The Trailblazing Women of the Watch World

The Women of the Watch World

Step into the captivating world of horology and design, where the brilliance and creativity of remarkable women are redefining the very essence of luxury and craftsmanship in the watchmaking industry.

Timekeepers of Change: The Women Revolutionizing the Watchmaking World

In the traditionally male-dominated watchmaking industry, a group of extraordinary women is breaking barriers and setting new standards for innovation, design, and craftsmanship. This narrative illuminates the journeys, achievements, and contributions of these trailblazers who have not only mastered the art of timekeeping but have also infused it with a fresh perspective and unparalleled artistry.

From the intricate mechanics of movement design to the bold statements of fashion and the thoughtful nuances of retail space aesthetics, these women are shaping the future of horology. Join us as we explore the stories of these remarkable figures, whose passion, creativity, and dedication are crafting the next chapter in the history of luxury timepieces.

Carole Forestier-Kasapi’s indelible mark on the horological landscape began with her innovative design of a centrally mounted carousel tourbillon in 1997, which not only won the Breguet Prize but also laid the foundational technology behind Ulysse Nardin’s celebrated Freak watch.

This early success was a harbinger of her transformative impact on the industry, particularly highlighted by her fifteen-year tenure at Cartier where she led the luxury brand into a new era of haute horlogerie.

Here, she was instrumental in developing groundbreaking creations like the Astrocalendaire, a piece that reimagined the presentation of day, month, and date through concentric circles, eliminating the need for subdials and setting a new benchmark for aesthetic and functional design in timepieces. Her ability to blend innovative engineering with striking visual design was praised by peers such as Jean-Christophe Sabatier of Ulysse Nardin, who lauded her for introducing a new dimension to the field, especially in the area of orbital complications and the development of the Freak concept.

In her subsequent role as the movements director at TAG Heuer, Forestier-Kasapi shifted her focus towards enhancing the practical aspects of watchmaking, aiming to align with consumer expectations for Swiss luxury watches, which include a minimum of five years warranty and a 70-hour power reserve to ensure weekend autonomy. This pragmatic approach to innovation reflects her philosophy that the essence of luxury in watchmaking lies not only in its artistic expression but also in its reliability and functionality.

Forestier-Kasapi’s career, rooted in a Parisian family of watchmakers and celebrated with an honorary award from Prix Gaïa for her creative contributions, exemplifies a lifetime of dedication to advancing the craft of watchmaking. Her journey underscores a profound commitment to merging the technical with the aesthetic, ensuring that each timepiece not only captivates with its beauty but also meets the highest standards of mechanical performance, thus continuing to redefine the horological industry’s parameters of excellence.

The Alchemist of Enamel

Born in Geneva in 1939, Suzanne Rohr’s early affinity for the classical arts propelled her into the intricate world of enamelling, a field where her passion for finesse and perfection would flourish. Her artistic journey began in earnest after visiting an enamel work exhibition at the Art and History Museum in Geneva, which led her to pursue formal training at the School of Decorative Arts in Geneva. Under the tutelage of Elisabeth Juillerat, Rohr excelled, becoming the only student in her class to obtain a federal diploma in 1959.

Her exceptional skill was recognized early on when she won the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation competition prize for an enamelled ladies’ bracelet incorporating a watch, blending her love for art with horological precision. Facing the challenge of finding an in-house position in 1960, Rohr took a bold step by opening her own studio, thus beginning her freelance career that would span several decades.

Rohr’s early career was marked by a period of exploration and refinement, where she experimented with cloisonné and champlevé techniques on enamelled jewellery, cups, and artworks, often decorated with silver and gold leaf. This period of artistic exploration also led her to meet Carlo Poluzzi, a renowned Genevan miniaturist who would become her mentor for the next 28 years. Under Poluzzi’s guidance, Rohr dedicated herself to enamel miniatures, a dedication that bore fruit in her long-standing partnership with Patek Philippe starting in 1967. This collaboration allowed her to fully express her artistic vision, secure in the knowledge that she had access to the finest materials necessary for her work.

Over nearly 50 years, the constant support from Patek Philippe and the Stern family enabled her to focus on regular commissions, cementing her reputation among connoisseurs of her art. In 2017, Rohr’s lifelong dedication to the art of enamelling was celebrated with a Special Jury Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, awarded jointly to her and her former protégée Anita Porchet, highlighting the enduring impact of her work and her desire to see the appreciation for the art of miniatures continue into the 21st century.

Timekeeper of History and Innovation

Dr. Rebecca Struthers, distinguished in the horology world for her profound blend of expertise as both a historian and an artisanal watchmaker, navigates the realms of history, technology, and art with unparalleled passion.

Her discussions effortlessly span from the effects of the Industrial Revolution on timekeeping to speculative measures of time in deep space, underscoring her extensive knowledge and curiosity.

Struthers is notable not only for her rare status as one of the UK’s few artisanal watchmakers—a craft deemed ‘endangered’—but also as the sole horologist with a PhD in the discipline. Her celebrated book, “Hands of Time: a Watchmaker’s History of Time,” alongside her forthcoming publication aimed at educating children on science and history through watches, reflects her dedication to marrying the precision of engineering with the warmth of artistry. Utilizing age-old tools and methods, she crafts watches that symbolize both a reverence for historical craftsmanship and a foresight into the evolution of timekeeping.

Struthers’s workshop is a testament to centuries of horological tradition, with tools dating back to the mid-19th century, each bearing witness to the meticulous and time-consuming craft of watchmaking.

The creation of each timepiece, a process that spans years, exemplifies her commitment to maintaining the integrity and luxury status of watches as not just keepers of time but markers of scientific advancement and social stature.

Amidst a booming luxury watch market, Struthers’s work and insights delve into the philosophical dimensions of our relationship with time, from ancient practices to the futuristic implications of life beyond Earth. Her musings on how humanity will adapt its perception and measurement of time in the cosmos highlight the continuous and dynamic dialogue between our historical and future engagements with time, encapsulating the ever-evolving narrative of watchmaking.

Steering the Course of Time

Under Nayla Hayek’s visionary leadership, the Swatch Group and the iconic Harry Winston brand have soared to new heights in the global market, showcasing a remarkable blend of innovation, heritage, and diversity.

When the Swatch Group acquired Harry Winston four years ago, Hayek, already a distinguished figure in the industry and the daughter of Nicolas G. Hayek—credited with revitalizing the Swiss watch industry—assumed the role of CEO with a clear vision.

Her familiarity with the corporate giant’s structure, combined with her unique perspective and ambitious goals, positioned her to transform Harry Winston into a leading name not just in jewelry but in haute horlogerie as well. Hayek’s approach was holistic; she aimed to elevate the brand’s global stature while staying true to its American legacy and expanding its horological offerings to captivate new audiences without alienating the existing clientele.

Hayek’s tenure at Harry Winston has been marked by a strategic expansion of the brand’s watch portfolio, particularly targeting female customers—a demographic that, while already enamored with the brand’s jewelry, had less engagement with its timepieces.

The challenge was to respect Harry Winston’s illustrious history as a purveyor of fine diamonds and jewelry, synonymous with New York glamour and Hollywood elegance, while innovating in the realm of women’s watches.

Under her guidance, the brand introduced new automatic watches in the Midnight and Avenue collections, thus broadening its appeal. This strategic shift not only leveraged Harry Winston’s legacy of luxury but also responded to the growing demand for women’s watches that blend impeccable craftsmanship with wearable art.

Through Hayek’s leadership, Harry Winston has reaffirmed its status as a jewel in the crown of the luxury watch and jewelry market, navigating the delicate balance between preserving the brand’s DNA and forging ahead with innovative designs and technical prowess.

Engineering Elegance in Time

In April 2022, watchmaker Camille de Rouvray embarked on a new chapter far from the bustling streets of Paris, setting up her watch repair atelier in the serene, hilltop village of Mirmande in southeastern France.

After graduating from the Lycée Diderot’s watchmaking program in 2020 and co-founding the Horlogerie du Passage in Paris, de Rouvray yearned for the tranquility and space the countryside offered for her intricate work.

With a rich family history intertwined with the craft—tracing back to Jean-André Lepaute, Louis XV’s watchmaker—she brought a deep passion for the history of watchmaking and a network of global contacts to her new venture. Despite initial concerns about attracting clients in the Drôme region, her unique approach quickly attracted attention, including complex projects from other watchmakers, such as repairing a watch from 1780.

Camille’s work extends beyond her atelier, as she frequently collaborates with specialists across Europe, including recreating components for antique clocks and maintaining historic timepieces in France’s renowned châteaus like Fontainebleau and Versailles.

This dedication to public heritage work underlines her belief in preserving the art of watchmaking for community and future generations.

De Rouvray’s journey from Paris to Mirmande exemplifies her commitment to the craft, blending her profound interest in clocks and antique objects with a desire to contribute to the preservation of horological history, proving that her dialogue with each piece is not just a profession but a passion that transcends time.

Mastering the Art of Enamel in the Heart of Swiss Watchmaking

Anita Porchet, a name synonymous with the pinnacle of enameling artistry in Switzerland, stands as a testament to the fusion of tradition and innovation in the luxury watchmaking industry.

Born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the cradle of Swiss horology, Porchet has lent her extraordinary talents to prestigious watch houses including Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, and Fabergé, creating miniature masterpieces that adorn the dials and cases of their finest timepieces.

Her unparalleled skill in employing techniques such as cloisonné, champlevé, plique-à-jour, email Grand Feu, paillonné, and miniature painting has not only garnered her widespread recognition but also the esteemed Gaïa award in 2015, highlighting her contributions to the art of watchmaking.

In 1994, Porchet established her workshop in her hometown, where she not only continues to produce her enameling works but also shares her knowledge and passion for the craft by teaching enameling skills to new artisans.

Her professional journey, significantly influenced by her godfather—a master engraver, stone setter, and enameler—reflects a deep commitment to preserving the intricate art of enameling within the watch industry.

Anita Porchet’s work embodies a rare dialogue between art and timekeeping, ensuring that each piece she touches tells a story far beyond the simple passage of time, for the community and generations to come.

Timepieces and Cultures at Christie’s

Mona Qiu’s unique position as a watch specialist at Christie’s allows her unparalleled access to the world of rare and exquisite timepieces, a role she describes as a blessing. Her journey from a childhood fascination with mechanical objects in Shanghai to the forefront of the luxury watch market embodies a blend of passion and expertise.

After moving to the United States in 2006 and gaining significant experience at Cartier, Qiu joined Christie’s, where she contributed to developing its online sales platform.

Her career took a pivotal turn upon her return to China in 2020, culminating in her promotion to a watch specialist role in Hong Kong, where she skillfully manages consignments, evaluations, authentication, and marketing.

In her influential position, Qiu oversees the journey of each timepiece from intake to sale, a responsibility she cherishes deeply. Her work includes notable achievements, such as coordinating the Philippe and Elisabeth Dufour Foundation auction in Hong Kong, which raised significant funds for charity.

As one of the few female specialists in a global team, Mona brings a distinct perspective to curating Christie’s watch collection, highlighting the critical role women play in shaping the luxury watch market.

Her story is not just about personal success; it’s about how diverse viewpoints enrich the world of horology, driving the industry forward with innovation and sensitivity towards the crafts’ heritage and future demands.

As we close the chapter on our exploration of the remarkable women who have left an indelible mark on the watchmaking industry, it’s clear that their contributions extend far beyond the intricate movements of timepieces and the luxurious designs of fashion. They have paved new pathways for innovation, challenged traditional norms, and brought a diverse and rich perspective to an age-old craft.

Their stories of resilience, creativity, and leadership not only inspire future generations of watchmakers and designers but also remind us of the transformative power of diversity in driving the industry forward. As the hands of the clock continue to turn, the legacy of these women will resonate, influencing the evolution of watchmaking and ensuring that the future of horology is as dynamic and inclusive as the world it seeks to keep in time.

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Continuing the Legacy with My Jewelry Repair

As we reflect on the monumental strides made by women in the watch world, it becomes evident that the spirit of innovation and meticulous care they embody is mirrored in the services offered by My Jewelry Repair. Specializing in premier jewelry and watch repair, My Jewelry Repair embraces the same dedication to craftsmanship, precision, and excellence that these trailblazing women have showcased.

Whether it’s restoring a cherished timepiece or refining a beloved piece of jewelry, My Jewelry Repair ensures that every item entrusted to them is treated with the utmost care and expertise, honoring the legacy of innovation and skill that has been cultivated by women in the horology and jewelry industries.

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