Charmaine Ho chats with two powerhouses from Audemars Piguet and IWC Schaffhausen on how their brands have set their sights on women who love luxury watches.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Charmaine Ho chats with two powerhouses from Audemars Piguet and IWC Schaffhausen on how their brands have set their sights on women who love luxury watches.

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You have a background in business strategy for High Jewellery. How does this skill set translate to the world of watches?

I believe that at Audemars Piguet (AP), they are not mutually exclusive. In a mechanical watch you have innovation, engineering, technicalities and hundreds of years of know-how that go into watchmaking. With High Jewellery watches, you also have this artisanship. For example, in the Diamond Outrage, we use the snow-setting technique, where the diamonds are held so close together that the white gold frame housing each stone disappears. And we’ve also included three baguette diamond set spikes using the invisible setting that didn’t exist [at this level of expertise] before. It takes 25 years of artisanship to make. So it’s really the know-how, the artisanship that we want to communicate to our clients.

Speaking of the Diamond Outrage, how do you feel about completing the Diamond Trilogy this year?

As you know, the brand identity of AP is “to break the rules, you must first master them,” and we always do things differently. So I feel great because with the Diamond Punk, Diamond Fury then Diamond Outrage, we really did break the rules. Our product portfolio strategy is [to have] a balance of 30 percent timepieces for women and 70 percent for men. So from an outside perception of the brand, when people look at us, they think that we are a very male-oriented brand; but not anymore. I believe that the Trilogy changed that perception. Now, it’s AP does [Royal Oak Concept] Supersonneries, but, at the same time, they do watches like the Diamond Trilogy. And we are showing that we not only have hundreds of years of know-how in mechanical watches but we also have within our Manufacture master jewellers.

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The level of technicalities seemed to escalate with each new installation of the Diamond Trilogy.

Yes, because if it remains at the same level, then the excitement is not the same; people get bored, and us, too. Each piece takes us a year and a half to complete and there’s a whole team of people working on them. I made a strong statement that the watches need to be adjustable—many High Jewellery pieces come only in one size. Well, the complexity quadruples when you have to integrate size adjustments. With our Outrage, it was even more important because the highest spike is 4cm and if it’s not super well-adjusted, then you run the risk of it moving about, hitting [something] and breaking. So now, you can adjust [the length of the Outrage] every 5mm.

Is there a particular type of woman that AP designs for?

We don’t have a specific woman at AP and you see that through our ambassadors: Serena Williams is one type of woman and Frieda Pinto is another type of woman. We really offer a whole portfolio for women: We have the Millenary, which is more classic; sporty, which is the Off shore; and we have the super classy but at the same time super rock Diamond Trilogy. So we don’t have a woman in mind because, for us, it’s about all women.

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IWC is seen as a man’s brand. Yet, a lion’s share of its new Da Vinci collection is dedicated to women’s watches. Tell us more about this and what IWC hopes to accomplish with the collection.

It’s true that we are sometimes perceived as a very male-oriented brand. But as a matter of fact, IWC has been producing women’s watches since the 1870s, and ladies’ watches have been an integral part of our Da Vinci line, especially during the 1990s. Because of our past advertising campaigns and in particular the slogan “IWC: Engineered for Men”, we came to have a rather masculine image. But at the same time, this attracted many female customers to our brand. Strong and self-confident women, who like to wear a large Portugieser watch to make a statement, for instance. In terms of watches for which the design is more specifically geared towards women, we also recently introduced midsize models in the Portofino collection in 2014. With a diameter of 37 millimetres, they are equally attractive for both women and men with a slimmer wrist. Later, in 2016, we also introduced 36 millimetre Pilot’s Watches, which are more on the sporty and casual side. With Da Vinci, we are only further complementing our ladies’ offering with a more formal watch. We want to have a complete product portfolio, and women’s watches are an important part of this.

Will you be introducing more complications in the women’s collections?

At the moment, we mainly offer women’s watches with a moonphase complication like the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36. For some women, complications are important and interesting. For this reason, we are looking to expand our women’s offering with different complications in the future, as well.

What gives the Da Vinci collection an edge over its competitors?

I think what really sets IWC apart is that we keep our designs very pure, minimal and clean in general. We aim for a timeless, elegant design that incorporates our design codes. And I think that we have been quite successful in going our own way.

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Why should a woman buy an IWC watch?

Because she connects with the history and value of the brand, as well as the design of the watch itself, of course. We build stories around our products and we hope that people feel that difference. A mechanical watch is basically a non-essential item. Nobody needs it, because every phone will tell you the time. But a watch is a symbol you can relate to and emotionally connect with, something that gives you a feeling of eternity, its appeal does not fade immediately because a newer model has been invented. You can pass it on to the next generation. So it’s really something you build a relationship with because you wear it every day.

On that note, what are your favourite IWC watches?

I personally quite like the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince”. Like so many others, I grew up with that story, and it is a beautiful piece with a unique design. On the ladies’ side, I really look forward to wearing the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36 with a red gold case and a very nice brown leather strap. I fell in love with it during this year’s SIHH in Geneva.