These days you might think of a wristwatch as a mannish accessory, but did you know that the very first wristwatch ever was a custom creation for a woman? That's right--in fact, wristwatches were feminine accessories for decades before men even started wearing them!
Watches themselves had been around since the fifteenth century, but it wasn’t until 1868 that prestigious Swiss manufacturer Patek Philippe created a one-off timepiece for a Hungarian Countess-- made to be worn on her arm. (Some accounts would say that the honor of first claim to an “arm watch” goes to Queen Elizabeth I. If so, the fashion clearly didn’t catch on for a few hundred years—but in either case, it was a woman’s arm that wore the watch.)
Wristwatches came into fashion in the second half of the nineteenth century, but only among women. In a time when men still had to pull out a pocket watch and open it to view the time (an inconvenience of which Napoleon reportedly complained on the battlefield), women were bedecked with beautiful bracelets that doubled as functional timepieces.
Once they caught on to the utilitarian value of a wristwatch while operating machinery and coordinating battle, men more or less took over the market: it’s far more common today for men to wear a watch than for women. Nevertheless, trends come full cycle, and women’s wristwatches are becoming a hot investment item.
Whether you plan to wear and enjoy it, or tuck it away to appreciate in value, a luxury watch is a prime investment. These are the top ten watches to watch for!
- Cartier Tank
Sure, the name doesn’t sound so feminine, but the Cartier Tank is an iconic timepiece. Inspired by the aerial view of World War I tanks, its squared face and roman numerals are instantly recognizable to anyone who knows watches.
The tank has been around now for a full century, meaning you can look into vintage and even antique models as an investment. Check out fashion photos from the past, and you’ll find Cartier Tanks on fashion icons like Princess Diana and Jackie Kennedy.
- Cartier Ballon Bleu
If you’re drawn to the new rather than the vintage, look into another Cartier offering in the classy and elegant Ballon Bleu line. Cartier sticks with its trademark Roman numerals, but this time in a round face with understated gold framing. If you want to catch a glimpse of one, look closely at a photo of Princess Kate Middleton.
- Hublot Big Bang
Named for a cosmic event, this luxury watch certainly delivers the “bang” for the buck. It’s an absolutely unique look, combining unusual materials fused in a striking presentation. In addition to its various tones of gold the face is encircled by diamonds. You can look for this wristwatch on the wrist of Israeli model Bar Rafaeli.
- Lange & Söhne Saxonia
If understated and minimalist looks are hallmarks of your style, you might be interested in the Saxonia Automatic from Lange & Söhne. The face of this timepiece is absolutely minimalist, without even numbers to clutter its surface.
- Chopard Happy Diamonds
This is possibly the most playful timepiece on the market, with its signature element of free-floating diamonds skating across the face of the watch. The watch face itself features bold Roman numerals surrounded by a silver-tone frame, but it is the dancing diamonds (sandwiched where they can slide around between the case and the dial) that make this model so very unique.
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
The watch-word for this watch would have to be “bold.” With its solid framework, octagonal diamond-studded bezel, and exposed screws, this watch manages to combine Steampunk-sensibilities with affluent elegance. Perhaps its not surprising that it can be spotted on the wrist of that bold athlete, Serena Williams.
- Rolex New Oyster Perpetual sport collection
Let's be honest—you could fill up most of a “top-ten” list just with Rolexes, so let’s consider their sport watches as just one installment in our list. It’s worth noting that the sport watches hold their value even better than some of their dressier counterparts, making them productive as well as practical, from an investment point of view.
The New Oyster Perpetual collection includes:
- The Sea-Dweller: With the rotating bezel used by divers, a favorite for fifty full years.
- The Yacht-Master:With a nautical flair and countdown functions, perfect for timing the regatta.
- The Cosmograph Daytona: With a tachymetric scale engraved on the bezel, designed to measure speed as well as time.
- The Sky-Dweller: Simultaneously displaying two time zones, a world watch for travelers.
- Rolex Datejust
This is the other classic Rolex that has to adorn any top-ten list. The original Datejust debuted during World War II in a design designated to men, but the company wisely expanded its offerings to cater to women as well. The classic Datejust features elegant gold and minimalist design, while the Lady Datejust featuring an optional pink face.
- Glashütte Original Ladies Collection
This watch striking to look at, with its unusual design elements and its use of rose gold, white, and diamond bezel. It would look equally at home in a ballroom or at a ballgame, which is quite the feat to pull off. For a look that’s eye-catching without being ostentatious, this watch is truly an original.
- Patek Philippe Ladies’ Aquanaut
We finish off this list with the watchmaker that started it all. Patek Philippe created that first wristwatch for a Hungarian countess, but now they are better known for the Aquanaut—a flagship in their line of timepieces since the 1930s.
The Aquanaut is the last word in minimalist elegance, with a bezel of baguette diamonds surrounding the streamlined face. This model has stood the test of time, making it a solid candidate for investment.
Whatever watch you choose, enjoy it—and wear it in health!