Think watches are a man’s world? Think again. Sure, display cases may still heave under the weight of timepieces designed for men convinced their commute between Clapham and Mayfair requires the same level of complication as a deepsea diver, astronaut or fighter pilot, but, look a little closer, and you’ll find a swathe of mechanical watches designed with the needs and tastes of women in mind. Think slimmer profiles, smaller diameters, softer materials and a precious stone or two, all backed up by the same technically-sophisticated calibres as their more masculine counterparts. As Watches & Wonders brings with it this year’s most exciting timepieces, here’s our guide to the best new watches for women in 2023.
Cartier Santos-Dumont Skeleton
What were we saying about properly complicated complications? Allow us to present a case in point. For 2023, Cartier has taken its Santos-Dumont watch, an emblem of the house since 1904, and stripped it back to the bare bones, courtesy of a new calibre 9629 MC automatic movement. While not specifically a women’s watch, the square case measures in at a dainty 31mm and is available in rose gold, yellow gold or steel, while Cartier has also deployed traditional jewellery-making techniques alongside its matchmaking expertise. Note, for example, the miniature Demoiselle plane created in homage to the watch’s namesake, aviation enthusiast Alberto Santos-Dumont.
Dior Grand Soir Automate
Dior’s new Grand Sior Automate watches are more akin to tiny artworks than traditional timepieces. Created as a collection of seven new additions to the Grand Sior range, which was introduced in 2012, each features an incredibly detailed dial that, at the touch of a button hidden in the crown, springs to life in an animation of around 30 seconds. Each dial takes inspiration from the life of Christian Dior, including his love of gardening and his famed belief in lucky charms. Available in limited editions of between one and 28 pieces, precious metals, lacquer and diamonds have been used throughout.
£28,000 – £31,000, dior.com
Grand Seiko Elegance White Linen
If quiet luxury is more your thing, allow us to point you in the direction of Grand Seiko and its understated Japanese approach to fine watchmaking. A small package (literally, the diamond-set case is just 27.8mm in diameter) promising seriously good things, the new Elegance White Linen features an in-house calibre 9S27 manual-wound movement and a dial hand-etched to resemble linen, a fabric created using a hemp plant sacred to Japanese culture.
£8,250, available from August, seikoboutique.co.uk
Gucci G-Timeless Moonlight
A brand better known for its horsebit loafers and handbags might not be the obvious choice for a fine new timepiece but Gucci’s 2023 collection is stuffed full of some of the most technically-difficult complications in watchmaking. Alongside designs featuring flying tourbillons and jumping hour mechanisms, there’s the G-Timeless Moonlight: a made-to-order watch centred around Gucci’s sophisticated calibre GGV838.MP moonphase movement.
Each piece is custom-made, with gemstones depicting the birthday planets’ position and their associated zodiac signs according to the wearer's date, place and time of birth around the edge of the dial. An internal ring can also be etched with up to five letters of characters, while an oscillating weight displays the wearer’s personal constellation. Starry-eyed indeed.
Slim d’Hermès Cheval de Légende
Introduced in 2015, the classic silhouette and clean lines of the Slim d’Hermès watch has seen it become something of a blank canvas for the artistic ambitions of Hermès' watchmakers. This year, the designers have taken the house’s signature horse motif, specifically one lifted from a 2010 scarf by artist Benoit Pierre Emery, and transposed it onto the dial via 1,678 tiny, individually-placed enamel beads and framed by 52 baguette-cut diamonds. Talk about devotion. Don’t think that this commitment to aesthetics means things beneath the dial have been forgotten, though. Inside the 39.5mm white-gold case you’ll find an in-house H1950 self-winding movement.
£69,000 - £79,000, hermes.com
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Secret Necklace
Likely one of the most unique timepieces you’ll see this year, Jaeger-LeCoultre has melded the worlds of haute horology and high jewellery in its Reverso Secret Necklace. Paying homage to the Art Deco style of the 1930s, when the house’s innovative Reverso design debuted, the cordonnet textile bracelet seen on these original models has been reimagined as a chain of onyx beads and diamond-set links from which dangles an exquisite diamond and onyx pendant. Worn one way, and you have a timeless necklace. Swivel the pendant, and you’ll reveal a geometric watch face powered by an in-house calibre 846 manual-wound movement. You didn’t think JLC would settle for quartz, did you?
Bulgari Octo Roma Tourbillon
His and hers Bulgari tourbillon watches? Talk about couple goals. The Precious Naturalia (men’s) and Precious Tourbillon Lumière (women’s) represent two of four new tourbillons being added to Bulgari’s uber-popular Octo Roma collection this year – and they look great together. The latter of the two features a 38mm rose gold case and matching skeleton tourbillon movement. Although that may be tricky to tell given that every single square millimetre has been paved in diamonds. Well, Bulgari never did do things by halves.
Piaget Limelight High Jewellery Cuff watch
At Watches & Wonders 2023 Piaget presented a series of pieces loosely connected under the umbrella term ‘Extraleganza’ – a nod, the maison says, to its most lavish, lively designs from the 1960s and 1990s. This series of three high-jewellery cuff watches takes its cue from Piaget’s 1969 21st Century collection, which was inspired by the Parisian catwalks and sketched directly onto fashion magazines to ensure the watches blended seamlessly with the styles of the day. Featuring oval turquoise and opal dials, a gem-set white or yellow gold case appears as if hatching from a flexible cuff band engraved using a series of techniques exclusive to the house.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Self-Winding
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas has long been a go-to for those in need of a smart, sporty, modern timepiece that stands up to everyday wear – and now those with smaller wrists can get in on the action. Introduced this year in 34.5mm and 35mm case sizes, the four new references come in steel or pink gold with sunburst blue or lacquered pink dials and optional gem-setting. Also more slender than its predecessors, powering everything is a Calibre 1088/1 movement, while each reference comes with two additional leather and rubber straps that can be easily swapped at home. If you’re after a dependable, workhorse watch that you can rely on day after day, this is it.