Andrea Seifert, the marketing manager of Gatehouse Publishing, travels a lot from Singapore through different time zones on business. She has found a lifesaver in something that used to belong pretty exclusively to the men’s club: a watch with complications, those mechanisms that increase a watch’s accuracy or capabilities. Ms. Seifert’s watch is a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duo, a flip-over watch with back-to-back dials that can show the time in two zones. She can set one to show the time back home in the office and the other to show the time at her destination. She not only relies on the functionality of the watch but also appreciates its technical aspect. “What’s unusual is that the two dials are controlled by the same movement,” she said. Women’s tastes and needs in watches are changing, and watchmakers are increasingly acknowledging the change, in models with complications designed with women in mind. “With less emphasis on specific roles within the home and work, this also translates into horology,” said Roanne Orlebar, fine-watch buyer for Harrods in London. “We have certainly seen a trend in ladies interested in complications, with brands reacting to this demand by launching ladies’ complications.” Marina Lunkina, who works in public relations in Moscow, is a case in point.
“Today’s world made women as active as men in business, social and many other life spheres,” she said. “It’s obviously affected our style.” Ms. Lunkina owns a man’s SevenFriday, a Swiss-designed watch built around a Japanese mechanical movement, and a Maurice Lacroix moon-phase watch that she uses to keep track of hair appointments — but for reasons that, like the watch, are complex. “Hair will grow faster if you cut them on a growing moon,” she wrote in an email, while a waning moon is better “if you would like to keep the hairstyle unchanged.” Moon-phase watches seem to have a particularly strong appeal for women, and not just those who frequent beauty salons. “Ladies appreciate the moon-phase,” said Pascal Raffy, who in 2001 bought the Swiss luxury watch brand Bovet Fleurier, which has been making timepieces since 1822.
One of his first initiatives was to introduce a moon-phase because, he said, “it’s a complication women need, it’s an animation of the movement, it’s emotional.” A moon-phase captured the attention and heart of Eva Malmstrom Shivdasani, the creative director of Soneva Resorts, Residences and Spas, based in Bangkok. She doesn’t wear a watch often, but when she does, it’s an Audemars Piguet moon-phase that she bought at auction 10 years ago. “I love the look of it, and the movement of the moon,” she said. “It’s a stunning watch, so beautiful. I don’t use it for the function, I just like the beauty of it.”
Watchmakers are aiming to satisfy women who are intrigued by complications as much as those attracted by appearance. A wave of new models combines function with fashion. Franck Muller, the self-titled Master of Complications, offers a Lady Tourbillon with a heart-shaped tourbillon “designed specifically with women in mind,” said the brand’s director, Nicolas Rudaz. “Women buying complicated watches is certainly a trend we see here,” Mr. Rudaz added. Chanel has seen the same trend.
“The offer of complications for women has grown very much,” said Nicolas Beau, Chanel’s international watch director. But where “men buy for the mechanism, women buy for the beauty of the mechanism,” he said. As a result, Chanel designed the tourbillon as a stylized camellia in the Première Flying Tourbillon Camellia, making the mechanism a decorative element. Complex watches prettified with hearts, flowers — and lots of diamonds — are a far cry from the offerings of a few years back.
“Remember those old Casio watches with all the buttons?” said Karen Giberson, president of the Accessories Council in New York, recalling Casio’s early digital models with stopwatches and alarms. “They weren’t pretty. Today women are looking for something more fashionable.” Béatrice Rouhier, Chaumet’s watch manager in Paris, says women are looking for poetry. “For women, the point is, yes, it is a technical watch — but it is a watch that tells a story,” she said.
In Chaumet’s “Catch me … if you love me” watch, the hands are replaced by a spider and a bee, spinning in a web that replaces the hour markers. The symbolism is “seduction, it is creativity, it is poetry, it is joyful,” Ms. Rouhier said. Van Cleef & Arpels believes in the power of poetry so much that it has trademarked “Poetry of Time” and “Poetic Complications” to describe a collection of jeweled watches with complications (including one that features fluttering butterflies). Mr. Raffy, the Bovet Fleurier owner, said, “Women are now interested in how a timepiece works.” In Asia, he said, women “are passionate about mechanical timepieces.”
Daniel Chang, managing director of Jaeger-LeCoultre in China, says his brand holds master classes in China, at which a watchmaker shows a small group how to take apart and reassemble a mechanical movement. “We see female customers coming to the events,” he said. Ms. Giberson said: “We’re more comfortable now with technology. Things that used to seem geeky or intimidating are now common.” ( By Kathleen Beckett from NYTimes.com ) Note: A version of this article appears in print on October 30, 2014, on page E2 of the New York edition with the headline: Women and Watches: It’s Complicated.