Remove gender from watches
From men in corsets on the fashion catwalk to paper towel ads promoting women’s muscles, changing perceptions of gender are changing the way many products are marketed.
Even the watch industry, which has long served a predominantly male clientele, has turned to women in recent decades. Efforts to target female collectors produced models like the Twenty-4 at Patek Philippe, the Lady Tourbillon at Franck Muller and the Lily smartwatch at Garmin, original creations that were more than just a scaled-down version of a male model. existing.
But now some brands are reconsidering the traditional gender divide in another way, aligning their products with more inclusive categories based on size rather than binary gender lines.
“By next month, Zenith will remove all gender-based search functions from its website,” Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith, said in an interview from Geneva. The brand’s website currently divides its products into men’s and women’s collections.
“We will no longer use terms like men’s, women’s or unisex in reference to our watches,” Tornare said. “We’re just going to show our collections in the range of sizes available. We believe that a ‘gender’ explanation is no longer necessary.
There are no rules when it comes to associating a watch size with a gender, although cases measuring less than 34 millimeters in diameter have traditionally been used for women’s models, while those of 42 millimeters and above are usually associated with men. The intermediate zone – 36 millimeters to 41 millimeters – is where the demarcations between the sexes are more fluid.
“Our clientele is now made up of 26% women,” Mr. Tornare said. “Our data shows that women frequently buy large models and men buy small or diamond watches.”
“Who are we to tell our customers which watch to wear? He asked.
And eliminating labels can open up the market, Tornare said, “by removing the stigma associated with wearing a ladies’ watch.”
After all, he said, “If you’re a man looking for a smaller or diamond-set watch, you might find it hard to shop in the ‘ladies’ catalogue.”
Watchfinder & Company, the England-based pre-owned watch specialist, took similar action last year, so shoppers browsing its site can now use “size” to filter models into three categories: “small ” for a case diameter less than 31 millimeters, “medium” for 31 millimeters to 39 millimeters and “large” for more than 39 millimeters.
“We believe that categorizing a watch as male or female is now both redundant, restrictive and obsolete,” Matt Bowling, the company’s co-founder, said in a press release announcing the decision. “Everyone should be able to choose the style they want, without being told if it suits their gender.”
The statement also noted that some celebrities went beyond the labels, with Kanye West wearing a 22mm Cartier Crash and Jay-Z a 27mm Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duo.
Brands have good reason to reconsider their marketing stance through the prism of inclusivity.
According to a 2021 report by Bain & Company, the world’s luxury sector is driven by Millennials, or Millennials, and Generation Z customers – born in the early 1980s to early 2010s – which together are expected to represent 70% of the global luxury market. by 2025. And those customers are transforming luxury brands from “product makers” into “purpose-driven actors in promoting a more sustainable, diverse, and equal society,” according to Bain.
When it comes to gender, a 2019 report from the Pew Research Center found that 35% of its Gen Z respondents preferred communicating in non-gender-defined language, to being addressed by gender-neutral pronouns and said forms or Profiles that ask about a person’s gender must include options other than “male” or “female.”
The watch industry, especially at the high end of luxury, has never been known to be at the forefront of change (it took a pandemic for some to embrace online sales). “Watchmaking is a conservative industry, and some established positions are hard to change,” said Zenith’s Mr. Tornare. “We have to evolve with society.
And some brands have found that strict categories based on gender hinder sales.
When Roger Dubuis introduced the Excalibur 36mm Lady in 2015, his marketing department discovered that “Lady” – a term still widely used by watch brands – was a stumbling block for men considering the model.
“Initially, we had ‘Lady’ in the product name, but after customer feedback, we decided to drop it,” says Sadry Keizer, the brand’s Geneva-based marketing director. “Many of our male customers wondered why the model was called ‘Lady’. We realized that the gender designation was not helpful.
The company said it focused less on developing its dedicated women’s line, called Velvet, and more on expanding its size range to other lines. “We haven’t had a specific female-focused communication in three years,” Keizer said. “The notion of gender is not the one we put forward.”
Instead, the brand has introduced 36mm and 39mm options to its Excalibur line and a 39mm model to its Spider collection.
“Our cases have always been larger because our models, especially the skeleton ones, are aesthetically more pleasing in a larger size,” Mr. Keizer said. “But the new 36 and 39 millimeter models are attracting a wider customer base.”
Other brands are also experimenting with the size spectrum to broaden their appeal. Tudor has added 36 millimeter and 39 millimeter models to its popular 41 millimeter Black Bay diver’s watches for men.
And at Chopard, while the new Alpine Eagle is available in cases ranging from 36 millimeters to 44 millimeters, the 41 millimeter is considered the “for everyone” choice.
“My wife and I wear this watch in a 41 millimeter case,” said Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard. “The size and weight of the case both contribute to the comfort and wearability of a piece. We communicate all the features of the watch in a neutral way, and our customers choose the model they want.
But does gender neutrality limit creativity when it comes to designing watches?
“Some brands design primarily for women, like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Others make the same watch in all sizes, such as Rolex, Omega or Audemars Piguet,” explains Eric Giroud, an independent watch designer based in Geneva. But, “for young brands like FOB Paris, creativity has nothing to do with gender. Their designs are creative even though they make the same watches for everyone.
Mr. Giroud noted that in general, the approach to new creations has changed.
“More and more brands are asking for ‘no sex’ in their specifications,” he said. “They prefer a design that falls somewhere between masculine and feminine style. What will determine the ‘gender’ orientation of the product will be the color of the dial or the type of strap.
Yet even these characteristics do not signal what they once would have. In 2020, for example, Hublot introduced its Big Bang Millennial Pink, which it advertised as gender neutral.
And while the watch’s heavy 42-millimeter case would traditionally have been seen as masculine, the color was a shade between nude pink and pastel pink, which Hublot chief executive Ricardo Guadalupe announced as “Millennial Pink, symbolic of the world that is offered to us, in its constant state of flux.
This week, as part of LVMH Watch Week, Zenith planned to present its new 41-millimeter Defy Skyline, which Mr. Tornare described during the interview as a “dynamic, urban and unisex model”. And the brand’s Chronomaster line, which comes in a range of case sizes from 37 to 42 millimeters, is to be complemented by pastel-colored dials, diamond settings and new strap options.
“Some might consider these features ‘feminine,’ but that’s a very subjective assessment,” Tornare said. “Men wear pastels and in some countries diamonds are considered masculine.
“We are not trying to be politically correct,” he added. “We are simply aligning with 21st century values.”