28th February 1909, a date where an undertaking by the Socialist Party of America declared Women’s Day. A decade later, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria celebrated Women’s Day, till the United Nations declared 8th March as an International Women’s Day across the world.
Call it change, evolution, alteration, recognition, respect or identification, for it was a moment of acknowledgement for 49.6% of the world’s populace. History may endorse Madam Curie as a woman with the most significant impact on world in the times gone by and we honour that, but there was another impact made by a woman, which changed my life.
My journey as a watch collector was a direct influence of a 1960’s Omega Seamaster, handed to me by my mother. Unlike the predictable custom of a father-to-son, it was the matriarch who fuelled my passion for watches. Women have been ever-present in the world of watchmaking. From dexterous hands at the assembly lines, to adroitly curving (over-coil) the end of a hairspring, we doubt that there could be a watch on the wrist out there, which has not been touched by a woman, at some given point. Within the watch industry, women have prominent roles, leading the direction with their exemplary leadership. Nayla Hayek (Harry Winston), Caroline Scheufele (Chopard), Danielle Montandon (Eberhard), Aletta Stas (Frédérique Constant), Aurélie Picaud (Fabergé), Chabi Nouri (Piaget) and Catherine Rénier (Jaeger-LeCoultre).
From the CEO’s to the watchmaker, they have carved their niche.
At the age of 23, Eva Leube achieved her Master’s degree in watchmaking from the chamber in Hildesheim, Germany. Since 2004, many of Eva’s unique and sought-after masterpieces with their complicated mechanisms have found their way into the homes of collectors and watch lovers from all over the world. Counting among the many proud owners, a well-known President.
“Every watch that leaves my studio should be an ambassador of the highest value” says Christine Genesis, master watchmaker who manufactures mechanical wristwatches by hand, based on her own designs at Genesis watches.
Birmingham, U.K. based Rebecca Struthers and Seattle, USA based Brittany Nicole Cox are the leading ladies in horological conservation and restoration.
“My job is to make people dream – to inspire them and give them a moment of joy and wonder, which is embodied in a beautiful, well-made timepiece” says Fiona Krüger. Her iconic Skull collection launched the brand in 2013 and set Fiona apart from the status quo. Her avant-garde attitude to watch design has allowed her to create pieces which truly stand out, whilst working with the most well-respected artisans and manufacturers in Switzerland today.
The world of haute-horlogerie would be incomplete without the artistic arts. Anita Porchet was only twelve years old when her godfather, himself an engraver-enameller, introduced her to this secular art. “Enamel requires great patience. You have to have a certain character to accept that after fifteen successive fires, all the work is damaged! ” Since 1995, she has collaborated with companies recognized in the art trades such as Patek Philippe for the creation of the Aube sur le lac pocket watch made for the 175th anniversary of the company; Vacheron Constantin for whom she made the reproduction of the ceiling of the Opéra Garnier in Paris; Piaget but also in fields other than watchmaking such as Hermès International or Chanel.
Shifting focus, just for a bit, from the luxury watch industry to the accessible part of the same, it seems we haven’t looked into our own backyard, Titan Company Limited. The Watches and Wearables Division of the Company recorded revenue of Rs. 2615 crore a growth of 7.2%, last year. The fifth largest watch manufacturer in the world has Suparna Mitra as the CEO.
The industry, by and large, has a major contribution by extraordinary women, cutting across management, production, assembly, branding, public-relations and design but also information. Experts and my peers from the industry – Elizabeth Doerr, Sandra Lane, Britta Rossander, Barbara Palumbo, Suzanne Wong and Karishma Karer, to name a few. While one might question the inclusion of media personalities in conjunction to the women from the watch industry, these are the very elite whose views and knowledge have inspired many of us; including me, for without their words, watches would just tick but never come alive.