About Time

Five Men’s Watches That Also Look Good On Women

Why you should invest in some quality timepieces together

  • Paris, September 2018. Photograph by Mr Adam Katz Sinding

Mr Hugh Grant isn’t generally seen as a trendsetter, unless it’s the influx of posh, floppy-haired British actors arriving in Hollywood you’re talking about. However, Mr Grant can claim to have made an impact on the world of women’s watches when, back in 2004, he gifted his then-paramour Ms Jemima Khan a men’s Panerai timepiece.

Women wearing men’s watches was nothing new even back then, but the appropriation tended towards pinching the Rolex Day-Date 39mm, which is arguably unisex anyway. Panerai was a different proposition altogether. The Italian brand doesn’t do delicate. This watch was a sizeable style statement on a woman’s wrist, with the kind of insouciant sex appeal akin to stealing the husband’s shirt – its overt masculinity drawing attention to the femininity of the wearer. It kickstarted a trend for women wearing oversized (40mm and up) men’s watches that hasn’t abated since.

However, there’s a more prosaic reason women wear men’s watches. It’s because, up until recently, designs for women were just a bit dull. Apart from a few exceptions, Switzerland had not got the memo that women are not all the same and don’t all like tiny dials, diamonds and the colour pink. And, while there are still a lot of brands out there that think a moonphase is about as technical as a woman wants her timepiece to get, things have changed for the better since. But a woman who wants significant variety will still need to shop in the men’s department.

There you get diving watches that look cool even out of the ocean; aviation watches with out-of-this-world designs; styles for dressing up or down; timepieces for weekends, work weeks or just one week of the year. Tourbillons, world times, annual or perpetual calendars and sometimes all of the above in the same watch.

The oversized diver

The 2019 launch from the brand that started it all: meet the super-cool Submersible. At 42mm, it is at the upper end of what a female wrist can accommodate, but the material – Panerai’s proprietary blend of carbon fibre, Carbotech – makes it light, so you won’t feel like you’re wearing a wrist weight. The lume is blue in daylight, but green underwater to make it easier to see when you’re down 300m. It might not be the most formal option, but if you’re looking for something sporty, possibly a bit brash and with maximum impact, then this is perfect. Just keep the outfit minimal and let the watch do the talking.

Subtly unisex

Sometimes you want something stylish that doesn’t scream “look at me, I’m wearing a man’s watch”. That’s where this piece of understated excellence from Vacheron Constantin comes in. The Fiftysix collection, based on a design found in the archive from 1956, was launched last year as part of Vacheron’s bid to appeal to a younger, more style-savvy audience. While there are others bearing complications, it is this time-only version in this year’s updated blue livery that really hits the sweet spot. The 40mm case diameter is offset by its slimness, the retro numerals add a touch of class and you can even brag about the in-house movement powering it.

The steel essential

Every watch wardrobe needs a steel bracelet watch and should, by rights, also contain a Cartier. Here’s your two-in-one solution: the classic Santos. It’s the first-ever pilot watch designed by Mr Louis Cartier for his friend and aviator Mr Albert Santos-Dumont back in 1904 – but skeletonised. By taking sections away from the dial, you’re able to better appreciate the movement (manual wind for added historical accuracy). The brushed steel bridges give this iconic design a more industrial feel, which brings to mind the crosshatch construction of the Eiffel Tower.

The pilot watch

While the Cartier Santos may have been the first pilot’s watch, Bell & Ross designs watches that are actually based on the aesthetics of cockpit instruments. Pilot’s watches are one of those categories with a shortlist of practically zero when it comes to women’s watches, but there’s nothing about this watch that precludes it from adorning a female wrist. While 39mm is considered a gender-free zone these days, the square case might make it look larger than a round one. However, it isn’t prohibitively big. Beloved of architects and design buffs, if you’re going to wear this, make sure your opinions are as worthy of discussion as the watch.

The dress option

After dark for women used to mean the three Ds watch-wise: diamonds, dainty, discreet. However, there is no way you’re going to want to pair this season’s ultimate evening attire, the suit, with an overtly feminine cocktail watch. So, opt for this Parmigiani Fleurier instead. Aside from its bonkers collaboration with Bugatti, pared-back sophistication is what this brand does best. Just like a tailored suit, it’s so simple that there’s nowhere to hide; all proportions have to be faultless. From its elegantly tapered hand to the seductive grey of the dial and the ideally proportioned oversized second dial, this watch could have been designed according to the golden ratio. You can’t get more perennially perfect than that.

His and hers

  • Piaget Altiplano Automatic 40mm 18-Karat Rose Gold and Alligator Watch, Ref. No. G0A38131

  • IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN Pilot's Mark XVIII Le Petit Prince Edition Automatic 40mm Stainless Steel Watch, Ref. No. IW327016

  • IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN Portugieser Automatic 42mm Stainless Steel and Alligator Watch

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Large Duoface Small Seconds Automatic 28.3mm 18-Karat Rose Gold and Alligator Watch

  • IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN Portugieser Automatic 42mm Stainless Steel and Alligator Watch

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar 18-Karat Rose Gold and Alligator Watch, Ref. No. JLQ1368420