By Rebecca Doulton
Like Alice in Wonderland who finds the magical bottle containing the words DRINK ME, allowing her to shrink, watches now seem to have taken a swig of the potion too. Whether it was a reaction to the recession of 2009, a jaded affair with bling, or a return to the safety of classicism that has promoted this new moderation, there is a theory out there for everybody.
What is curious, though, is that some watch companies are playing the game both ways and are being deliberately ambivalent about whether a watch is for men or women. With the new reign of more restrained watch measurements, many brands have come up with collections that are suitable for both sexes. The new IWC Portofino Midsize, modelled by Cate Blanchett and Ewan McGregor in the same lavish advertising production, is the perfect example of a his-and-hers watch in a cross-dressing 37mm case.
The lovely new Slim d'Hermès collection is another example of how one impeccable design seduces both sexes with equal pull. A new classic for Hermès' elegant stable of wonderfully designed objects, this ultra-thin watch features a dial that is understated thanks to the new typography employed for the numerals. Available in three different sizes, it would be almost impossible not to find a model you liked.
Nomos watches, the award-winning brand from Germany with the great Bauhaus design, real value for money and in-house movements, does not usually distinguish between men's and ladies' watches and only hints at the distinction with slight differences in case size. The sublime Lux watch was so popular with both sexes that the 40.5mm white gold case is now offered in cases of 38.5mm for slightly smaller wrists.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Rolex watches, the bastion of Swiss watchmaking, has adopted a similar strategy with its Pearlmaster. We have already seen how the iconic Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date reappeared this year with a smaller 40mm case, but the Pearlmaster, described by Rolex watches as the brand's "crowning jewellery watch" and last seen in a 34mm case, has suddenly done the exact opposite and taken a nibble of the cake designed to make Alice grow again. From a 34mm ladies' high jewellery watch, the Pearlmaster fleshes out to a full 39mm, occupying a new domain left ambiguously and deliberately open for both sexes, with dials and sapphire-set bezels in gorgeous gradients of colour.
Perhaps the most eloquent testimonial of a watch that is popular with both sexes is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual. Fittingly named, this watch is quintessential Rolex and is a direct descendant of the 1926 Oyster. Robust, sporty and very wearable, there are now five different sizes - from 39mm all the way down to 26mm - with updated dials featuring colour. Who said Rolex was not in tune with the times?