Jewelry & Watches

The Newest Trend in Serious Watch Collecting? Women

It turns out women want the same sort of rare and expensive watches that have historically been sold to men.

Every collector eventually graduates. A dabbler becomes a connoisseur; an enjoyable curiosity blossoms into a consuming obsession. In the world of horology, the aficionados are generally men, but over the last couple of years watch­makers have been quietly courting a small yet devoted cohort: women. Those efforts led to a 2 percent increase in watch sales in the first half of 2018, a remarkable feat considering new models made up less than 10 percent of those sales, and watches costing $25,000 or more accounted for 16 percent. It turns out women want the same sort of rare and expensive watches that historically have been sold to men.

In watches, any mechanism that tells more than just the time (and in some cases the date) is called a “complicated” movement; features can include chronographs, chimes, and functions accounting for leap years and the phases of the moon. In fact, the moon phase is probably the most commonly used complication in women’s watches, but not all such movements are created equal.

A. Lange & Söhne’s Little Lange 1 Moon Phase.

One standout is A. Lange & Söhne’s Little Lange 1 Moon Phase, which has a 72-hour power reserve and is accurate for up to 122.6 years. The mechanism is complemented by a gorgeous guilloche dial that adds a touch of subtle elegance. 

Van Cleef & Arpels’s Lady Arpels Planetarium is a moon phase watch taken to the extreme. Introduced earlier this year in a smaller size, it features a new movement in which the moon, Venus, Mercury, and Earth all rotate on aventurine discs at rates that correspond to the length of time it takes the real celestial body to orbit the sun. Although this is an incredibly sophisticated mechanism, the watch is an easy-to-wear treat for the eyes and the wrist.

Another complication is the perpetual calendar, which displays the day, date, and month, and accounts for leap years. Patek Philippe was the first to make an automatic version (based on a ladies pendant watch movement, no less), and its reference 5327G with the blue dial and Breguet numerals is a versatile beauty that reflects Patek’s nearly 200-year heritage.


Van Cleef & Arpels and Audemars Piguet watches.

Meanwhile, there’s Audemars Piguet. Every year the Swiss watchmaker introduces a blockbuster concept model, and this past January, for the first time, it did so with a watch for women. The Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon features an entirely new caliber, the 2951, and a flying tourbillon that allows for more accurate timekeeping. 

It’s also an impressive sight. The watch is a lot of look, and it cements Audemars’s reputation as a virtuoso of design that keeps ramping up its offerings to women, especially in the last couple of years.

Patek Philippe reference 5327G.

Getting into the complicated wristwatch game is not for the faint of heart. It can be overwhelming, intimidating, and expensive, to say the least. There’s also the perception that, in watches, it’s the boys who get all the good stuff. But there is a return on investment in these pieces, and it’s not just the confidence that comes with knowing you’re no longer in the minor leagues with the beginner enthusiasts. You also have a rare treasure, a marvel handmade by masters of design that will stand the test of time.

This story appears in the October 2018 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Cara Barrett
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