Watch-loving women often experience what feels like the Goldilocks predicament. Come across something you like and if it’s not too big then it almost always is too small. Where are all the just-right watches? Yes, size matters. A lot. Because there is a direct correlation between fit, comfort and wearability.
If a watch is comfortable, you’ll wear it more often—it’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately, what fits best isn’t always what we like best. Between a storied icon brimming with horological substance and a dainty ladies model powered by a quartz movement, the pickings are slimmer than a size zero pantsuit.
While some ultra-feminine under-sized watches do offer mechanical substance—Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Joaillerie 101, Breguet’s Queen of Naples, and Blancpain’s Saint-Valentin come to mind—they’re the exception rather than the norm.
Which is why watchmakers are gearing towards a paradigm shift in women’s timepieces, where models that reside traditionally in the men’s universe have now secured a place in ladies jewellery boxes.
In Between Sizes
Men’s watches are typically sized between 40 to 45mm, with some outliers varying from one to two millimetres in either direction. Depending on case and lug design, they are often too big for smaller wrists.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak for instance comes in several sizes, beginning with 44mm at the heaviest end of the gent’s spectrum, down to 41mm and then 39mm, all fitted with beautiful mechanical movements. Ladies on the other hand had to choose between movement and size. There used to be self-winding models only in 37 or 38mm, and a 33mm quartz model.
Likewise, the Breitling Navitimer is a 1950s classic and a perennial favourite with the horologically inclined. With the signature notched bezel, circular slide rule, and tri-compax chronograph counters, it exudes serious retro-chic vibes, like a vintage engineering tool, and would look really cool on a lady’s wrist. But the Navitimer’s hefty case, sized between 41 and 43mm depending on specific reference, has always been a major deterrent.
Well, not anymore.
The New Normal
In 2020, both Audemars Piguet and Breitling have taken big strides in rethinking these two horological heavyweights for the ladies segment.
Presenting the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 34mm in four distinct variations: all steel, bi-colour steel and pink gold, pink gold with diamonds, and steel with diamonds. The latter comes with a beautiful greyish blue dial which takes us all the way back to the OG 1972 Royal Oak.
Meanwhile the Breitling Navitimer Automatic 35 represents a bold new step for the Swiss watch company. Endearing itself to a wider audience, Breitling has pulled the covers off this mid-sized Navitimer collection and at the same time imbued the iconic timepiece with au courant dial colours and sophisticated finishes while retaining classical tones like silver and white mother-of-pearl.
Here, Breitling removed the chronograph function but rather than take something away from the watch, this gave it new identity and a fresh modernity that wasn’t there before. We especially love the bezel’s beaded which is a throwback to the early Navitimers.
Also big in 2020 is the Pasha de Cartier which makes a glorious return as a complete collection with numerous variations for both men and women. There are two key sizes now, a 41mm for gents and 35mm for women, all endowed with the Cartier-developed QuickSwitch system; bracelet models have the additional SmartLink system.
These are just some of the latest watches that have been resized for the ladies market. Other companies that have also recalibrated its iconic collections include IWC which was as masculine a brand as one could imagine. These days, however, as three out of its six pillars now include 34, 36 and 37mm midsized and gem-set versions, its watches are no longer engineered just for men.
Finally, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 36 and Patek Philippe Twenty-4 Automatic also at 36mm are two further examples of truly great midi watches. Off the wrist, a superb horological icon; on the wrist, a faithful everyday timepiece.