Time is the most valuable asset, which must be why watch brands are pouring resources into sustaining this credo. Indeed, the industry spends a great deal of marketing dollars—hosting lavish parties, underwriting large-scale events, and recruiting A-list talents as brand ambassadors—to create an aura of prestige and provide reasons for why timepieces, more often than not, exceed the seven-figure range.
It is a strategy that is not only endemic to watch companies, but fashion as a whole—especially in the luxury sector. We are enticed by certain styles on our favorite celebrities, captivated by billboards, and, with social media being the beast that it is, inundated with a steady stream of advertisements. Still, with all this expenditure over the decades, the majority of watch brands, until fairly recently, focused only on half of the world’s population.
“Traditionally, men’s watches have been marketed more heavily than women’s,” David Hurley, executive vice president of Watches of Switzerland, tells BAZAAR.com. “Men have had less options to show their style through accessories.”
True, men have far less choices and are often relegated to select items, like watches, to express their sartorial predilections. Factor in that they perform a service and timepieces became a key component in a man’s wardrobe. Thus, brands took great pains to woo would-be clients into their world, tooting their history and rarity as much as their technical prowess. To wit: Customers are buying the lore, the cachet more so than the item per se.
Even with the rise of iPhones and other digital devices that are better suited to record time, the sales of analogue watches continue to spike year over year. “The idea that technology would deal a fatal blow to the watch, simply hasn’t panned out,” reads a report published in The Guardian. So much so that certain styles from storied brands continuously increase in value and break records at auction. All this shows that timepieces are essentially an emblem of status and power. And now that gender tropes have become passé, women are breaking down the doors of the all-boys club.
“The women’s watch market has been growing at a faster pace than the men’s,” says Hurley. “Smaller-case sizes and jeweled settings once set women’s timepieces apart. We are now seeing a departure from traditional gender-defining categories. We have clients buying across sectors, men looking for smaller-case sizes, and women for mechanical watches without diamonds, for example.”
This has led watch companies to expand their offerings. Yes, many have always created pieces for women. Some even achieved great fame for their women’s collections. But it is only recently—perhaps over the last two decades, when most brands have existed for more than a century—that there is greater emphasis on the type of watch women want to buy.
“Women define value differently,” observes Hurley. “At Watches of Switzerland, we have clients drawn to the technical aspects of a watch. We also have clients interested in the aesthetics of the design, like a beautiful dial, for example.”
With this in mind, let your proclivities and budget guide you when making a purchase. Just know that when it comes to watches, it is always time to invest.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.