Mention ladies watches, and many brand representatives give you a serious look and have a bit of a frown on their face. While a potentially profitable market, it seems to be a hard demographic to pin down, and only a few brands have enjoyed perpetuated success in marketing ladies watches, with defining success as creating a design for ladies only that becomes somewhat of an icon, while also bring in substantial revenues for the brand.
One of the most heard reasons why it seems to be so difficult to achieve this is fashion. There is some truth to this: a man can buy a monk strap from Todd’s or Church, and that same shoe is just as fashionably accepted now, as it was ten years ago, and most likely will be ten years from now. With a Jimmy Choo or Christian Louboutin, this is not nearly the case.
But is it really fashion that has such a troubling influence? The fact that some of the most successful creators of ladies watches are indeed fashion brands might be an indication. They are perhaps more in tune with both markets, which makes it easier to unite them. However, many of these brands have been able to create a few iconic pieces, and they are actually quite conservative in changing them. Did Chanel create the horological equivalent of the black dress when they designed the J12? And is that the same reason why the Cape Cod by Hermès became such an icon?
Before we can even answer that, we need to realize that the black dress might be a classic right now, it was a revolution when Chanel introduced it. The same can be said for the J12: a sportive, modern watch, crafted from white or black ceramic. While the Cape Cod is a beautiful and timeless design by Hermès artistic director Henri d’Origny, it was Martin Margiela, Hermès artistic director for their women’s ready-to-wear collection, who in 1998 added the innovative, and now iconic, “Double Tour” strap to the Cape Cod design.
The success of these watches might be an indication that setting trends in ladies watches might be a more sensible course of action, rather than following them. While this poses another challenge altogether, it does show the road to an approach to ladies watches that might actually work. Innovate with design, innovate with materials, and try to find an equilibrium of these facets that is slightly (but no more than that) ahead of its time. Yes, I know: so much easier said than done!