Women & Watches
“This is a man’s world, but it would be nothing without a woman,” I’m sure most of you have heard these words? The fact is, the immense contributions women make in various industries that are male-dominated often go unnoticed or understated.
As a result, we will discuss the significant role women are playing in the horology sphere and how they are rising through the ranks, standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the most powerful men in the watch industry.
Beyonce once asked, “Who runs the world?” The world answered, “girls!” From the early days in factories and farms to today’s multibillion-dollar corporations, the watch industry benefits from female designers, artisans, and specialists in movement construction and assembly of some of the most complicated timepieces.
Women are manning many of they watch factories around the world (pun intended) as they keep time ticking. So it makes sense since it was a woman’s pragmatic fashion sense that made the wristwatch fashionable in the first place.
Women are adding their creative and innovative touches to some of the most coveted high-end timepieces from the boardroom to the factory.
Here are 5 women in the luxury watch-making industry to know.
Ginny Wright made history as the first female CEO of Audemars Piguet in the Americas, joining the more than $1 billion Swiss company after a long career in the beauty industry. Before her appointment, she held executive positions at L’Oréal, Ralph Lauren, and Lancôme.
Wright, 48, first learned about Audemars Piguet when she spotted a business-school friend wearing a rose gold Royal Oak with a brown leather strap in Paris. She was intrigued that the male timepiece looked stylish and elegant on a woman.
Wright is now overseeing the business activities in North and Latin America for the luxury watch company located in Switzerland. Audemars Piguet says Wright brings deep knowledge and understanding of the luxury goods retail sector.
She worked in media relations and earned an MBA from ESSEC Business School in Paris.
Women hold several important leadership positions at Audemars Piguet, including the head of the board, Jasmine Audemars, whose great-grandfather founded the company 146 years ago.
“Building on a strong vision and proven growth strategy, the brand’s potential in the Americas is exceptional,” Wright noted following her appointment.
Chabi Nouri is the first female to hold such a significant position at Piaget, as chief executive in over a century. Her desire to advance and step outside of her comfort zone was the impetus for accepting the post in 2017.
Following her appointment, Nouri has reinforced Piaget’s artisanal legacy and increased their jewelry segment with the relaunch of their Possession collection and the production of Haute jewelry pieces. While Piaget is most renowned for its jewelry, the brand has a long history of manufacturing ultra-thin timepieces, dating back to 1957.
Born in Fribourg, Switzerland, Nouri, 46, grew up in a family where watches were valued but were not a professional concern. Her mother reportedly owned a Piaget watch, which she believes was a sign of the future.
She earned a master’s degree in law and economics from the University of Stuttgart in Germany. She joined Cartier in 1998 as head of international retail operations and later as jewelry group manager, where she remained for 11 years.
When Georges-Édouard Piaget launched the company in 1874, he did so with the help of his wife, Emma, a watchmaker. Nouri’s appointment appears to be a natural fit, given that women make up 50% of their executive committee and 60% of their global workforce. The majority of Piaget’s clients are female.
Caroline Scheufele is one of the driving forces behind the luxury jewelry and watchmaker Chopard. In 1963, her parents, Karl and Karin Scheufele acquired the Swiss firm. Prior to this, they managed a watchmaking company in their country.
Caroline began working for the company at a young age in a variety of positions, and in the 1980s, she expanded the business into the jewelry sector. They elevated her to the positions of artistic director and co-president of Chopard.
In 1998, she redesigned the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or and made Chopard an official event partner.
The Palme d’Or is the highest award given to a filmmaker. Under her leadership, the company was among the first to expand the market for sustainable luxury goods and gold. Chopard was also among the first luxury brands to use raw materials that meet the highest social and environmental standards, as well as to support Fairmined certified responsible gold.
Caroline obtained one of the world’s largest and purest raw diamonds for Chopard in 2015 from a mine in Botswana.
She used this 342-carat diamond, known as the “Queen of Kalahari,” to create a high jewelry collection called “The Garden of Kalahari,” which was displayed in Paris in 2018.
Chopard is one of the last family-owned watchmaking companies in the world.
Marie-Laure Cérède began her career at Cartier in 2002 and returned in 2016 after a 12-year stint at Harry Winston. Then in 2017, she was promoted to the top position in the design, making her ultimately responsible for Cartier’s watchmaking aesthetic as the Timepieces Creation Director, a role with unique responsibilities.
She remains in charge of Cartier’s entire watchmaking portfolio, which now includes the Privé collection of vintage reinterpretations, the Libre line aimed at women who collect watches, high jewelry pieces, and all new introductions.
Her tenure marks a steady stream of hits, ranging from collectors’ favorites like the Tank Cintree to trendy Tank Musts.
Cartier watches age like fine wine. Not only is the technology behind each watch built to last, but so is the exterior. Each case, strap, and detail are designed for optimum durability. This combination of tradition and technology is very crucial for the brand.
In 2018, Catherine Rénier was named CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre. She started her career as a Retail Development Director at Cartier in New York in 1999. She worked her way up to International Deputy Marketing Director at Van Cleef & Arpels in 2003.
She moved to Hong Kong in 2008 as Regional Commercial Director and then Managing Director for Hong Kong and Macau to help Van Cleef & Arpels grow in the Asia Pacific region.
While Jaeger-LeCoultre is deeply anchored in Swiss watchmaking history as any brand, according to Rénier, the company realizes that drawing inspiration from the past isn’t enough. As an example, she points to the new Master Control Chronograph Calendar.
The Future of Women in Horology
In 1810, Breguet created the first women’s watch. Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, wore a pocket watch with a bracelet made especially for her.
Women’s watch preferences and needs are evolving, and watchmakers are responding by creating models with complexity specifically tailored for women.
Watchmakers are striving to please both women who are drawn to beauty and women who are drawn to complexities. A new generation of models combines fashion and function.
The future of watchmaking seems to be in the hands of women who bring a vibrant and futuristic perspective to the industry.