There’s been a quiet (r)evolution: many brands are no longer differentiating between men’s and women’s watches. So, what do they call them? Just – watches. These days, it seems to be practically a given that, under certain conditions, a watch is a unisex object.
There, I’ve said it. As yet, virtually none of the brands have uttered the term “unisex”, but that’s what we’re talking about: the timepiece as a beautiful, sexless object. For him or for her? That’s a question that the brands themselves no longer attempt to answer. For once, they leave that up to the client. It’s for the client to decide whether their purchase would better suit a masculine or a feminine wrist, or both. If May 1968 was about sexual liberation, perhaps January 2018 will mark the start of a unisexual revolution?
Finding the right balance
Let’s take a look at Vacheron Constantin. The new Overseas watches, for instance, may well showcase the manufacture’s rather masculine sports chic vision, but the collection’s new perpetual calendar is an ultra-thin watch, just 4 mm deep. In the past, its 41 mm case diameter would have clearly signalled a male client base, but its slender profile and gold livery mean it looks equally good on a woman’s wrist.
Overseas ultra-thin perpetual calendar © Vacheron Constantin
It had been hot like hell and became the most copied watch. It was likewise that watch that made me interested in the history of the brand, because the seller explained that the design was inspired from the very first men’s wristwatch, started by Cartier at 1904. So you can imagine it did not take long before I became obsessed with chains generally, especially with Cartier.At that time watch forums were just becoming popular, watch magazines were still uncommon and watch blogs like Fratello and Hodinkee didn’t exist yet. But what we had about in 1995, were the ‘Get Togethers’ along with other watch enthusiasts (fanatics). All these GTG’s were organised by collectors themselves and so were always very funny. Everybody brought a few pieces from their collection and also heaps of beer and wine, we chatted about the various versions until late in the evening. But always the very same brands got all of the attention and for me it was quite frustrating that one just paid attention to my Cartier watches, to be polite. The word ETA was constantly mentioned like these were inferior movements and too frequently I heard quotes like; ‘my spouse would love them’
The weight-loss regime has had a similar effect on Cartier. In the new Drive extra-flat, the manufacture has found the perfect profile. With no complications and no superfluous thickness, the new Drive gives full expression to its design aesthetic, in a new, subtle and sophisticated unisex size. It’s a perfect piece – balanced and just right. This new version demonstrates in an intelligent way that beautiful need be neither masculine nor feminine. It’s just beautiful.
Drive ultra-thin © Cartier
Even Panerai, that champion of aquatic virility, is placing its hopes in the Due line this year. Depending on your point of view, it’s either the most urban, or the least nautical collection. What no one will dispute is that it’s a slimmed-down collection and, in red gold, like the Luminor Due 3 Days Automatic (PAM00756) in 38 mm, it looks fabulous on any wrist. Men, women – it really doesn’t matter.
Luminor Due 3 Days Automatic (PAM00756) © Panerai
Squaring the circle
Unisex styling is most commonly found in round watches. It’s the shape most easily shared by men and women. Nevertheless, in the collective unconscious some shapes are more masculine, and others are more feminine. The square, for example, is traditionally a masculine shape. Bell & Ross are the textbook example, with their macho BR-01 references that cemented the brand’s reputation.
At SIHH 2018, Hermès went completely in the opposite direction. The Carré H, created in 2010, is back in centre stage. Now larger in size, it has a polished, microblasted finish, and the dial features a square guilloché motif. At the same time, perhaps to offset all this angularity, the brand has softened the corners of the square, the curved profile of the case and the convex crystal. The end result (which measures no more than 38 mm on a side) is balanced and… unisex.
Carré H © Hermès
Vintage for one, vintage for all!
The ascent of the unisex watch may also have something to do with the vintage vogue. Vintage watches are, by their very nature, unisex: they are moderately sized (38 to 41 mm), they have few complications, and a restrained, classic design. Vintage works well for both sexes, because it’s all about the era, not about the gender.
Reverso Tribute Duoface © Jaeger-LeCoultre
Jaeger-LeCoultre has taken this on board, refocusing on the Reverso Tribute Duoface, a re-issue of the original model. The manufacture has updated it with a strap made by renowned bootmaker Casa Fagliano. There’s a similar story at Piaget, where the iconic Altiplano, born in 1957, still graces the wrists of both men and women six decades later, and continues to break records. The same goes for the two-handed model known as the “Andy Warhol”, created in 1973, which remains in the current catalogue. Thanks to its stone dial, it remains a uniquely powerful unisex classic. Looking ahead, it remains to be seen how the new watches revealed at Baselworld will tackle the unisex market.