Today, the world of high-end wristwatches is almost predominantly the domain of men, yet it was the fairer sex that should be credited with their actual creation. Up until the 19th century, it was still the norm for gentlemen to carry pocket watches in their jackets, while ladies made do with smaller iterations worn as necklaces, belts or brooches. But then a few intrepid women began wearing timepieces on their wrist as both a time-tracking gadget as well as a fashion accessory, birthing an entire new category of watches.
Interestingly, the first-ever ladies’ wristwatch dates back to 1810, when Breguet created a pocket watch attached to a bracelet, customised for the Queen of Naples, Caroline Murat. Several decades later, Patek Philippe followed suit, crafting its first wristwatch for Hungary’s Countess Koscowicz. Fast forward to times more contemporary, and these wrist adornments have overtaken pocket watches to become by far the most popular means of keeping time, with ever more women seeking out intricate timepieces that both dazzle the eyes and boast precision engineering under the hood. Below, we highlight seven of the latest crop that deserve special mention.
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium
(Price on request)
First up is Van Cleef & Arpels’ Lady Arpels Planétarium, part of the maison’s latest Sous Les Étoiles high jewellery collection. Deftly blending the arts of watchmaking and haute joaillerie, this gem-studded creation – which took a staggering 1,370 hours of work to complete – features an array of diamonds, spessartite garnets and coloured sapphires across its acreage. The dial proper, meanwhile, boasts a planetarium in miniature, displaying the real-time orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth and its moon around the Sun.
Rolex Lady-Datejust 28
(Price on request)
Another bejewelled statement timepiece is Rolex’s new Lady-Datejust 28. Housed in a 28mm case, every visible inch of this latest iteration is swathed in glistening diamonds, be it the dial, bezel, case or its President bracelet. Powering this sparkling avatar is a Calibre 2236 self-winding mechanical movement, replete with a patented Syloxi silicon hairspring that is ten times the precision of traditional options when exposed to sudden movement.
Vacheronn Constantin Égérie
Similarly boasting a diamond-studded aesthete are two versions of the Égérie by Vacheron Constantin – one crafted from 18K white gold and the other in 18K 5N pink gold. For both, some 877 shimmering diamonds can be found across its dial and 35mm case, while its fascia has also been given a rather avant-garde rotating date aperture within a sub-dial at 2 o’clock.
Breguet Reine de Naples 8938
Also featuring a rather unusual diamond-set dial in the series is Breguet’s Reine de Naples 8938, whose fascia is oval-shaped rather than circular. The precious stones, in this instance, have been set using the rarefied snow technique, which utilises differently sized gems in order to fully cover the dial and obscure the material underneath. The off-centre hours chapter, meanwhile, can be found at 6 o’clock, and the watch is available in multiple choices of white gold with blue straps or rose gold with orange straps.
Chopard 2021 Happy Sport 33mm
For a more athletic model, there’s Chopard’s 2021 Happy Sport 33mm, replete with the collection’s signature ‘dancing diamonds’ that roam between its dial and sapphire crystal covering. Interestingly, its new 33mm case was created using the golden ratio in relation to its Chopard 09.01-C automatic movement, and is available in the buyer’s choice of Lucent Steel A223, ethical 18K rose gold, a two-tone version and a more luxurious, diamond-studded model.
Blacpain Villeret Quantième Complet
Exemplifying the blue-and-white motif, meanwhile, is the 38mm Villeret Quantième Complet from Blancpain. Its all-white dial – encircled by a diamond-set bezel – boasts a moon phase indicator at 6 o’clock, while the inbuilt annual calendar complication means you can accurately track the day, date and month. Functional yet sophisticated, its flexibility is further enhanced with a choice of five interchangeable straps.
Not to be outdone, Jaeger-LeCoultre has also introduced a lunar-inspired creation – the Rendez-Vous Dazzling Moon Lazura. Where Blancpain’s model is all understated elegance, this is an unashamedly outré design made to attract attention. To start, 36 large diamonds and 72 smaller grain-set stones grace its bezel in double-ring formation. Then there’s the deep lapis lazuli dial, graced with a further 68 diamonds ringing a sub-dial at 6 o’clock that houses a delicate star chart and a mother-of-pearl moon phase indicator. Blending haute horology with high-end jewellery-making with true aplomb, this is one statement timepiece that will surely find favour with discerning female collectors.