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
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.
The middle 3 links are thinner than the outer two. Additionally, these three links are brushed while the outer links are polished. Overall, I think this gives the watch a brand new appearance and is practical too. World timers are designed to be worn by globetrotters and an alligator strap (which is what the watch is usually shipped with) doesn’t always do well in humid, tropical climates. A bracelet is much better designed to cross time zones and various climate types. The buckle on the bracelet nevertheless, is not to my liking and looks a bit outdated. I believe a double butterfly clasp-style buckle would have suited this bracelet better.A world timer is not really a daily wear watch and not one which is mainstream in appeal. A dead seconds complication on top of that means that only a collector protected enough in their tastes and comprehension of watches is likely to wear one. But if you do happen to enjoy world timers and appreciate some unusual mechanical sophistication to your timepieces, the Jaeger Lecoultre Alarm Watch Vintage Replica Geophysic Universal Time is a pretty compelling offering. See buyers are getting to be more and more discerning and sophisticated. They no longer simply need a well-made, handsome view. They need exclusivity and the ability to personalize a watch to their preferences, and that is the reason why the Jaeger-LeCoultre Atelier Reverso program was born. Unveiled last year as part of this Reverso’s 85th anniversary, the Atelier Reverso app allows watch fans to personalize their Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso with dozens of dial and strap choices. According to Jaeger-LeCoultre, a staggering 5277 combinations are possible. Well, there will be a few more because the brand has just announced three new dial alternatives for your men’s Reverso Classic Duo Small Second watch.
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.