For Patek Philippe, its female collectors have always held an important position, from its earliest timepieces for ladies.
There are few watchmaking firms today that can claim the same experience that Patek Philippe has with crafting complicated timepieces for women. Whether it’s with simple and functional timekeeping, or high complications, the brand has always found a delicate balance between design and operation for ladies’ models. Since 1868, it has been developing wristwatches for women, and for 104 years, it has been crafting high complications for gentlewomen.
Patek Philippe’s first complicated ladies’ watch, the No. 174 603, was a rather notable five-minute repeater wristwatch with two gongs and hammers, with a sliding lever for operation. The hand-engraved case was paired with an enamel dial and a chain link bracelet that made the watch a decorative accessory as well as timekeeper.
Across the last century, women’s complications were often focused around calendars, particularly lunar calendar displays. While there were commissioned timepieces and female collectors often acquired complication watches designed for men, there were few options centered around the woman as a serious collector. That changed 11 years ago, when Patek Philippe introduced a bold creation in 2009.
The Ref. 7071 Ladies First Chronograph
In the years prior to 2009, Patek Philippe had issued some signals to the press that it was developing more in-house capabilities, particularly with regards to its own chronograph movement. This was due to several reasons.
The first was its desire to create a chronograph to its own specs and performance. The second was that the Lemania 2310 base upon which the CH 27-70 series of movements were crafted, to some extent restricted their case design in terms of thickness.
Patek Philippe had introduced the self-winding CH 28-520 calibre the year before, so it wasn’t surprising that a manually wound, horizontally clutched chronograph with column wheel control was released in 2009. But what amazed collectors and journalists alike was that it was presented first in a ladies’ model. It signified the rise of the female watch collector, a presence that has only increased in the last decade across all segments of watchmaking.
Thinking back, it makes perfect sense for Patek Philippe to fit the compact movement into a ladies’ model first. For one, the case and movement were perfectly fitted to each other, with the Ref. 7071’s 35mm by 39mm frame a snug cushion fit for the stunningly finished movement that could be well admired from the case back.
The chronograph is traditionally seen as a “men’s complication”, perhaps because of its association with male-dominated sporting events in the past, such as horse racing or motor racing. Of course, this is no longer the case today, which may have been one other reason for the choice to exhibit this movement in a ladies’ watch.
The watch also demonstrated the brand’s commitment to the female watch collector, which had few specialised options at the time. The unique design of the case and dial also allowed Patek Philippe to showcase its refined aesthetics in women’s watch design. It was a shout out to the independently successful modern female, who wore Patek Philippe’s complications as a badge of honour.
The Ref. 7071 lasted a good 9 years in Patek Philippe’s collection, before it was discontinued and replaced with a new version, the Ref. 7150/250R-00, a rose gold chronograph watch featuring that same calibre within. Gone are the oversized Roman numerals and baton markers, replaced with applied gold Breguet numerals on a silvery dial with a pulsimeter scale printed on it.
The curved strap lugs and round chronograph pushers all give the watch a distinctly sporty feel, and it’s not difficult to visualise the watch on a chain link bracelet, though it’s paired with an i alligator leather strap that fits nearly any occasion.
Rather like its Ref. 5270 sibling, the Ref. 7150 has a mix of old classic Patek Philippe design mixed in with new, and that very characteristic is what makes the watch so appealing. But the 7150 and Patek Philippe’s other complicated watches for ladies (to be discussed in our next piece) demonstrate the presence and significance of its female audience today.
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Patek Philippe Complications for Women: A Summary (Part 1)