This year will be remembered as one when time virtually stood still, thanks to covid crackdowns, factory closures and the impact on the retail sector of lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Despite the huge disruption worldwide caused by the coronavirus pandemic, consumer interest in watches has not died; in fact, brands report ongoing enquiries and a lift in online sales. They are making a concerted effort to keep what business they have, which has required them to pay more attention to two specific groups – local customers (as distinct from high-spending foreign tourists) and women.
The latter have long been crucial to brands’ prosperity but are often overlooked in watch-industry conversations or relegated to the “only interested in fashion” category.
The fact is manufacturers have well and truly moved on from the days when a “woman’s” watch was either pretty, simple, affectionately demure or a smaller version of a man’s watch, with a quick dusting of diamonds or similar decoration declaring its gender appropriateness.
For some time, brands have been catering to women not only with jewelled masterpieces but also with mechanical statements and the kind of bold designs long enjoyed by men. It’s a trend that has continued with this year’s releases, leading industry observers to ask whether more imagination is being applied to women’s watches than to men’s.
Whatever the answer, it’s fair to say that never has such variety been on offer for the feminine forearm. Of course, the preparation of these models began well before the world had any inkling of the covid crisis that was to come, because several years’ work – design, prototypes, testing, macro-jewel-setting etc – is typically involved in developing new watches.
But if ever there was a time to impress, this is it, and brands have shown they have the goods to attract what amounts to almost half the market for some, and even more for others. Thus, it’s no surprise to find maisons such as Chanel, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels leading the charge – when have they not?
But others, too, continue to rise to the occasion, as evidenced by the following dip into a few of 2020’s delicacies.
Rolex has reinvigorated the Oyster Perpetual range for 2020 and captured the headlines with the freshest dial colours yet fronting upgraded internals in the 36mm models. Whether yellow, red, pink, green or turquoise, the dials sparkle, with no need for expensive diamonds. $8,650
For the 20th anniversary of its ceramic watch, Chanel has sprinkled the J12.20 Enamel with delicate champleve symbols and house references: a tiny bag, a petit camellia, a miniature bottle of No. 5 perfume, even a diminutive tweed jacket. Numbered and limited to just five pieces, this model has brilliant-cut diamonds dotting the bezel, dial and mechanism. POA
Hublot’s Big Bang One Click Paraíba features one of the world’s most prized gemstones, the rare Paraíba tourmaline from Brazil, for the first time in a watch. The bezel is set with 48 baguette-cut tourmalines, the 39mm case with 118 brilliant-cut stones, and the sunray dial is picked out with a further 11. POA
Van Cleef & Arpels’ Lady Arpels “A Day in Paris Watch” combines luxe – a 38mm rose-gold case and bezel with round diamonds, onyx dial and sculpted rose-gold rotating disk with characters – with a whimsical display. $115,000
Inspired by a watch from the early seventies when the historical jewellery and watch house Piaget reigned supreme with Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor among its most devoted customers, this 32mm Piaget Limelight Gala model has a hand-engraved white-gold bracelet and an enamel dial ringed with diamonds and blue sapphires. POA
Vacheron Constantin’s new Égérie has a “pleated” effect on the dial, inspired by fabric finishing. It’s cased in gold or steel and set with diamonds, and a clever interchangeable strap system completes the picture. POA
Behind the fan-shape motif of Bulgari Divas’ Dream Minute Repeater Malachite is the thinnest ladies’ chiming mechanism to date. Adding to the cachet, the watch is encrusted with 336 diamonds and cased in white gold. POA
Cartier’s diamond-set Pasha returns as a 35mm white-gold statement with an integrated bracelet accommodating 487 brilliant-cut stones (8.51 carats) and an extra diamond on the crown. A self-winding in-house movement powers things. $195,000
The Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Bouton Perle watch comes on a cuff of black tweed edged with gold braid and fastened by a button set with a half-white pearl (15mm) sourced in Australia. It’s ringed with 52 brilliant-cut diamonds and flips to reveal a tiny dial set with 142 more such gems. POA
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