Our all-time favourite wrist-worthy ladies’ watches
Like a Fendi Baguette bag or a Volkswagen Beetle, there are some things that remain firmly in the public’s mind, sparking instant brand recognition. These are game changers in the industry that become perennial favourites through the years.
Watches are no different. These iconic ladies’ timepieces are either instantly recognisable, well loved by most, have innovative designs and mechanisms, marry form and function to become staples of their respective brands, or all of the above. Most, if not all, are still being produced, albeit in updated versions. Here are 10 wrist-worthy timepieces that have endured the test of time.
You know you have a special timepiece when it has graced famous wrists — including Jackie Kennedy Onassis’, Andy Warhol’s, Duke Ellington’s, and Clark Gable’s, just to name a few. The Cartier Tank’s design is deceptively simple, defined by the straight lines of its case and lugs — an homage to the Renault FT-17, a French tank used during the First World War — Roman numerals, and sapphire cabochon set into the crown. For 2019, Cartier presents the Tank Chinoise Red, a direct descendant of the iconic 1921 Tank Chinoise that evoked the architecture of Chinese temples. Instead of the original square shape, it now has a longer case in white gold, its two rows of rubies sitting between black enamel, and brilliant-cut diamonds on each side. They frame a black lacquered dial with two elongated Roman numerals. Powered by a quartz movement, it is fitted with a black alligator strap and limited to 100 pieces.
Chopard Happy Sport According to Chopard, the Happy Sport was the first watch to combine diamonds with stainless steel. Giving new life to the term ‘sports luxe’, it was a feminine and unconventional timepiece that espoused a certain joie de vivre aesthetic for ladies, especially with its signature mobile diamonds. Today, it comes in a variety of materials and movements (quartz, hand-wound, and automatic). Last year, the brand celebrated its 25th birthday with a new collection, the Happy Sport Automatic. Available in rose gold or stainless steel or both, each version features a textured mother-of-pearl dial in pastel blue, pink, or white with matching leather straps. Powered by the new in-house manufactured self-winding movement, each features the playful Happy Sport spirit with five mobile diamonds.
Breguet Reine de Naples
The egg-shaped timepiece is said to be the first wristwatch ever known, commissioned by and made for the Queen of Naples in 1810. The modern versions of this model have cemented their place in horological history. A standout piece is also one of its latest, in an 18K rose gold case with bezel and dial flange set with 128 diamonds. The dial is partly in Tahitian mother-of-pearl where the moon phase indicator sits at 12 o’clock. This is contrasted by the off-centred hour, minute, and seconds subdials decorated and hand-engraved on a rose engine. It is equipped with the self-winding in-house Calibre 537 with 45 hours of power reserve, which can be admired through the sapphire caseback.
Blancpain proudly declares that it was the first to make self-winding wristwatches for women from the 1930s. Horological complications previously reserved for men were miniaturised and decorated with a feminine aesthetic in mind. Then came the Ladybird in 1956, which boasted the world’s smallest round movement, the R550 Calibre, measuring only 11.85mm in diameter. The 60th anniversary version is fitted with the new automatic 6150 Calibre, still one of the world’s smallest at 15.7mm in diameter and 3.9mm in thickness. Limited to 60 pieces, it comes in a dainty 21.5mm white gold case with the bezel set with 32 diamonds. The mother-of-pearl dial is adorned with ‘foliage’ motif, along with openworked, droplet-shaped hands and eight diamond hour markers.
The snake-inspired design emerged in the 1940s and quickly become one of the brand’s most distinctive looks and bestsellers. It helped that Elizabeth Taylor wore one of the snake bracelets on the set of Cleopatra in Rome. Bracelets were first introduced followed by watches featuring a Tubogas bracelet, inspired by the utilitarian gas piping found in houses. Evoking bold, seductive yet sophisticated qualities, various Serpenti collections have since featured different designs and materials. The latest versions from the Serpenti Twist Your Time collection offer a fashion-forward twist with colourful interchangeable straps and dials. For a bolder look, there is the Serpenti Spiga Ceramica made from high-tech ceramic. The black version coils around not once or twice but five times around the arm.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
The unique octagonal shape of Royal Oak, the eight screws on the bezel, the tapisserie dial, and the use of steel for a luxury sports watch transformed it into an instant icon when it was unveiled in 1972. Designed by Gerald Genta in 24 hours, the watch was inspired by the traditional diver’s helmet that featured screws that held the watertight faceplate. The nautical theme extends to its name, where it took after the famous battleship, HMS Royal Oak from the British Royal Navy. Since then, there have been many variations, from full gold and high jewellery versions to the sportier Offshore models. Among the newest 2019 Royal Oaks is the Double Balance Wheel Openworked. The openworked dial, where the double balance wheel is visible on both sides of the watch, is artistically set against frosted pink or white gold. Featuring a comfortable 37mm case (which suits ladies’ wrists), the collection also features one with 32 baguette-cut rainbow-coloured sapphires on the bezel for a colourful statement.
Patek Philippe Nautilus
The Nautilus collection, introduced in 1976, was seen as a luxury sports watch ahead of its time, characterised by a bezel that is reminiscent of a ship porthole. It was also made of steel with a diameter of 42mm — large for a man’s watch at that time. But with its mix of classy and sporty elegance, it was versatile for all occasions and immediately appealed to modern lifestyles. The latest Nautilus timepiece is somewhat of a game changer, making it the first Grand Complication in the collection, the Ref 5740/1 Perpetual Calendar. Brimming with technical sophistication, it features the ultra-thin self-winding movement Calibre 240 Q with perpetual calendar, moon phase, day, date, month, leap year, and 24-indications. They are presented on a blue sunburst dial with gold applied hour markers framed by a 40mm white gold case. The bracelet has been updated with a new fold-over clasp for added security.
Few watches are as iconic as the Reverso, fitted with a unique slide and flip mechanism that allows it to protect the fragile dial and glass of the watch. This reversible case was the result of a request by polo players in the 1930s for a timepiece that was robust enough to come out of a polo match unscathed. The original Reverso was a practical two-hand solution that allowed for an elegant dress watch on one side, and a caseback on the other that could be personalised. Subsequent models have added complications like flying tourbillon, double timezones, perpetual calendar, and minute repeater. The latest model, Reverso Tribute Small Seconds, pays tribute to the original with a twist — it has a striking burgundy dial housed in a stainless steel case. It measures 45.6mm long, 27.4mm wide, and 8.5mm thick with the distinctive three grooves at the top and bottom.
Created only in 2000, the Chanel J12 is a Gen-Z baby when compared to most of the watches here. But it is no less coveted, being the first all-ceramic watch from a luxury fashion house. For the first time, this material was made fashionable on the wrist. It has become a symbol of modernity and elegance, a versatile sporty-looking piece that will take ladies from boardroom to ballroom, transcending fashion trends and genres. The Untitled collection is the latest, available in black or white. Each features a 38mm case in high-tech ceramic and steel. It has a graphic white lacquered dial with rhodium-plated décor, fixed bezel, and steel screw-down crown with ceramic cabochon. It is powered by a self-winding movement.
Omega has the ultimate bragging rights with the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. It has gone to the moon and back, being worn during the first manned lunar landing in 1969, as well as every one of NASA’s piloted missions since 1965. The other chronographs in Omega’s Speedmaster collection share the same robustness, precision, and readability qualities. The Speedmaster 38mm is a more refined model that is both sporty and stylish at once. This timepiece stands out for its stainless steel and 18K yellow gold case with polished-brushed gold bezel, which includes a tachymeter scale on a green aluminium ring. Driven by the Omega Co-Axial Calibre 3330, it has an opaline silvery dial with oval subdials and date window at 6 o’clock. Completing the look is a matching green leather strap and the signature Seahorse medallion on the caseback.