03/07/2024
 6 minutes

Unisex Watches: The New Standard in Timepiece Fashion?

By Chrono24
The Unisex Watch Trend

The Unisex Watch Trend

By Brynn Wallner

In the past four years, the watch world has undergone a shift, prompted by factors ranging from pandemic-induced panic buying to a rise in horologically inclined social media accounts. Luxury watches have always been on wrists (even as Smartphones made them technically obsolete), but thorough enthusiasm for them historically fell somewhere in the niche category. Then, in 2021, when prices were soaring on the secondary market and records were being broken at auction, major media outlets fixated on watches as a must-have asset class; and simultaneously, social media was helping democratise the way in which they are spoken about – all resulting in an infectious new wave of watch-wearing and unprecedented growth.

Financially speaking, the market has cooled down since its 2021/2 peak (still higher, mind you than pre-pandemic numbers) – but the mainstream fervour has only intensified, and we see this in the way trends spread like wildfire. Many experts will describe the industry as moving at a “glacial pace” when it comes to conforming to whatever’s à la mode – and this has, indeed, been part of its survival. Per Heidi Klum’s famous refrain, “In fashion, one day you’re in and the next you’re out”… But this is not so with the prestige watch brands. Once you’re in, you’re in.

We are witnessing a dialogue that is influencing top watch brands.
We are witnessing a dialogue that is influencing top watch brands.

What we’re seeing now, though, is that consumers are starting to take control of the narrative. People who once felt excluded from the watch world have discovered social media as a platform on which to discuss and pick apart these rarified pieces. The dialogue is so pervasive that it’s now trickling upward into the boardrooms of the top watch brands, resulting in real-life action.

Amongst this “action” is a popular decision on behalf of many watch brands to rid their products of gender labels. Brands like Zenith and Hublot dropped the distinction between “mens” and “womens” on their e-commerce sites and to many enthusiasts, this moment had been a long time coming. Women in particular have disregarded gender labels for decades now, frustrated by the lack of models designed for them and the condensation with which they were spoken to.

Let’s talk about Heidi Klum, again, who famously wore a 40mm Rose Gold Panerai Radiomir in 2007. Klum’s styling choice was not isolated here – from the ‘90s to the aughts, she and her fellow supermodels led the charge of women wearing larger-sized men’s watches. I’m thinking fondly of Christie Brinkley complementing her cowboy hat with a 40 mm Rolex Explorer II in 1990… or Elle Macpherson kissing a dolphin in her Rolex GMT-Master… or Giselle wearing a big ol’ Jacob & Co Five Time Zone in the y2k era… All of which helped this trend take hold in everyday life, with middle-school girls rocking oversized Baby-G watches and their older sisters wearing flashy, oversized Michael Kors pieces.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by DIMEPIECE (@dimepiece.co)

Alternatively, in recent years, the style has moved to the lower end of the case-size spectrum. The new crop of nepo-baby supermodels have opted for traditionally labelled ladies pieces, from Bella Hadid horseback riding in her loosey-goosey gold Cartier Panthère to Hailey Bieber wearing a vintage 26 mm Patek Philippe Nautilus. This applies to the guys too, proving that watches are unisex now more than ever – just look at Bad Bunny and his teeny-tiny Pateks! That daintier watches have fallen back into favour is best exemplified by the re-ignited popularity of the Cartier Baignoire, which resulted in its official re-release, notably on a femme-forward gold bangle.

Data shows: Female Chrono24 users favor modern “men’s” watches

When you see this, or even peruse social media, you know that small watches are in. Which makes Chrono24’s recent data report puzzling. According to the analytics of their female customer segment, 61.69% of female shoppers have purchased modern “men’s” watches in 2023 and nearly a third were sized 40 mm and larger. Immediately, that number stands out in contrast to the headlines dominating the industry.

So what to make of American women buying bigger if all signs point otherwise? One theory could be that the “unisex” trend skews toward more male-sized offerings simply because there are more of those watches readily available on the market (especially when it comes to modern offerings – many watch brands have outright discontinued their smallest models). Although 36mm is traditionally categorised as “men’s”, it’s widely regarded as a gender-neutral size, with a look that shifts depending on who’s wearing it (slightly oversized on those with thinner wrists and perfectly fit to the average male wrist).

The 'Moonswatch' offers a playful and affordable entry into Omega's Speedmaster heritage.
The ‘Moonswatch’ offers a playful and affordable entry into Omega’s Speedmaster heritage.

Another theory revolves around the March 2022 introduction of the Swatch x Omega collaboration watch, colloquially known as the “Moonswatch.” Clocking in at 42mm, this watch in many ways tangibly represents the democratisation of the industry we’ve been seeing online. By offering a colourful, playful, affordable take on Omega’s iconic Speedmaster, this collab is a way into the horological heritage many of us are shut out of simply because we can’t afford it. And women joined in on the fun! According to the charts, 98.5% of women buying Swatch went for pieces over 40mm.

It’s worth highlighting that in the United States, a substantial 47.1% of watches bought by women are sized at 40 mm or larger. This data point gains significance when we take into account that timepieces positioned in the upper echelons of the market often feature larger dimensions. Do a bit of watch-spotting in wealthy areas ranging from Malibu to the Hamptons, and this starts to make sense. These women are driving their big Range Rovers, wearing Rolex Daytonas, Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks, Patek Philippe Nautiluses. Maybe they’re holding fastly onto the oversized trend that marked their first-wave of watch-wearing – or perhaps, they’re farther along in their watch collecting journeys, past the point of Lady-Datejusts and quartz-powered sub-5000€ Cartiers.

To use a real life example, let’s consider Victoria Beckham, who launched a collaborative Chromomat collection with Breitling. In reference to its unisex 36 mm case size, Beckham repeatedly used the word “cool” – aptly summing up, in her eyes, the look of when a woman wears a big, traditionally labelled “mens” watch. This stood directly in opposition to her opinion of the small watches en vogue today, expressing visible disdain on her face at the mention of anything “dainty.” Beckham, a long-time collector, has always loved the oversized look, sporting 40 mm Daytonas and Patek Nautili – but if you dive deep enough into her past looks, you see that, in the ‘90s, she wore a small Cartier Tank Française, which validates the theory that the deeper you get into the addictive hobby of watch collecting, the bigger your watches become.

…and as for me

Take me as a perfect example. When I started my femme-forward watch platform, Dimepiece, in 2020, I did not own a luxury watch. My family did not pass down anything to me, and I felt completely missed by watch advertising – so why would I spend my hard-earned money investing into a world I knew nothing about? This all changed after a job at Sotheby’s where I worked closely with the watches department. I instantly became enamoured with haute horlogerie, which later resulted in me starting my own project. A year into Dimepiece – after I launched a website, became the monthly watch columnist at Harpers Bazaar and was invited to check out new releases from prestige brands like Audemars Piguet – I still didn’t own a watch. The oversized pieces shown to me in the press presentations felt out of reach and unwearable on my small(er) wrist, and no one in the industry was talking about small watches at the time. It felt almost un-feminist to wear one. It really wasn’t until I tried on a little steel Cartier Tank Française that I finally coughed up a few thousand dollars to start my collection.

Brynn has come to love her Grand Seiko SBGA471.
Brynn has come to love her Grand Seiko SBGA471.

Through my newcomer eyes, the Française felt like the most versatile, most practical, most fashionable timepiece I could have bought within my price-range. In essence: it was a starter watch; and although it’s still the watch I wear most frequently today (I love how low-key it is when I travel or ride the subway), I find myself yearning for something more. This past month, I’ve been increasingly reaching for my Grand Seiko SBGA471, fitted with the Japanese watchmaker’s famed Spring Drive movement – a far cry from the generic quartz battery powering my Française. This blue dial Grand Seiko, which I affectionately refer to as “Gatorade Frost” coloured – is 40mm, and I wear it extra loose for a casual, cool feel. Anyone who knows me is probably shocked reading this, but it makes sense if you get how genuinely I’ve come to love watches, inside and out. With so little pieces offered to me – a woman – in sportier, proportional, mechanically-powered references, I have to go bigger; and I start to understand why all the incredible women who have come before me in this industry love bigger watches.


What do you think about this article?


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…

Read more

Latest Articles

Colorful-2-1
06/12/2024
Watch Trends
 4 minutes

Show Your True Colors: 6 Colorful Watches

By Barbara Korp
TAG-Heuer-Formula-Kith-1-2-1
05/24/2024
Watch Trends
 4 minutes

Review of the New TAG Heuer Formula 1 | Kith Collection

By Jorg Weppelink
2-1
04/24/2024
Watch Trends
 4 minutes

The Movements Powering Women’s Watches

By Chrono24

Featured

Omega-2-1
Top 10 Watches
 5 minutes

Top 10: the Best Watch Brands of All Time

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
5-favorite-Rolex-2-1
Rolex
 6 minutes

My Top 5 Rolex Watches

By Kristian Haagen
Top5-under-5000-2-1
Top 10 Watches
 4 minutes

Five Luxury Watches Under $5,000

By Sebastian Swart
Omega-2-1
Top 10 Watches
 5 minutes

Top 10: the Best Watch Brands of All Time

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
5-favorite-Rolex-2-1
Rolex
 6 minutes

My Top 5 Rolex Watches

By Kristian Haagen
Top5-under-5000-2-1
Top 10 Watches
 4 minutes

Five Luxury Watches Under $5,000

By Sebastian Swart