Why Aren’t There More Mechanical Women’s Watches?

Caroline S. from San Diego, California asks:

Why are so many ladies' watches made with quartz movements? I love automatic watches but many of the designs I like are available in with quartz movements only. Is it just a size thing? Can they not make small watches with automatic movements? Or do watch companies think that women care only about looks and not about the mechanics of a watch?

That is a really good question and one that we hear a lot. There is really no simple answer but it is a combination of market reality and economics. While there are many mechanical watch loving women, most of the current female buyers of watches are seen as being more interested in the fashion/accessory or jewelry element of timepieces - as opposed to the movements inside of them.

Further, major brands such as Patek Philippe make most of their money by selling quartz-movement equipped ladies watches with diamonds. The margins on these timepieces are much higher than mechanical ones and if the female watch buyer market is perceived as wanting the simplicity and convenience of a quartz movement over a mechanical movement... brands will continue to rely on the income from these higher margin products.

To a degree, it is also a matter of size, but there are plenty of very small mechanical movements (even automatics). Though, very thin mechanical movements tend to be more difficult to produce than thicker ones. And brands believe women want thin watches, because they are seen as delicate and feminine. So, there is a reason why smaller women's watches have quartz movements. Having said that, today's woman's watch sizes are yesterday's men's watch sizes so there are plenty of available movements.

It is true that women's watches have less mechanical options but this is changing, especially as many of the major luxury watch brands are keen to attract the female buying demographic. Many of the major luxury watch brands have mechanical movement-based women's watches and more will come in the future if they are successful selling them.

It has been found that with both men and women, the interest in buying a mechanical watch is based on a degree of exposure and education. Watch brands struggle with this educational element of their marketing plans. They are good at creating awareness and brand recognition, but they are pretty poor at educating consumers. They more or less rely on media such as aBlogtoWatch and other titles for that.

It has been known that women make purchase decisions very differently from men. Women tend to "hunt" for objects more than men, but men are thought to "research" more than women. So, while brands are able to reach women slightly more easily when it comes to initial product discovery, the educational element is still easier with male demographics. Of course, these are not universal truths, as everyone is different, but general statistical trends. We aren't trying to say that no women are interested in movements or that all men are tireless researchers.

As long as brands continue to be successful in marketing their names and designs to women, they have an opportunity to focus less on the movements inside of the watches. The interest in getting more women into mechanical watches is mostly about being able to sell them much more expensive watches. While most quartz women's watches are $5,000 and under, many of the new mechanical women's watches are $5,000 and up. Inexpensive, high-quality mechanical watches for women are quite rare.

We have sympathy for the many watch loving women who are looking for more mechanical timepiece options and tend to only see men's models. Having said that, the watch industry has also noticed that many women who like mechanical watches are now buying men's watches to wear.

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  • SN0WKRASH

    Sigh.  I’m one of the women waiting for more mechanical watches, and buying men’s while I wait.

  • Spaceguitar

    Can’t speak for anyone’s individual tastes, but Honor Blackman wearing a GMT Master in Goldfinger is one of the most awesome/badass/hottest things around. Like Ariel says, yesterday’s men’s sizes and today’s women’s. So if the shoe fits and you like the watch? My wife has two traditionally female size watches, and one much larger. She digs both sizes. Gonna steer her to a men’s watch next for her first mechanical.

  • Oelholm

    One trend currently growing is that of women buying vintage men’s watches, such as Omega Seamasters, Longines Conquests and the like. A watchmaker/seller I use a lot has reported this a quite a common occurence. Looking for an inexpensive vintage model for my girlfriend myself – the options are many!

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  • csong36

    The problem arises more when I’m looking for a dress watch.  As many readers have said, there are plenty of men’s watches in 36 mm but most are sports watches.  I have an Omega Speedmaster in 38 mm but it’s not really appropriate to wear in a formal setting.  Anything less than 35 mm and I”m stuck in quartz purgatory.

  • csong36

    Spaceguitar I agree that a nice men’s sports watch looks sexy on a woman.  But I have skinny wrists (5.5″) and anything over 38 mm and the lugs extend past my wrist.  I’m so sad because I want a Panerai 🙁

  • SN0WKRASH

    hmmm chicken-or-egg – They think we don’t buy them so they don’t make them, but if I had more to choose from, I WOULD BUY THEM and they don’t need to be covered in diamonds, in fact, I’d rather they be interesting than blingy.

  • csong36

    SN0WKRASH  I don’t see why they can’t be interesting AND blingy!

  • SN0WKRASH
  • csong36

    SN0WKRASH csong36 It’s beautiful, except for the hands.  Too girly for me.

  • LapYoda

    My wife also has bemoaned the lack of women’s mechanical watches since she started getting into them, and she really appreciates the craftsmanship that goes into mechanical movements as well.  So far she has an automatic Swatch, a Frederique Constant, and a men’s Cartier Roadster Automatic (since the women’s version is quartz), and her grail is an Omega Ladymatic.  She even has a Pinterest board for watches, though most would require us to sell off internal organs to afford them.  But there are very few offerings in the more affordable price spectrum, and not every woman wants a bejeweled, precious-metal piece for special occasions – there need to be more mechanical watches appropriate for daily wear!

  • Spaceguitar

    csong36 Spaceguitar That’s a good point, that crossover would really only apply to sport watches for the most part, unless you’re talking vintage mechanicals like Oehlholm says above.
    I see a good business case for a very cool new boutique  brand aimed a women’s mechanicals here! If there are countless small Submariner-homage watchmakers, there is CERTAINLY room for this.

  • csong36

    LapYoda I have a Pinterest board for watches too!  My grail was the Omega Speedmaster and I also have an (automatic) Cartier Ballon Bleu because the small Tank Anglaise is only offered with a quartz movement.

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  • deadlock2001

    I know a couple of young ladies who really know their stuff when it comes to watches but the general trend is that it’s men who are more into engineering and women who are more into style/looks. No need to be overly politically correct about this, it’s been like that for millenia and I find this polarity natural. I think one important factor we should not overlook when it comes to ladies’ watches is convenience – women are likely to own more accessories and switch between then often. With quartz watches, you just take them out of the drawer and you’re set. This is not the case with mechanical movements and let’s face it, a lady getting dressed up for dinner has likely more things to worry about.

  • michael T

    Quartz watches are much more accurate. Mechanical watches as prestigious is just a marketing ploy that women have seen through.