It really wasn’t so long ago that the concept of a complicated women’s watch was considered impractical. Women thought, perhaps accurately, that the function of a wristwatch was simply to tell time and look pretty.
But the taste of the times have changed, and everything from tourbillons to minute repeaters have found their way into watchmakers’ more feminine offerings. So when Vacheron Constantin revived the Égérie—the brand’s only collection dedicated entirely to women—last year, it wasn’t altogether surprising. What is striking though, is that the Égérie was tailored specifically for the 21st century lady.
Housed in an elegant 35mm or 37mm round case in steel, white or rose gold, is a self-winding movement with either a date function or moon phase. Going the automatic route is a sensible one since not everyone has the time to appreciate the romantic but tedious task of winding a watch. The interchangeable strap system requires no tool, so wearers can easily choose from a navy, raspberry or chestnut strap to suit the mood, as all three are offered along with each watch.
According to Style & Heritage Director Christian Selmoni, the brand’s style is “very unique, consisting of a combination of refinement, elegance, sophistication and classic design with a twist.” That “twist” in the Égérie is the off-centred date or moonphase, and a crown positioned at 1 o’clock instead of the traditional position at 3 o’clock. Diamonds and haute couture-inspired pleats on the dial complete the look with a feminine flourish.
Incidentally, Vacheron Constantin released another impressive novelty for the ladies this year, the Traditionelle Tourbillon, which is basically a smaller, more sparkly version of the men’s tourbillon. While the ladies’ tourbillon does boast an entirely new movement, it is reminiscent of how brands approached women’s watchmaking in the past: they were just offshoots of the core collections that were often blanketed in precious stones and fitted with quartz movements.
History likely had a role to play in this strategy. The first women’s wristwatch was made by Breguet for Marie Antoinette in 1810, actually predating the original Cartier Santos-Dumont, the first men’s wrist-worn watch that was delivered in 1904. But wristwatches as tools had a more consistent demand from men over the following decades, so women’s timepieces largely continued to serve as accessories that happened to display the time.
The general daintiness of women’s watches is also what made it difficult for watchmakers to fit any decent complication in. But thanks to recent advances in watchmaking, women can now enjoy a greater selection of mechanical offerings without adding bulk. “Our feminine clientele can be compared with our masculine clientele,” continues Selomoni, “in the sense that beauty and knowledge have no gender. Watch lovers and connoisseurs are all looking for a beautiful timepiece that place great care in details and finishing, and it is what we call ‘Belle Haute Horlogerie’.” Well, it’s certainly about time.
Scroll through the gallery below to view some of Vacheron Constantin’s most memorable vintage ladies timepieces.
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Yellow gold bangle watch featuring two winged goddesses and a diamond-set bezel, made in 1889
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Art Deco watch with hexagonal dial set with diamonds and blue sapphires, made in 1923
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Jewellery watch in platinum set with diamonds, made in 1937
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Yellow gold cuff watch made in 1946
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Yellow gold watch named the 1972; this reference with an ornate mesh strap dates back to 1976