Complicated Women’s Watches: Tourbillons, Perpetual Calendars, and More
These exceptional women’s timepieces feature some of the rarest complications that exist.
For years, women’s watches weren’t given much thought. To design a “woman’s” watch, many brands would scale down a men’s watch, put in a quartz movement, add diamonds to the bezel, and finish it with a floral motif or a candy-colored dial. It’s so common that we have a phrase for it in the industry: Pink it and shrink it.
Thankfully, brands have recognized there are women collectors who want mechanical timepieces and aren’t interested in anything pink. Today, a huge range of complicated women’s watches exists, including flying tourbillons, minute repeaters, perpetual calendars, and more.
There’s also a larger conversation happening in the industry about what makes a watch a women’s watch. Many people have decided that they don’t care who a watch was designed for. If a woman is wearing it, it’s a woman’s watch. Women and men can wear watches of any size, with or without diamonds, in any color.
While many women enjoy wearing larger watches, some prefer smaller cases, which is why watch brands still create dedicated women’s collections or timepieces. But with their complex movements and good looks, we can see plenty of men wearing these as well. This article highlights exceptional complicated women’s timepieces from top watch brands, with nary a flower in sight.
MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
MB&F is known for its avant-garde masterpieces. Naturally, its first women’s watch has a design unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in watchmaking. The Legacy Machine FlyingT has a high convex domed sapphire crystal, almost like a cloche. While most watch movements are flat and spread across the entire case, MB&F took a different approach here. The domed crystal displays an unusual vertical movement topped with a diamond and an impressive flying tourbillon. Both the diamond and the tourbillon make a full rotation every 60 seconds.
In keeping with the atypical design, the time isn’t on the flat surface of the dial like we’re accustomed to. Instead, a small angled dial at 7 o’clock shows the hours and minutes. It’s set at a 50-degree angle, keeping the time a secret for the wearer. The automatic movement has a beautiful three-dimensional red gold rotor shaped like a sun and provides an impressive 100 hours of power. When the LM FlyingT debuted in 2019, it won the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie for Ladies’ Complication.
The LM FlyingT is available in several models and designs. Some feature dial plates of lacquer or semiprecious stones like lapis lazuli, onyx, tigereye, or the pictured malachite, while others are fully gem-set. MB&F even collaborated with Bulgari on a high-jewelry model.
Patek Philippe Reference 7130R World Time
Patek Philippe is one of the few watchmakers that has always created complicated women’s mechanical timepieces. Refreshingly, it doesn’t stick only to what the industry considers typically “feminine” complications — e.g., a moon phase — and makes chronographs, perpetual and annual calendars, minute repeaters, and even a world timer. World-time watches from Patek Philippe are true collectors’ pieces.
Reference 7130R World Time has a classic design. The 36mm watch has a disk on the outside of the dial featuring a key city in each of the 24 major time zones. The local city is at 12 o’clock. Inside this, there’s a 24-hour disk. The hour disk makes a full rotation every 24 hours, so the number that lines up with the city indicates the hour in that time zone. The central hour and minute hands indicate local time, and the minutes remain the same in the 24 major time zones. (Most world-time watches do not accommodate time zones offset by 30 or 45 minutes.)
It’s easy to change the time zone using a time-zone selection pusher at 10 o’clock. Each push moves the hour hand forward by one hour, and the city and hour disks move counterclockwise. The automatic Caliber 240 HU powers this ingenious and easy time-zone selection. The day/night indication is elegantly included on the hour disk. A sun indicates noon, a moon indicates midnight, and the daylight hours from 7 am to 7 pm are white, while the night hours are black.
The inner dial showcases a beautiful olive-green basketweave motif that Patek Philippe’s artisans guilloché by hand. At 10 o’clock, there’s a pusher to change the city disk. The watch has 62 diamonds on the 18K pink rose bezel and 27 on the prong buckle.
Breguet Reine de Naples Grande Complication 8978
At first glance, Breguet’s Reine de Naples Grande Complication 8978 looks like a beautiful jewelry watch. It has 30 diamonds weighing nearly 3 carats encircling the bezel, a shimmering white mother-of-pearl dial, and an elegant white alligator strap. The only hint that it has more than meets the eye is at the top of the dial, where two cutouts in the delicate mother-of-pearl showcase two hammers. The beautiful watch is, in fact, an hour striker — sonnerie au passage in French — that chimes the hour every hour. For example, at 10 o’clock, it will chime 10 times.
Of course, there are times you won’t want the sonnerie to be activated, and Breguet has an elegant solution for that, too. A second crown at 2 o’clock controls the sonnerie. When it’s active, a diamond appears in the aperture between the two hammers. When it’s deactivated, the window is blue. The automatic caliber 78S0 powers the watch, which is water-resistant to 30m. Naturally, the sonnerie requires a fair amount of power to chime. If the sonnerie is active, it has a 50-hour power reserve. If it’s inactive, the power reserve increases to 70 hours.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
Vacheron Constantin is part of the Big Three in watchmaking, alongside Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. The venerable Swiss house is a master of grand complications and ultra-thin watches, frequently combining the two. While Vacheron Constantin has a long history of creating complicated women’s timepieces, those faded to the background as the house concentrated on men’s watches. That changed in recent years with the introduction of the Egérie women’s collection, composed solely of mechanical women’s timepieces. Earlier this year, Vacheron Constantin unveiled its first women’s perpetual calendar. (Better late than never.)
The 36.5mm Traditionnelle Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin comes in two versions. The 18K white gold model has a blue-gray mother-of-pearl dial and matching strap, and the 18K pink gold model has a white mother-of-pearl dial and a pale beige strap. Both have diamond-set bezels, lugs, and even a diamond in the crown. The dial has a classic perpetual-calendar design with four subdials: the month and leap-year cycle at 12 o’clock, the date at 3 o’clock, the moon phase at 6 o’clock, and the day of the week at 9 o’clock. If it’s kept wound, it will remain accurate until the year 2100. The watch has gold dauphin-style hour and minute hands, a small railway minutes track, and applied gold hour markers.
It features the ultra-thin Calibre 1120 QP, which measures 4.05mm. The cased watch is 8.43mm thick, so it’s comfortable to wear and fits under shirtsleeves. The watch has an open case back, and the 22K gold rotor is openworked to show even more of the movement’s fine finishings. This watch marks another first for the Traditionnelle collection: It’s the first to have a strap that can be changed without tools.
Perpetual calendars are among the most difficult complications to make. They are expensive and time-consuming to develop, which means they are expensive to buy. The Traditionnelle Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin goes for $87,500. Brands will only create them if they know they have the market for them. So, I’m thrilled to see Vacheron Constantin create one for women. I’m sure it will encourage other houses with the ability to make more complicated timepieces for women.
Bulgari Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon
Bulgari’s Octo collection has set many world records, so it’s only fitting that its Serpenti collection has one of its own, too. The Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon features the smallest tourbillon in production. The manual movement, BVL150, measures just 22mm x 18mm x 3.65mm, so including a tourbillon is a feat of miniaturization. It took Bulgari’s watchmakers two years to develop the movement.
Bulgari employed a bit of trompe l’oeil in the design. The tourbillon is not actually a flying tourbillon; the upper bridge is crafted from sapphire, which is nearly invisible. Despite its tiny size, it has a 40-hour power reserve and is water-resistant to 30m. This high-jewelry watch comes in several versions, including full diamond pavé and the newly released diamond with black spinel model. The case is shaped like a snake’s head, and the bracelet is composed of links shaped like scales.
Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon 38 Eclipse I
Arnold & Son makes fantastic moon-phase watches that are notable for their beauty and accuracy. For its first women’s collection, it naturally turned to a moon phase and developed a brand-new caliber for the Perpetual Moon 38 Eclipse I. The 30mm A&S1612 caliber was specifically designed for this collection and at 30mm is the smallest movement the brand has created. Despite its size, it has 90 hours of power reserve. But the star of the show is the astronomical moon phase, which will remain accurate for 122 years if the watch is kept wound.
The watch design is striking too, and marks a new look for Arnold & Son. The dial is made from aventurine with lace-inspired cutouts and a large aperture for the blue mother-of-pearl moon-phase disk. The glittering aventurine is set with diamond hour markers and a unique gem-set motif at 8 o’clock. It includes white and blue mother-of-pearl, diamonds, and pink and blue sapphires.
Glashütte Original PanoMatic Luna
This heavenly moon-phase watch from Glashütte Original plays on the ethereal beauty of the moon and the sky. It has a blue mother-of-pearl dial with an interesting design. An off-center dial on the left shows hours and minutes, and it also has a small seconds subdial. At 2 o’clock, there’s a precise moon phase that has a 29.5-day indicator as well, so you know exactly what day it is in the lunar cycle. At 5 o’clock, there’s an oval date aperture. The PanoMatic Luna has an in-house automatic movement with a 42-hour power reserve.
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales
Van Cleef & Arpels creates magnificent timepieces with whimsical complications as part of its Poetic Complications collection. Its watchmakers dream up unusual ways of telling time or complications that aren’t practical but are so inventive, unusual, and charming that you are instantly captivated by them. The Lady Arpels Heures Florales is a perfect example; it tells time in a completely new way. There are no hour or minute hands. Instead, the dial is covered by a three-dimensional garden. There are golden branches, leaves, and 12 colorful flowers. Each flower represents one hour, and the number of flowers that are open indicates the hour. While it’s a beautiful and poetic way of telling the time, it’s also a seriously impressive movement that took five years to create. To make it even more complicated, the flowers open seemingly randomly. At the top of each hour, the open flowers all close, then a different set of flowers opens, adding one more flower each hour. When they open, the enamel petals unfurl to reveal gem-set centers. If you need to know the precise time, there’s a minute scale on the left side of the case. While the movement itself is impressive, the Lady Arpels Heures Florales is also a work of art. It features miniature painting, mother-of-pearl marquetry, and gold sculpture.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Dazzling Shooting Star
Jaeger-LeCoultre adds a bit of playfulness to its collection with the Rendez-Vous Dazzling Shooting Star. At first glance, the watch looks like a classic jewelry watch. It has a beautiful aventurine dial, significant diamonds on the bezel and lugs, polished gold applied numerals, and even more diamonds on the dial. However, four to six times an hour, a shooting star flies across the center of the dial. You can also activate the shooting star on demand by turning the crown.
Chopard L.U.C Flying T Twin Ladies
This gorgeous platinum watch from Chopard combines a flying tourbillon with full diamond pavé. It’s a stunning combination of high horology and high jewelry. It has 282 diamonds on the dial that radiate from the tourbillon at 6 o’clock. The L.U.C Flying Tourbillon has a stop-seconds function and is a certified chronometer, which means it’s very precise. The 35mm watch is also ultra-thin. The watch measures just 7.47mm and the movement a mere 3.30mm. Despite its thinness, it has a 65-hour power reserve. The automatic movement is finely finished and earned the Poinçon de Genève for its craftsmanship.