When Patek Philippe unveiled its Ladies’ First Chronograph in 2010, it wasn’t trying to make a move on the women’s market segment. The 178-year-old Swiss luxury watch brand was merely “reinforcing” the fact that it’s been serving the ladies since it started business in 1839.
In fact, that year alone, Patek Philippe’s archives show that it sold three watches to a certain Madame Goscinska.
She would have been among the wealthy, noble and royalty who have added much colour to the house’s history. Queen Victoria herself was a fan, enchanted by its keyless winding system. She famously bought a powder blue pocket watch decked out with diamonds and set in a floral motif at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.
In turn, Louise, the Queen of Denmark, commissioned Patek Philippe to create a very personalised pocket watch for her husband, King Christian IX, to mark their 25th wedding anniversary.
By 2010, Patek Philippe was already way ahead in catering to women. It had an edge over other brands who only recently faced up to the truth that women formed the only growing segment in a declining market, and were scrambling to catch up.
It helps that Patek Philippe’s Head of Creation is a lady – Sandrine Stern – wife of company president Thierry Stern, to boot.
A third of the family-owned firm’s production are women’s timepieces, but the importance Patek Philippe attaches to the ladies goes beyond just numbers.
The range covers nearly the entire spectrum of complications – chronograph, split-seconds chronograph, annual calendar, moon phase, perpetual calendar, minute repeater, travel time, world time; the only clear missing piece on the list is the tourbillon.
Its first chiming timepiece designed for the ladies appeared in 1916, a platinum-cased first five-minute minute repeater powered by a hand-wound movement. The men had to wait for another eight years before they got their first Patek Philippe minute repeater.
Patek Philippe presented its first women’s travel timepiece in 1997, featuring a dual time zone operated by a manual-winding movement. The latest model was launched in 2013.
The first ladies’ moon phases watch, also equipped with a manual-winding movement, was unveiled in 1998. The latest of this complication for women came this year in two models, one with an annual calendar and the other with a perpetual calendar.
The first Patek Philippe ladies’ annual calendar timepiece was introduced with a moon-phase feature in 2005, while the first perpetual calendar didn’t appear till 2012. In between, there were several firsts for the ladies: the first chronograph in 2010; the split-seconds chronograph, minute repeater and world time in 2011.
Often it’s said that Patek Philippe’s complication models for women are more accurate and clearer than those it makes for men, because they are single complication pieces. Patek Philippe’s complication timepieces for men are often stacked with more than one complication feature, which compromised their performance.
But there’s still more to be said for Patek Philippe’s women timepieces. According to the brand’s boss Thierry Stern, the watches for the ladies are designed around the movement – and the design is of the utmost beauty.
Since the watches are slim, attention is paid to even the smallest details – as they all have to meet the Patek seal of approval. And what makes it extra special for women? The men don’t get it.
This article was first published on Business Times