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Vintage watch enthusiasts immerse themselves in a wide variety of timepieces that were designed for men over the years, but savvy collectors shouldn’t overlook the pieces designed with women in mind. Upon taking a closer look at most women’s watches of the last century, an informed collector will note a multitude of exciting characteristics and components that reflect a manufacturer’s impressive abilities. In conjunction with the launch of Christie’s online-only auction Women’s Watches Featuring Vintage Cartier, here are five reasons to love women’s vintage watches.
1. Miniature marvels
One aspect of many women’s vintage wristwatches is that most are on the smaller side by today’s standards. Horologically-savvy collectors are able to see the mechanical marvel that these beautiful, streamlined watches are at their size. The challenge of these smaller cases forced watchmakers to adjust the way they approached movement design, as minimalist construction and high levels of efficiency became even more necessary in producing such watches. This concept is executed superbly in Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual Date, reference 6917 (image below), a watch measuring just 26mm across (excluding crown) that incorporates a self-winding, manufacture movement that beats at 28,800 beats per hour (BPH).
Vintage Ladies Oyster Perpetual Date, reference 6917 (Lot 28 in Women's Watches Featuring Vintage Cartier online-only auction). Estimate $2,000-4,000.
2. Innovative case constructions
Most early watch brands would consistently use certain calibers in their women’s offerings, which allowed for more focus to be placed on aesthetics when designing a new piece. Because of this, we often see much more imaginative and daring case and bracelet designs in women's watches, many of which are inspired by jewelry design. A watch that captures this idea quite well is Cartier’s Bamboo Style Tank “Coussin” (image below). Cartier played with the iconic success of the Tank in this piece by using an abnormally shaped case that mimicked the look of bamboo with gold pieces at each corner of the case resembling nodes on a stalk.
Cartier Vintage Ladies Tank Faberge (Lot 6 in Women's Watches Featuring Vintage Cartier online-only auction). Estimate $2,500-3,500.
Just as expressions of haute horology and the individuals behind them warrant considerable respect and reverence, so do creations of haute joaillerie, or fine jewelry. With this in mind, renowned watchmakers like Piaget have combined the two art forms to make incredible vintage women’s watches that involve the finest levels of finishing and craftsmanship in both fields. Through the placement of diamonds and other jewels into thoughtful settings on a watch, the overall look and formality is elevated substantially.
Piaget Vintage Ladies Cushion-Form with Diamond-Set Bezel, reference 13435 (Lot 30 in Women's Watches Featuring Vintage Cartier online-only auction). Estimate $4,000-6,000.
On a woman’s wrist, a classic vintage Cartier Tank (example below) couldn’t look more at home, and is ready for any situation with an air of architectural elegance and grace. One can attribute this to a number of features, including the timeless black Roman numerals on dials, the ornate gold cases, and the way Cartier’s signature cabochon-tipped crowns add just the perfect touch of subtle opulence. All of these factors together make for a watch that has supreme sophistication matched by a great deal of versatility, allowing the Tank to work well in both casual and more dressy applications.
Cartier Vintage Ladies Tank (Lot 1 in Women's Watches Featuring Vintage Cartier online-only auction). Estimate $2,500-3,500.
5. Crossover with men’s timepieces
For a period of time, watch case sizes were increasing steadily, causing many collectors to trade up for larger watches. This then started a trend of women wearing vintage men’s watches, as their sizes were now consistent with the newer women’s watches on the market. A prime example of a situation in which this is true is the Rolex reference 4844 (image below). Although its 33mm case may seem a bit too small for some male collectors, it looks absolutely perfect on a woman’s wrist.
Rolex Super Precision, reference 4844 (Lot 26 in Women's Watches Featuring Vintage Cartier online-only auction). Estimate $1,500-2,500.
Browse and bid on these watches among a fine selection of women’s timepieces in Christie's Women’s Watches Featuring Vintage Cartier online-only auction, which is open for bidding until November 12.
This piece was contributed by Isaac Wingold.