While the 2022 Oscars were memorable for other reasonsthis year’s Oscars night was also particularly important for luxury watches.
Brands like Omega, Cartier and Tag Heuer had a flashy presence on the red carpet, prompting GQ to ask in a story headline the next day, “[A]re these the best watches we have ever seen on the Oscars red carpet? »
The watch industry has seen massive growth in recent years. According to luxury publication Luxe Digital, Hong Kong and the United States lead the way, with a 37% and 26% increase in luxury watch sales, respectively, over the past year. Affluent millennials in China, the US and the UK are mainly the engine of growthafter cutting spending during the pandemic.
The way watches are designed and sold, particularly in regards to the division between male and female styles, also strives to drive sales. While fashion has embraced gender-neutral trends, the watch industry has been less progressive.
But according to Brynn Wallner, who created the Instagram account dedicated to women’s watches @dimepiece.co, that is changing. More and more women are buying luxury watches — for example, Zenith has expanded its female clientele to a record 26% of its total, in January. And, as of September 2021, sales to women of watches over $1,200 represent 54% of the watch industry. Wallner launched @dimepiece.co in 2020 to be a comprehensive resource for women on the world of watches. He currently has over 22,000 subscribers.
“The watch industry is so far behind [gender neutrality]”, Wallner said. “Over the past year, this has been a big topic among consumers and in editorials, to the point that it is finally transcending the consumer and impacting the way brands think. Many brands are still designing watches for a man’s wrist or a woman’s wrist, but they’re becoming more progressive in how they label and present watches.
Wallner pointed to luxury watch brand Audemars Piguet, which stopped labeling its watches with gender on its site. Watchfinder & Co. did the same last year, followed by Zenith in February. Grouping watches by size is becoming a more common and gender-neutral way to present watches.
On the red carpet, where watch brands frequent pay to place their watches on the wrists of celebrities, the passage of gendered watches was clear on Sunday. For example, actress Tati Gabrielle wore a thicker watch: a 36mm style from Omega. According to Watchfinder & Co.’s size categories, this was a mid-size watch – watches traditionally made for women are typically 35mm or smaller. Meanwhile, actor Kodi Smit-McPhee wore a fine and elegant diamond-set Cartier watch that attracted securities for the facial snowball effect created by cascading diamonds. Diamonds are traditionally reserved for women’s watches.
In a red carpet interview with E! network, Smit-McPhee said part of her goal, both with her Oscar-nominated performance in Jane Campion’s “Power of the Dog” and with the watch he wore on the red carpet, was to challenge traditional notions of masculinity.
“I have a stylist who helps me be daring and not afraid of color while remaining classic,” he said in the interviewreferencing her stylist Jared Eng.
According to Raynald Aeschlimann, CEO and President of Omega, celebrities wearing watches on the red carpet are a valuable marketing opportunity.
“It’s great to see our watches paired with such stylish clothing, enhancing the look of the red carpet,” said Aeschlimann. “Of course, it also reinforces our reputation as an ambitious watch brand, producing products that high-profile celebrities are proud to wear in the spotlight.”
According to Wallner, Cartier has been ahead of the pack when it comes to embracing gender neutrality.
“Cartier wins in this category,” she said. “The Cartier Tank has been around for years, and it’s been neutral since day one. Andy Warhol and Jackie O wore one. At the Oscars, Joe Jonas and Kodi Smit-McPhee wore Cartier. Even beyond paid placement like this one, Tyler, the creator is probably their biggest influencer despite not being affiliated with the brand.
Menswear has gone through a particularly bold phase over the past decade, with men like Jaden Smith pushing menswear to experiment more with gendered silhouettes, and fashion weeks from New York for London embrace mixed shows. And although the watch industry has traditionally been slow to change – some, like Hublot and Ulysse Nardin, didn’t even start selling online until 2020 – it is catching up.