dictates that you opt for the pinnacle that was once out of reach. Such is the case with Rolex, which has earned the title of top brand for female buyers in 2023 (based on sales made by women). In a defiant rejection of female/quartz stereotyping, a staggering 53.5% of women chose the brand known for its mechanical prowess, most notably purchasing the Rolex Datejust, a watch beloved for its versatility, from bracelet to dial design. This is a testament to the Swiss watchmaker’s commitment to iwomen, in contrast to historically masculine marketing strategies that echo the 1958 advertisement that reads: “Men who guide the destinies of the world wear Rolex watches.”

A Rolex Datejust gives versatility from bracelet design to dial
Over half of women chose Rolex, defying stereotypes about quartz watches.

Women certainly aren’t letting men have all the mechanical fun anymore. Typically, utilitarian names like IWC Schaffhausen and Tudor are also high on the list of women’s automatic watch purchases, as are more experimental influences like Ulysse Nardin and Hublot, underscoring a desire for something a little less classic. In short, there’s a growing appetite for all things automatic. On the flip side, manual-winding watches are exhibiting a quieter draw on both men and women. With manual watches accounting for only 10.2% of women’s purchases (compared to 12% of men’s/unisex sales), the data suggests that tradition can’t always keep up with our quotidian lives.

What I mean to say is that the demands of modern life encourage consumers to live in an accelerated way, courtesy of the digital world. This has the knock-on effect of looking to expedite or even bypass the menial tasks that interrupt the rhythm of our day, like winding your watch, particularly when it comes to our everyday models. Instead, the modern wearer craves practicality and simplicity, which in watchmaking terms means being able to take the watch off on a Friday evening and put it on again the following Monday without a second thought.

Why do quartz movements still dominate the women’s watch landscape?

To echo the parallel above between watchmaking and haute couture, designer Christian Lacroix once said, “Haute couture should be fun, foolish, and unwearable.” Quartz watches are the antithesis of a manual watch in terms of wearability, and perhaps that’s why quartz still appeals to women today, for its sheer ease of use. It’s not alarming that women are still beholden to quartz, but wearability is a vague term. Notionally, it means comfort and durability, which is, of course, the primary appeal of quartz: reliable, uninterrupted timekeeping. But it’s also about the scope of design: where and when can I wear it?

The top-selling quartz models come from Cartier.
The top-selling quartz models come from Cartier.

The top-20 quartz models indicate that Cartier’s design-led watches, the Pathère and Tank, sit atop the podium. This is also indicative of a greater design-based and jewelry-focused trend happening among collectors and enthusiasts right now, with buyers enticed by watches boasting nuanced case shapes and colorful stone dials. Quartz watches from brands like Piaget, Cartier, and Chopard allow for such design experimentation, as they have a strong jewelry reputation that emphasizes visual language as opposed to solely technology. Quartz models call for greater intention when it comes to aesthetics, enabling the wearer to align personal preferences between watches and jewelry; Cartier often toggles seamlessly between the two.

By all accounts, it’s fluid, and that’s exactly what we women watch enthusiasts want when we look to the future. We want to distance ourselves from outdated assumptions about movement type and gender, and we want to shop independently of the preferences of previous generations. In doing so, the watches we wear on our wrists today allow us to both challenge and champion the watches of tomorrow.


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About the Author

Chrono24

The team behind the Chrono24 Magazine consists of Chrono24 employees, freelance authors, and guest authors. They're all united by a passion for anything and everything…

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