Patek Philippe First Wrist Watch for Countess Koscowicz
Wearing a luxury designer watch can sometimes be seen as largely devoted to a male audience wanting to make a statement. However the watch industry certainly did not start off this way. It was women who pioneered wearing watches on the wrist. Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Marie Antoinette both commissioned a diamond ‘bracelet watch’. It was in fact Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe that received great fanfare for their first female wristwatch. The particular watch was made for Countess Kosowicz of Hungary in 1868 and it was more of a costume piece. Beautiful, sparkly wristwatches were often seen in royal circles throughout the later part of the nineteenth century, but only on women.
1916 Patek Philippe - Source: Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe watches 1920s-30s | Source: Patek Philippe
Wristwatches were pretty tough to sell to the male market for a long time. Apart from in the military services, men liked to stick to larger, traditional pocket watches. This was due to the overly feminine image of them. They became known to many as ‘wristlets’, and big watchmakers encouraged women to purchase several watches for different occasions.
Rolex was one of the first luxury watch brands that recognised the importance of creating fashionable watches for women. The 1920 Rolex ‘Princess’ watch was the most expensive watch they sold. In 1927 when Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel wearing a waterproof Rolex Oyster, a more modern, sporting image for wristwatches began. Before the Second World War during the 1930’s, Rolex’s product line reflected this preference for female watches.
After the war ended, the more luxurious watches were back on the agenda, making high-end watch brands explore new designs. Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tiffany and Cartier (to name a few) began to provide women with the ultimate in sparkling wrist candy.
Patek Philippe 5069G-001 White Gold Ladies - Aquanaut
Throughout the later part of the twentieth century, women’s wristwatches started to become much more functional as well as glamourous. In 1980, Patek created a sporty women’s model after the great success of the steel Nautilus. The demand for female versions of male model sports watches continued, and many are also now adapted in size to fit the feminine wrist.
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Patek Philippe 24 ladies rose gold watch (2003)