Move over Princess Grace, forget the “twinset-and pearls” brigade; the new watchmaker’s muse is strong, forthright and possibly wearing shoulder pads.
Think Melanie Griffith’s Tess McGill in Working Girl and you’re most of the way there. It seems, finally, that the “shrink pink” treatment of existing men’s watches – with a liberal sprinkling of diamonds for good measure – is coming to an end.
While Ms McGill doesn’t actually wear a watch in the film, she would likely have taken cues from her male contemporary a few blocks uptown, Gordon Gekko, who unabashedly rocks an all-gold Cartier Santos bracelet in that other Eighties paean to capitalism, Wall Street.
But thanks to Cartier’s newly unveiled collection, she needn’t go Santos, or indeed any men’s model, as “La Maison” has rebooted its iconic, and fiercely feminine Panthère – and how.
The panther has been an icon of Cartier since Jeanne Toussaint took over as director of jewellery at Cartier in 1933. Apparently she was nicknamed “La Panthère” by Louis Cartier, her boss and also her lover, because she was strongly determined but had an incredibly quick mind. That and because she liked to decorate her apartment in animal skins.
Toussaint, in reference to the vision of femininity represented by the panther, made this big cat into a symbol for the Maison by incorporating it initially into a jewellery collection. The first time the moniker was used for a watch was because the exquisite stone setting resembled animal fur.
Some brands have embraced this year’s new direction by simply launching quietly confident watches that merged feminine attributes with more masculine lines
Subsequently, the panther became so integrated into Cartier’s mythology that Alain-Dominique Perrin, who was appointed CEO of Must de Cartier in 1976 and who was responsible for the marketing campaign for the launch of the Panthère collection of jewellery, watches and cufflinks, actually used real panthers for the promos.
Luckily the animal-fur inspired timepiece has made it into the new 2017 iteration of the line with the pattern marked out in white diamonds and black enamel. Like the rest of the collection, it is slinky, sexy and according to Pierre Rainero, head of image, heritage and style at Cartier, “embodies the festive and joyful spirit” of the 1980s when it was first launched.
“The Panthère de Cartier aesthetic has become emblematic of the Maison,” he explains. “And it is definitely an icon: its bracelet, case and codes are recognisable and unique.”
While not necessarily using animal interpretations of this new female attitude, many brands are choosing different ambassadors from the pretty faces of the past, with models making way for women of action. One such woman is Aude Lemordant who has recently been signed as Breitling’s ambassador.
By day she’s an Air France pilot wearing her Navitimer 01 chronograph, while in her spare time she’s managed to loop, roll and hammerhead her way to being the world aero-superbatic champion – a role she literally throws herself into while wearing a chunky ladies’ watch, Breitling’s Colt 36, whose only clue is a mother-of-pearl dial, not a diamond in sight.
That Lemordant also embodies Breitling’s less-than-conventional take on a woman’s watch is almost incidental.
However it doesn’t always have to be as openly obvious as this; some brands have embraced this year’s new direction by simply launching quietly confident watches that merged feminine attributes with more masculine lines, such as A. Lange & Söhne’s Little Lange 1 Moonphase.
It is designed for a woman who has, “an interest in classical timepieces, [but] not focusing on jewels or other design elements but rather on mechanical features,” explains Lange’s CEO Wilhelm Schmid.
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In other words, the sort of confident, self-assured power woman could have qualified her as "a super" in the mid-Nineties, when Lange & Söhne was relaunched.
It is precisely this woman that is being seen as a prominent cultural, and horological, inspiration, which isn’t surprising considering our social and economic state right now.
It seems as though 2017’s woman is fierce, feminine and, no doubt, wearing something equally substantial on her wrist.