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For far too long, women’s watches have been almost an afterthought, mostly just men’s watches with smaller dimensions and a thick impasto of diamonds. “Complicated” models, such as they were, usually added a moonphase display and called it a day. A vanguard of brands are changing that, focusing on a feminine sensibility and creating models that, from the ground up, speak to the modern woman in function and design. And yes—there are still diamonds.

Patek Philippe Patek Philippe Photo: Modern Luxury

Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe does not see the “new” emphasis on women’s complicated watches as unexpected or unprecedented. After all, the brand’s first three watches were bought by a woman. Though the ubiquitous moonphase display, a mainstay of women’s watches, graces a fair number of Patek Philippe models, women are by no means limited to this pretty—but, let’s face it, not very useful—complication. World-time, multiple time zones and calendars are also crafted just for women, and the inaugural piece in the “Ladies First” collection, the Ladies First chronograph, was the very first watch to be driven by the new CH 29-535 PS movement. The diamonds stay discreetly out of the way.

Richard Mille Richard Mille Photo: Modern Luxury

Richard Mille

The calling card of Richard Mille is the brand’s ability to partner with people (pole vaulters, competitive cyclists) with extremely specific needs, and fashion a timepiece that fills that infinitesimally small niche. The RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur, however, is designed for women who love flowers, which is… a larger audience. At the lower left of the dial, a delicate magnolia opens and closes, both in passing and on demand with a press on the pushbutton at nine o’clock.

Van Cleef & Arpel, Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons Van Cleef & Arpel, Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons Photo: Modern Luxury

Van Cleef & Arpels

Better known for its jewelry, Van Cleef & Arpels has quietly been overturning all the old ideas of watch dial design. Plenty of brands have forayed into retrograde displays, but Van Cleef & Arpels combines traditional handmade arts with inventive ways of telling time that also tell a story. The Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons is just one of several models, unique in their movements as well as their dials, that dives into a loopy, dreamlike approach to time display. On the Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons, a swallow’s wing indicates the hours at the bottom of the dial, while a butterfly traces the minutes. Each dial is crafted in mother-of-pearl.

Fabergé - Lady Compliquée Peacock Fabergé - Lady Compliquée Peacock Photo: Modern Luxury

Fabergé

Heir to the intricate masterpieces that are the famed Fabergé eggs, this mechanical watch hatches a marvelous peacock that tells time with his body. The mother-of-pearl perimeter of the dial rotates slowly over 12 hours, using the diamond-set crown instead of hands to indicate the hour. Within this frame, the minutes are indicated by the slowly unfolding fan of the peacock’s famous tail, which snaps shut again once the 60 th minute has ended.