Until recently, the universe of watches could easily be considered a male-oriented one. But with social media blurring geographical and other boundaries, it has compelled the industry to adapt and evolve, thus making way for more women leaders and consumers. Here’s a look at some of the women shaping the watch industry.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, here’s a look at the women who are leaving their marks on the watch industry.
Caroline Scheufele, Co-president and Artistic Director, Chopard
Credited with envisioning one of the most iconic timepieces of all times—the Happy Sport—Caroline Scheufele is the co-president and artistic director of Chopard, a family-run business. Much like the Happy Sport, which was one of her first creations, Scheufele has emerged as an icon of the watch industry. In fact, the Happy Sport almost seems like a symbolic representation of Scheufele’s own journey in the industry. Disruptive, groundbreaking, imaginative, versatile, resilient, joyful, glamorous—all of these descriptors can be interchangeably applied to the watch or Scheufele herself. What makes Scheufele a force to be reckoned with is her unabashed love for design and artistry, which is seen ever so often not only through her timepieces but also Chopard’s one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces.
Catherine Rénier, CEO, Jaeger-LeCoultre
When Catherine Rénier stepped into the role of CEO at Jaeger-LeCoultre, in May 2018, she became the first female CEO of a major luxury watch brand. Prior to this, Rénier had been with Van Cleef & Arpels, the French luxury company, and at Cartier, where she began her career. However, Jaeger-LeCoultre marked her foray into a heritage watchmaking-only brand. With her arrival at the Le Sentier–based manufacture, Rénier made it known that she wanted to not only protect the maison’s legacy, but also nurture its practice of balancing technical expertise with elegance and refinement. This, she wanted to achieve through a product offering that comprised classic pieces and grand complications. And she has, with launches like the Reverso Tribute Duoface Fagliano and the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque, the most complicated Reverso watch. Moreover, she’s demonstrated her ability to straddle the two worlds of traditional watchmaking and engaging storytelling with great ease.
Anita Porchet, enamel artist
If it’s a watch featuring an intricate enamel dial, it was probably made at the hands of Anita Porchet. One of Switzerland’s most revered and celebrated enamellers, Porchet has created truly exceptional pieces for some of the most prestigious names in the industry, including Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Hermès, Piaget and Fabergé.
Her interest in watches can be traced to her birthplace, La Chaux-de-Fonds, which is also regarded as the cradle of fine Swiss watchmaking. During the 1980s, Porchet devoted her efforts to training and honing her skills. Over time, she came to be recognised for her skill and mastery of various techniques, including cloisonné, champlevé, plique-à-jour, email Grand Feu, pailloné and miniature painting.
Unarguably, Porchet is the best-known enamel artist working in fine watchmaking today. For her inimitable contribution to watchmaking, in 2015, she was awarded the Prix Gaïa—an honorary award established by the Musée international d’horlogerie to recognise special achievements in watchmaking. And like most inspiring people, Porchet’s achievements aren’t limited to her works of art alone; since opening her workshop in the early 1990s, Porchet has started sharing her knowledge and skills by teaching other artisans.
Isabella Proia, Head of Sale & International Specialist, Associate Vice President, Phillips Watches
From completing a master’s degree in history, with the goal of becoming a professor, to changing her mind and then applying to Sotheby’s, where she then landed a job in the watches department—Isabelle Proia’s journey into the watch industry was happenstance. But once here, her experience drew her further into the universe of timepieces, which is replete with novelties in pocket watches, clocks and automata. After some detours, she finally arrived at Phillips Watches in 2018, where she now works on collectors’ watches.
Proia works as a cataloguer and specialist, sourcing watches from collectors for auctions, assembling the actual sales and selling the pieces. In all this, her educational background in history has proved handy, as her role calls for much research, cataloguing, determining historical contexts of pieces and writing footnotes.
Roberta Naas, journalist
It’s no exaggeration to say that Roberta Naas paved new ground for women watch journalists, especially in the US, where she became the first woman watch journalist in the early 1980s. Since then, Naas has written six books on timepieces, watchmaking and wristwatch history, founded a watch site called ATimelyPerspective.com, and writes on watches for publications around the world. Her tryst with watches began in the 1980s, when she applied to a trade publication in the jewellery and watch industry. While her initial application was rejected—likely simply because of the lack of female watch editors—she persisted and was rewarded for her effort. Over the years, Naas has explored the world of horology at close range by visiting watch factories; observing, first-hand, the craftsmanship and advancements in design and technology; taking courses on disassembling and reassembling watches and so on. Today, Naas is an authority on all things watches and serves on the board of Jewelers of America’s Gem Awards, Watches and Women, and Watch Stars.
Nayla Hayek, chairwoman, Swatch Group
As the chairwoman of the board of directors of the Swatch Group since 2010, Nayla Hayek leads the world’s largest watch company. Her years of experience covering various operational functions within the Swatch Group set the ground for this move. Often referred to as the most powerful woman in the watch industry, Hayek was also elected as the president and CEO of Harry Winston, which was acquired in 2013.
At the helm of a company that comprises a host of covetable watch brands, Hayek holds a macro view on industry shifts and varying consumer interests and is in a unique position to influence trends with an assortment of timepieces.
Suparna Mirta, CEO of the Watches and Wearables Division, Titan Company Limited
From regional business head to CEO of the watches and wearables division in early 2020, Suparna Mitra has steadily moved up the ladder at Titan. However, she was immediately put to the test, as the company along with the country suffered the impact of the lockdowns. With no playbook to guide her through such an unprecedented situation, she relied on her extensive sales and marketing experience gained during her role as the chief sales and marketing officer of the watches and wearables division. What followed was the leveraging of technology to deliver a rich and authentic omnichannel experience to meet the aspirations of Titan’s customers. By setting her sights on the end user, she was able to transform these challenges into opportunities and demonstrate her business acumen and leadership skills.
Barbara Palumbo, Editor at large for Revolution global
An industry veteran, Barbara Palumbo is a US-based writer and storyteller. Palumbo started in the jewellery industry and worked in practically every field—from sales to manufacturing. After nearly two decades, she realised that she knew everything there was to know about jewellery. From there on, she became curious about the fine line between jewellery and watches. As she explored the field of horology, she found her passion and true calling in the world of watches. She has since started her blog, WhatsOnHerWrist.com, and has worked closely with watch brands such as Bulova and Oris.
Besides drawing attention to the women who have had some major influence on the world of horology, Palumbo also has a regular column in Revolution magazine, where she uses her extensive knowledge and keen insights to spotlight women collectors. She is especially known for her style of writing, which is marked with humour, refreshing honesty and sharp wit.
Let’s raise a toast to these pioneering women in the watch industry who’re showing the world that the industry is no longer just a ‘boy’s club’.