Can Men Wear Women’s Watches? And If So: What, Where, And When?
by Martin Green
“Women’s watches for men” is bound to rustle some feathers and invite strong opinions; the former is something we don’t mind doing here at Quill & Pad, and the latter we truly welcome in our comments section below.
Here I want to explore if there are any women’s watches that a man could wear, and by “wear” I mean wearing with self-esteem intact and looking good while doing so!
The other way around is quite common: women sporting Rolex Submariners or Panerais are considered fashionable, and men wearing the same watch don’t seem to feel threatened in their manhood by it.
Reverse it and you get a completely different reaction, mainly from men.
The power of unisex
Clever watch manufacturers completely bypass this topic by not indicating whether they have created a watch as part of a men’s or women’s collection.
That technically makes each watch unisex as it should be: manufacturers can let customers decide what suits them instead of attempting to think for them. And in this way, they don’t voluntarily limit their own sales.
In the world of exclusive scents, almost all perfumes are unisex. Nonetheless, there are not many men who prefer heavy floral notes – nor women who want a deep musk scent – so the choices are very natural; still, they come from the consumer and not the manufacturer.
This allows customers to get a product that suits them without having to step over social boundaries set by the manufacturers of the product – such as the sex “intended for” rather than a clear male/female binary.
A matter of size and diamonds
Often the difference between a man’s and a woman’s watch is the size.
There seems to be a social rule that says women’s watches need to be smaller than men’s watches. The more extreme you go to each side of the size spectrum, the more people are likely to agree with you – with a whole grey area in the middle.
However, that also depends on the type of watch: a 34 mm dress watch is regarded as an elegant choice for a man, while a new 34 mm diver’s watch would look comically tiny (and useless under water).
The cultural perspective also plays an important role: where in one market diamond setting instantly and indisputably makes a timepiece for a woman (or a faux pas for a man), in another market it can indicate a male being very successful at what he does for a living (see How, When, And Why Diamond-Set Watches For Men Were Commonly Accepted And The Importance America Played).
Women’s watches a man can wear
Are there watches marketed specifically to women yet could also be suitable choices for men?
Yes, there are.
Of course, we are not talking here about the smaller size of a model that just happens to be aimed at the female demographic while the larger models reside in the men’s collection. No, we are talking here about an entire line or collection marketed to women, yet one that contains models that are equally suitable for men.
A Chopard sales manager once confided in me as I was admiring one of the brand’s latest Imperiale watches that certain models in this line are split almost 50/50 between men and women who buy them for themselves to wear despite being marketed as part of the brand’s ladies’ collection.
One other fact came out of this discussion: not every reference of the few ladies’ watches that do make the transition to a man’s wrist can go there. This often has something to do with color: the Imperiale is available in a version with pink sapphires and a purple strap in a 29 mm case, and it is those watches that obviously have a much harder time making the transition to the opposite sex than the stainless steel chronograph or even the versions set with diamonds.
In this last case, the cultural background of the customer plays a large role as diamonds are not as accepted for men in every market.
When F.P. Journe introduced the Élégante, it created quite a stir: not only was it the brand’s first collection catering to women, but it was also powered by a quartz movement!
This was quite shocking for a master watchmaker who is considered one of the finest of his generation. So is the battery-powered Élégante that he created with its Vagabondage-style case and hibernating quartz movement with a solid pink gold bridge; it is a Journe after all!
It has quite a few features that should appeal to men, yet the 40 mm case set with diamonds and available with cloisonné inserts and rubber strap in colors like powder rose and baby blue was probably enough to scare most of them away.
François-Paul Journe must have realized this as well as the 48 mm oversized Élégante ticks all the boxes most men like to have ticked. The only thing they need to get over might be the name.
The same can be said for the Chanel Boyfriend.
This name alone would normally be enough to turn most men off even though the watch features a very strong design, and its angular lines have a masculine quality to them, especially in the larger version.
I would consider this the haute couture version of Cartier’s Tank, which is quite the compliment as the latter is one of the most important dress watches in history.
The larger version of the Boyfriend measures 37 x 28.6 x 7.7 mm. This is still not a very large watch, but as it is rectangular it has quite a wrist presence. It is even fitted with a mechanical manually wound movement, and the dial features a subtle guilloche motif with small seconds in a subdial.
This is actually a perfect watch for men who like their dress watches a bit more modern and with a dash of Parisian flair.
Chanel itself claims that the Boyfriend erases the lines between masculine and feminine style. Which it well does – except in name.
These are just three examples of watches catering specifically to ladies that men could wear as well, even if F.P. Journe has now given men their own version.
But the question remains: would men wear them?
That depends mainly on the ability of the man in question to “man up” because, just like women already do, there is nothing stopping us from claiming a watch intended by the manufacturer for the opposite sex as our own! And, interestingly, nearly all men’s watches look good on women . . .
Quick Facts F.P. Journe Élégante 48mm
Case: 40 x 48 mm, titanium
Movement: F.P. Journe quartz Caliber 1210
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds.
Price: 11,500 Swiss francs
* This article was first published on November 25, 2017 at Can Men Wear Women’s Watches? And If So: What, Where, And When?
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“Size and diamonds”.
I was told by one store owner that his younger customers consider smaller watches “for children”, which is strange because I feel smaller watches are for mature adults, and view most very large watches as an “adolescent” choice. And of course thickness plays a huge part, as does the capability of a piece.
It all depends on the match-up between wrist and watch.
For myself, 36mm is the smallest size I am comfortable with, but my Seiko Tuna still works in the summer with a T-shirt.
It’s a shame, because there are some lovely vintage pieces clocking in at 34mm which I can’t quite make work on my wrist.
But the aspect of downsizing which many people forget is how quickly “small” becomes “normal” and most importantly, “comfortable”.
If you are an elegant enough man to pull off a 34mm piece, I envy your ability to buy a vintage Air King. 😊