It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man’s watch shrunken in size and covered with diamonds does not a woman’s watch make. However, that is precisely what Vacheron Constantin has done with its Overseas Small Model, which it unveiled last month at SIHH, the invite-only watch event in Geneva. And you know what? It pulls it off. More than that, in fact, it’s a very beautiful, stylish and wearable women’s watch.
Aside from the addition of Arabic numerals to replace indices, the Small Model is the men’s Overseas in sparkly, diminutive dimensions. Vacheron hasn’t even bothered to think up a more original name to disguise the fact. But why should it? Isn’t it possible that, in getting all over-excited that the vogue for merely miniaturising men’s watches is over, we’ve not stopped to consider that these styles actually serve a purpose?
There’s been a lot written (mostly by me) about how women should be plundering their partners’ stash of timepieces but what if you just don’t have the requisite wrist radius? A 42mm case can have the potential to look quite ridiculous on too delicate a wrist, which is where styles such as Vacheron’s come into their own.
Bremont was something of a pioneer in this field when it launched its Solo 37 back in 2012. Apart from a stainless steel middle barrel and metallic (not red) marker at 12, this has all the pilot style of the brand’s iconic Solo packed into a 37mm case. Bremont even admitted that it created the smaller option because women were complaining that their husband’s Solos were just too big.
Hublot is another example of a brand that has long extolled the virtues of giving women exactly what men have, but in a smaller, prettier guise, which is precisely what it’s done with its Big Bang. Whether it’s got a diamond bezel, broderie dial or psychedelic strap, it is still unmistakably a Big Bang, whatever size the case.
Rolex has also been an early adopter of this particular style of watch design, so much so that, along with Cartier, it dominated the “his ‘n hers” watch trend beloved of the nouveau riche of the 1980s. While that trend thankfully seems to be on the wane, Rolex and Cartier offer an impressive selection of masculine watches for feminine wrists, with the Oyster Perpetual and Tank collections worthy of special mention.
When you take all this into consideration, Vacheron’s decision to present a shrunken Overseas as its women’s watch for this year’s SIHH seems like a smart move.
Combine that with fashion’s ongoing obsession with androgyny, which, if the latest crop of 2016 catwalks are to be believed, shows little sign of abating, it suddenly looks like a brand interpreting precisely what its female customers want right now.