Much as women's right to vote is a relatively recent "invention" on Swiss soil - 1971 in federal elections and 1991 (that's right!) in the last can - ton to stand against universal suffrage –, it wasn't until well into the century that Swiss watchmakers discovered their inner feminist. Everyone knows only a big, burly male can appreciate the whir of cogs and wheels. For that simple reason, and even though historically the wristwatch was designed to be worn by women, ladies' watches remained stuck at the bottom of the pile. For years, brands deigned sim - ply to shrink and pink their men's models, showing a spark of imagination only in the decoration of diminutive "bijou" watches. The kind that could be powered by quartz. Anyway, who would complain? Thankfully, attitudes change. However, while women are now given the respect and (almost) equality that is rightfully theirs, watchmakers, it has to be said, came around to this new way of thinking more out of obligation than choice. Low on ideas and struggling to find a way out of the crisis that hit markets in the mid-2010s, brands were willing to try anything - including turning their attention to that part of the population they had so far neglected, now that men had gone quiet. A default solution, one could say, and one in which even the most desperate professionals had little faith, but a solution nonetheless: after years trapped in the role of pretty little things wearing pretty little watches, women leapt at the chance to try something more substantial. And so it was that ladies were given their own mechanical timepieces, where the interest lay "under the hood" rather than on the dial or the bezel. Now in their stride, brands set to work on calibres - some with chronos, others with perpetual calendars or tourbillons – and developed original movements specifically for women's watches. Gem-setting, enamelling and the other métiers d'art haven't been forgotten, but are now an option alongside styles that emphasise mechanisms. At last, female watch enthusiasts can indulge their passion without having to go hunting through men's collections. And about time, too. The misguided belief that a ladies' timepiece is necessarily a gift from him to her, and that its emotional value is measured by the number of carats set around the bezel, risked turning women away from watches once and for all. By taking itself seriously, the ladies' watch has saved its skin.
Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie