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Redefining Women's Watches

by Dana Li

When I was looking to make my first watch purchase, I visited a number of boutiques and retailers in NYC, where I was often shown pieces from the women's collections of various brands. These watches designed for women were typically covered in diamonds and/or had a small (28-33mm) case size. While I do think these pieces have a place in people's collections, I felt that everything formally dubbed a “woman’s watch” was limited and I couldn’t really see myself in anything like them. At the same time I wasn’t the biggest fan of some modern watches since they tend to be bulky, which is one of the reasons I turned to vintages.

Although many brands continue to expand their offerings for women outside of the more traditional women’s collections, I do think there are still some gaps in the market, so here’s my perspective on what a “woman’s” watch can really be.

A few different styles of vintage watches. Out of these watches, only the Bulova cocktail watch was designed intentionally as a women's timepiece.

There does not need to be a distinction between men’s or women’s watches

"A watch should be reflective of the wearer’s style... Why distinguish between a man’s or woman’s watch?"

Even though the watch world is currently male-dominated, the first wristwatches were actually created for women. It wasn’t until World War I when soldiers needed a reliable way to keep time that wristwatches for men became more prominent.

Beyond the history, functionality, and design, a watch should most importantly be reflective of the wearer’s style. Whether that’s in the form of a larger tool watch or a cocktail watch, each one has its role in a collection and purpose in every day life. Why distinguish between a man’s or woman’s watch?

In addition, just because a watch is smaller, it doesn’t mean it should be immediately marketed towards women. Take the Omega Speedmaster as an example, which has iterations ranging from 38 to 44mm. I typically see the smaller versions marketed towards women while the larger ones often geared towards men. Who says a 42mm Moonwatch isn’t for women? Similarly, who says the 38mm Speedmaster with the mother of pearl dial and diamonds is not for men?

To the credit of the watch industry, brands are recognizing this trend and marketing their sports models and larger watches towards women. From the new Tudor Pelagos FXD to the Audemars Piguet Black Ceramic Royal Oak, I hope more brands continue to redefine watches beyond gender and feature their key pieces on more women.

Diamonds aren’t necessarily a girl’s best friend

While I love some diamond-covered watches like the Vacheron Constantin Égérie, I think watches for women should move beyond the dainty, diamond embellished pieces. I’m a fan of wearing diamonds casually, but for watches, the non-jeweled pieces can be more wearable and practical for every day, especially if you're not one to wear a lot of jewelry.

More importantly, some watches are embellished in diamonds by third-party jewelers after they’re purchased, which significantly devalues the watch. These are often referred to as aftermarket diamonds. If you do go for diamonds on your pieces, make sure they are factory, which means they were added to the watch by the brand intentionally during production.

Don’t be afraid to go big

I often meet women who tell me that they’re hesitant to go above a 36 mm case size because they’re afraid that larger watches will be too much on a thin wrist. As a fellow woman with a thin wrist, I definitely think women can pull off larger case sizes and should not be afraid to go big with their watches.

For reference, my wrist is fairly thin at 15 cm or just under 6 inches if you wrap a tape measure around it. I have watches varying in size from a less than 28mm cocktail watch to a 41mm Submariner (pictured below). Since I like my watches as a statement piece, I personally prefer watches with a 36-40mm case size for myself. If you’re a woman considering a larger watch but are worried that it’ll be too bulky or large for you, let this be affirmation that you can definitely pull it off.

From left to right: A 1940s Bulova cocktail watch (25.5mm x 16.5mm excluding crown), a 1969 Rolex Oyster Perpetual with a mosaic dial (34mm), a 2021 Rolex "Kermit" Submariner (41mm)

Final Thoughts

Even though I think there are still some gaps in the industry, I'm really excited to be a woman in the watch community right now. There are so many amazing female collectors who have paved the way for other women like myself to learn and share my perspective with others. If you're looking to get into watches or expand your collection, don't be afraid to experiment and consider watches that are larger, funkier, or something completely out of the box.


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