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There’s probably no greater testament to the rising importance of the female watch collector than the phenomenon of debut ladies’ collections by watchmakers who used to design exclusively for men.
Founded by two English brothers who inherited a passion for flying vintage aircraft from their father, Bremont has always prided itself on creating high performance timepieces for the adventurous male. At this year’s Baselworld, however, the British watchmaker surprised all with its first collection for women, the Solo-32.
Both models in the collection are inspired by two of the greatest female pilots in history. The Solo-32 AJ timepiece, available in a black or white dial, is named after Amy Johnson, Britain’s first qualified female ground engineer who, in 1930, became the first woman to take on a solo flight from England to Australia. She accomplished the journey in 19 days in a de Havilland Gypsy Moth biplane that did not have a radio, lights or fuel gauge. The second watch, the Solo-32 LC, is named after Lettice Curtis, the first female qualified to fly a four-engine bomber and who was part of the British forces during the Second World War.
Within the Solo-32 timepieces beats the BE-10AE chronometer rated automatic movement giving a 40-hour power reserve. As the model name indicates, each timepiece measures 32mm. And like the timepieces that came before them, the Solo-32 watches benefit from a hardening treatment on their steel cases that make them a robust 2000 on the Vickers scale.
2. Portofino 37mm
For a brand that used to boldly proclaim itself to be “engineered for men", IWC Schaffhausen has done a 360 with the launch of its Portofino 37mm collection in 2014. As indicated by its name, the line features 37mm watches – slightly smaller than the 40mm that previous Portofino timepieces usually measure.
The patriarchal tagline is no more. In its place is an elegant two-minute video set in the scenic Italian town of Portofino, shot by critically acclaimed photographer and director Peter Lindbergh, and starring some of the silver screen’s most prominent leading females, including Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt and Chinese actress Zhou Xun.
Although this marks the first time in more than two decades that IWC has launched a collection targeted at women, it is by no means, the Swiss watchmaker’s first ladies’ watch. The brand was creating jewellery watches up to as late as the 1970s, but its efforts in the female market eventually came to a complete stop. The launch of the Portofino Midsize collection is the mark of a new era for the brand – one that recognises that the modern woman stands on a level playing field with the men, and deserves a timepiece that says exactly that.
The independent brand known for its ostentatious style, unusual complications, and bold, chunky timepieces that can overwhelm even a large masculine wrist has released a collection that seems to go against everything in its DNA – its first line of dainty (39mm is small by Hysek’s standards), bejewelled timepieces for the ladies.
Available in five versions, all in pastel hues, glittering with gems or shimmering with mother-of-pearl on the dial, the collection is overtly feminine. Within the automatic versions, the movement has all the touches of a Hysek creation. A three hand is, no doubt, too basic for Hysek, which is why the HW61 movement gives the timepiece a jumping hour, visible through an aperture at 12 o’clock. The minutes are marked by a marquise-cut spinel that moves around the dial.
It is a common belief that quartz movements are the inferior cousins of mechanical ones, too simple for master watchmakers like Francois-Paul Journe. But in 2014, the founder of FP Journe surprised all with Elegante, his debut ladies’ collection comprising only quartz pieces. With it, Journe proved that in the hands of a genius, even a quartz timepiece can become a tour de force of engineering.
Indeed, the calibre 1210 within each Elegante watch is no ordinary quartz movement. Journe drew the blueprint of its design around the battery life. If not in use, the timepiece can remain functional for up to 18 years without a battery change, a feat made possible by a clever feature that helps the watch sense when there has been no movement from the wearer for 30 minutes. It then pauses the hands (the movement of which is notoriously the highest energy consumer in a quartz timepiece) but keeps the timekeeping function running. Once the watch is in use again, the hands spring to life to indicate the right time. In addition, the hands are driven by two motors instead of the one, reducing the length of the gear trains and thus the number of components.