Divisions old and new
Unisex watches, i.e. designed for both sexes, have been around for quite some time, but thanks to the pandemic, they began to be referred to as a separate trend. Watching the coverage from this year’s Watches & Wonders, I noticed that commentators often paid attention to unisex models, claiming that there was no turning back from this trend. Maybe so, although we all know what it’s like with trends: they come and go. Are unisex watches a brand new phenomenon? Yes and no. I remember watching new products from one of the top brands a dozen or so years ago, and among them there were the so-called “medium size” pieces. The manager presenting them joked that in his company, “medium size” watches are considered created for Italian women and Asian men. To clarify – the manager in question is a well-mannered man, and did not intend to offend anyone; his remark resulted solely from observing the market. At that time, the medium size, as it was referred to (no one used the word “unisex” yet), was most often bought by Italian women who were not afraid of experimenting with fashion and accessories, and men from Asia – they, in turn, approached this issue pragmatically; the medium case size simply looked better on their wrists. As the name implied, medium watches had a diameter smaller than men’s and larger than women’s. And when it comes to appearance, their design was most similar to that associated with men’s models.
Over time, the “medium size” versions disappeared (they simply went out of fashion), only to return in a new form, or rather with a new name, during the pandemic. Now they are called unisex, since their idea has changed. Manufacturers no longer want to tell customers what to wear. They give them complete freedom, so everyone can wear whatever they want. Why is there talk of a new trend? After all, it was not the manufacturers who came up with the idea to propose something new (although, as I mentioned, the phenomenon itself is not entirely new). It was the market that has changed and a new type of customer has emerged who does not follow the traditional division into men’s and women’s models when buying, but rather choose to decide whether or not they like a given piece. I myself belong to this group and so far I have usually been buying watches that manufacturers refer to as men’s pieces, because I believe they look better.
Besides, the traditional split just doesn’t make sense in many cases. Let’s take an example. A few years ago, Rolex showed an “exotic” version of the Cosmograph Daytona, the so-called “Leopard” with a leopard print on the dial and strap. The bezel, in turn, was set with yellow sapphires, and the lugs – with diamonds. Considering the jewelry-like appearance of the watch, one would say that it is a women’s model, but its size seemed to state otherwise. As it turned out, this extravagant version was worn not only by women, but also by men, as evidenced e.g. by a photo of actor Nicolas Cage taken in 2016. A similar situation occurred quite recently, in 2018, when Rolex created a new jewelery variant of the Cosmograph Daytona model, featuring a rainbow of different colored sapphires on the bezel instead of the characteristic tachometric scale. I remember that presentation from the Basel fair. The journalists present at all costs wanted an answer at all, whether it was a men’s or women’s model. What they heard was that it’s an offer for everyone. Life has shown that the so-called Daytona Rainbow was worn, e.g., by actor Mark Wahlberg, vocalist and guitarist John Mayer, footballer Sergio Ramos and Miroslava “Mirka” Federer, wife of the famous tennis player Roger Federer.
As you can see from these examples, both male and female customers liked the watch. So does it make sense to introduce one more category (unisex)? A watch is a watch. Breaking away from traditional divisions that would suggest what is appropriate for a given person is also a greater chance at finding a buyer: if men won’t buy it, perhaps women will. And vice versa.