The world of high-end watches has always been a playground for men.
Toys for boys: that is the favoured descriptor for the high-tech, complicated gadgets men flaunt on their wrists as status symbols.
This is borne out by the avalanche of models that watch companies trot out for men, compared with the trickle of pieces designed for women.
Things, however, are starting to change. In a market challenged by a turbulent global economy and the advent of smart watches, many brands are tapping into their feminine side.
It is a strategy which is not only necessary, but also critical. The global market for women’s luxury watches, according to Euromonitor, is worth more than US$10 billion (S$13.8 billion) a year. Meanwhile, market analysts Bain & Co estimate the share of female watches in the luxury watch market to be more than 30 per cent.
There are other reasons brands are out to attract women. One is their increased spending power. A study by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that women’s consumer spending will hit US$28 trillion next year.
Women’s taste in copy watches with self-winding movements is also changing. No longer are they interested only in smaller sizes and pretty designs. Many women are gravitating towards pieces which are not just beautiful, but also mechanically complex.
A spike in jewellery sales has also crossed over to the luxury watch market. Women usually treat a luxury watch like a piece of jewellery.
Not surprisingly, watch companies have, of late, started introducing not just models, but even lines targeted at women as well.
Audemars Piguet made a splash with the introduction of its women’s Royal Oak in frosted gold. A. Lange & Sohne made headlines with its Little Lange 1 Moon Phase, which packs complex mechanics in a feminine rose-gold case; and Piaget launched Limelight Stella, which boasts its first complication designed for women.
And then there is IWC Schaffhausen, which recently turned its Engineered For Men tagline on its head with the new Da Vinci collection. The range is an update of the first iconic IWC Da Vinci fake watch, released in 1969.
The collection has 14 models. Eight are targeted at women, two are unisex models and the rest are for men.
Ms Franziska Gsell, IWC’s chief marketing officer, said: “With the Da Vinci Collection, we are trying to anchor the brand in the minds of women, who account for a significant proportion of watch lovers.”
The brand embarked on this approach in 2014 when it launched the Portofino 37 collection. A huge hit, the collection included watches designed for smaller wrists.
At the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie trade show in Geneva in January, the watchmaker ditched its traditionally masculine booth for a palace to unveil the Da Vinci replica watches with steel or golden cases.
The timepieces had their Southeast Asian launch last week in Bangkok, at the inauguration of the Da Vinci Exhibition at Siam Paragon mall. Supermodel and IWC ambassador Karolina Kurkova opened the exhibition, which showcases historical timepieces from the brand’s archives – including the Lady’s Wristwatch from 1967 and Lady Chronograph from 1995 – as well as the new pieces from the Da Vinci collection.
The two key women’s exquiste IWC fake watches – of which there are several references or variations – in this collection are the Da Vinci Automatic 36 and Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36. Both are 36mm in diameter.
Like the Portofino, the Automatic 36 is feminine, with rounded crowns and a recessed inner circle on the dial. The movable lug makes for a comfortable fit around the wrist.
There are different versions ranging from $8,150 to $57,300. One has a bezel set with 54 diamonds totalling just under a carat. Others come in gold cases or leather straps in colours such as raspberry and bronze.
IWC’s signature moon phase display takes visual centre stage in the Automatic Moon Phase 36, priced from $12,900 to $24,800.
The moon, in gold or silver, moves clockwise against a dark blue sky. The watch comes with a Caliber 35800 and automatic movement with a 42-hour power reserve.
Like the Automatic 36, it also has Da Vinci’s “the flower of life” pattern engraved on the case back and comes with IWC’s new butterfly clasp. The clasp has three fold-out wings, so the wearer can take off the watch without opening the strap or bracelet.
Women who prefer something bigger can opt for the 40mm Da Vinci Automatic. Designed as a unisex watch, it has a minimalist dial with large Arabic figures and Lancet-shaped hands.
Although women come first, men have not been forgotten. Also part of the IWC collection are the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph and Da Vinci Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph.
The Perpetual Calendar Chronograph is the first watch from IWC to combine the well-known mechanical chronograph with a perpetual moon-phase display on a subdial in a new complication module.
The Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph, meanwhile, has an unusual combination of a classic tourbillon with a retrograde date and a sporty chronograph on a single dial.
Finally, the collection includes the Da Vinci Chronograph Edition Laureus Sport For Good Foundation, a special edition with part of the proceeds going to the Laureus foundation. The organisation helps youth overcome social issues such as violence and discrimination.
In keeping with tradition, this timepiece comes with an etched reproduction of a child’s drawing in an annual competition run by Laureus. The drawing is a self-portrait by Hou Ye, a 12-year-old Paralympian at the Special Olympics East Asia.