Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

By Gennady Oreshkin
28 Mar 2024
8min read

Here’s a look at the ladies who’ve shaped the watch world as we know it

Numerous innovations in horology owe their success to women, yet this fact remains often overlooked. We're not merely referring to niche artisans—although their contributions are significant—but rather, we wish to shine a spotlight on the women at the forefront of our cherished watch industry.

Jacqueline Dimier

Before becoming the visionary who conceptualized Audemars Piguet’s first-ever women’s version of the Royal Oak, Dimier was at Rolex, which she joined in 1968 as a designer. Seven years later, she moved to AP, where she spent 24 years. The famed Royal Oak was conceived as a men’s watch, but in 1976, the revolutionary Model 8638 was born. Powered by the Calibre 2062 movement framed by sleek, clean lines, the model has become an unmistakable mark of legacy, taste, and high watchmaking. It’s no surprise that Royal Oak is so loved by luminaries like Serena Williams, Cardi B, Millie Bobby Brown, and Hailey Bieber. 

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

Annegret Fleischer

As an accomplished engineer and designer, Annegret Fleischer's crowning achievement for A. Lange & Söhne was the creation of the Datograph Movement in 1999. It was a grueling four-year battle against the unrelenting laws of physics. The result? A masterpiece consisting of 405 meticulously crafted parts. This feat demonstrated her understanding and mastery of complex structures, as also evidenced by the eight years required to develop the Tourbograph "Pour le Mérite". Composed of 136 individual components, the chronograph and rattrapante mechanism flawlessly execute precise switching operations within fractions of a second to avoid mechanical conflicts. For Annegret Fleischer, this was no challenge, having been born into a family of watchmakers and honing her skills with the development of the Datograph Double Split.

Caroline Scheufele

The visionary behind Chopard's evolution into a modern and multifaceted brand, Scheufele brought great deal of innovation into the maison’s oeuvre of jeweled watches. Among her horological contributions to Chopard, the most renowned is undoubtedly the Happy Diamonds Sport, introduced in 1993. This groundbreaking timepiece featured movable diamonds that danced freely around its dial, earning it the fitting moniker of "Happy." Since then, the Happy Diamond concept has been reimagined in various forms such as Happy Beach, La Vie en Rose, and Happy Spirit. In 2019, the Happy Sport Medium Automatic took this iconic design to new heights by combining it with mechanical watchmaking. 

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

Christine Hutter

Hailing from Eichstätt, Germany, Hutter established her watch company Moritz Grossmann in 2008. Today, it's a highly-regarded independent brand that garners admiration from horology enthusiasts across the globe. However, Moritz Grossmann’s success was not handed to Hutter on a silver platter. Hutter had always wanted to study sports, however, when she wasn’t able to take the examination to join the program, a friend suggested that she try watchmaking, which led her to her first apprenticeship. She trained at restoring clocks, pocket watches, and wristwatches, giving second life to 19th and 20th century calibers. After moving to Switzerland, she decided to revitalize the storied legacy of watch manufacturer Moritz Grossman. Today, 90% of the maison’s movements are manufactured in- house, and, in 2019, Hutter’s leadership earned the brand the prestigious Red Dot Design Award.

Magali Métrailler

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first-ever female designer, Métrailler, joined the maison in 2002 at 23. She quickly established herself within the company and was tasked by Henry-John Belmont to design a new, rugged edition of the Master Compressor. Taking inspiration from the iconic Polaris Memovox, Métrailler crafted a revolutionary new case that surpassed anything seen before at Jaeger-LeCoultre. Her masterpiece, the Master Compressor, featured bold yet elegant design elements such as a sleek bezel and sharply defined lugs. This intricate work of art bears Métrailler's name, forever cementing her place in horological history.

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

Dr Rebecca Struthers

A true Renaissance woman, Struthers not only holds the distinction of being the sole active watchmaker in all of the UK with a Ph.D. in horology, but she also boasts an impressive array of other skills and expertise. A master historian, gemmologist, author, and engineer, Struthers discovered her passion for watchmaking during her studies at Birmingham City University, while pursuing goldsmithing. Alongside her husband, she founded their renowned watch restoration workshop, specializing in reviving vintage timepieces from before 1960. In 2013, Struthers solidified her reputation as a pioneering designer by winning the Design Innovation Award for her innovative pendant watch Stella – a 1960s movement encased in a platinum gimbal suspended within an orb crystal. Struthers completed her PhD in 2017, later turning her thesis into a captivating 280-page illustrated tome, Hands of Time, published in 2023.

Arlette Elsa-Emch

Arlette Else-Emch is a true Wonder Woman in the watch industry, possessing an impressive array of titles that seem more like superpowers. With roles such as Member of Swatch Group's Executive Management Board, President of Calvin Klein watch & jewelry, and Country Manager for Swatch Group Japan, Emch commands the industry with her expertise and leadership. She first joined Swatch Group as Communications Manager in 1992 and has since risen to become President of the CK watch and manage multiple companies within the group. Her presence on numerous boards and her extensive responsibilities make her a force to be reckoned with.

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

Marie-Laure Cérède

Cérède's ascent at Cartier was swift, her talent undeniable. As the Timepieces Creation Director, she holds the reins to the brand's entire watchmaking portfolio – a hefty responsibility that extends to both form and function. And in her time at Cartier, she has not shied away from this challenge. Cérède’s enduring tenure at the maison is marked by her reimagining some of the legacy models, like Santos and Pasha. She created the new version of the latter offered with interchangeable bracelets and straps, and a daring push-button design. It comes as no surprise that Pasha is now associated with personalities who are subverting their genres, like Rami Malek, Troye Sivan, Jackson Wang, and Maisie Williams.

Chabi Nouri

In 2017, Nouri shattered the glass ceiling and became the first female global CEO within the prestigious Richemont Group. Her formidable leadership skills were evident in Piaget's continual success under her guidance, with brilliant marketing strategies utilizing celebrity ambassadors like Jessica Chastain, Michael B Jordan, and Ryan Reynolds. From enlisting Chinese heartthrob Hu Ge to star in a short film promoting their iconic Altiplano watches, to foreseeing the importance of e-commerce during the pandemic and propelling Piaget to new heights, Nouri's sharp business acumen has solidified her place as a trailblazer in the industry – much like the maison’s founding genius himself.

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

Catherine Rénier

Since being appointed as the CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rénier made a mark by spotlighting the maison’s storied heritage and craftsmanship while, simultaneously, broadening its appeal. We credit Rénier, after all, for electing the faces of Young Hollywood like Anya Taylor Joy and Nicholas Hoult as brand ambassadors. She also launched the brand’s Made of Makers program, which includes collaborations with cutting-edge artists and artisans across disciplines. Some of such luminaries include French chef Nina Métayer (who created pastries inspired by the Golden Ratio), Korean artist Yiyun Kang (who made an installation celebrating the Reverso), and mixologist Matthias Giroud (who concocted a menu of cocktails that paid homage to the celestial origins of timekeeping).

Olivia Crouan

One of the leading ladies responsible for Audemars Piguet’s success and popularity over the recent years, Olivia Crouan, was appointed Chief Brand Officer at the maison in 2018. Last year, under Crouan’s leadership, AP won the prestigious Aiguille d’Or award at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève for its Ultra-Complication Universelle self-winding watch (RD#4). Her ambitions to foster the brand’s engagement with people outside of what’s long been considered a “watch community” is really what keeps it ahead of many of its peers and firmly rooted in cultural relevance. 

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch history

Carole Forestier-Kasapi

The title of "Queen of Complications" is not handed out without merit, and Carole Forestier-Kasapi, Movements Director at TAG Heuer, has an impressive portfolio of creations that solidify her claim to the throne. In 1997, her groundbreaking central carousel tourbillon design won her the Breguet Prize, paving the way for Ulysse Nardin's Freak timepiece. Her 15-year tenure as head of movement creation at Cartier propelled her to the forefront of haute horlogerie, where she spearheaded revolutionary designs like the Astrocalendaire – a masterpiece that eliminated sub-dials in favor of concentric circles displaying day, month, and date indications. At TAG Heuer, Forestier-Kasapi has revolutionized the iconic TH20-00 movement originally featured in Carrera models during the maison's 60th anniversary. She has also completely reimagined the Heuer 02 movement, meticulously reconstructing its automatic system and refining the bidirectional rotor.

Peggy Hu

Taking an executive-level position at a legacy maison means not only propelling the brand forward but also ensuring the culture within the company is open and congenial. And this is exactly how Peggy Hu, CEO of Audemars Piguet Greater China, approaches her role. It was thanks to such attitude Hu delivered monumental projects for the brand, like the opening of the second AP House in Hong Kong, which marked a shift towards experiential retail that echoes the desires of consumers. And her accomplishments don’t stop here. For Hu, it's not just about business success – she is on a mission to make women feel valued and included in the traditionally male-dominated watch industry, given how the share of female clients for AP  in greater China alone rose from 25% to 30% in recent years. 

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

Danièla Dufour

Daughter of the “Master of Watchmaking’ Philippe Dufour, Danièla is a prodigy in her own right. At the young age of 20, she created her first timepiece – the immaculate Danièla Dufour Simplicity. As a young woman of color, Dufour faced a fair share of prejudice in her watchmaking journey. It also took her two years to convince her father to come to terms with the idea of her following his footsteps. At long last, once he acquiesced, she got to work. Enduring grueling hours at her father's workshop while simultaneously attending École Technique de la Vallée de Joux, Danièla poured every ounce of dedication and perfectionism into her masterpiece – Simplicity. It came as no surprise that the timepiece attracted much deserved attention at Watches and Wonders 2023.

Ginny Wright

As CEO of Audemars Piguet in the Americas, Wright played a crucial role in cementing the brand's success in this part of the world. Along with global CEO François-Henry Bennahmias, she crafted a groundbreaking strategy to shift AP's business model from wholesale to retail. Despite having prior experience with beauty brands, Wright went above and beyond to expand her knowledge of watches, the brand, and the industry as a whole. A year after joining the prestigious maison in 2021, she led the charge in opening America's first AP House in New York - solidifying her reputation as a leading light in the luxury watch market.

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

Ilaria Resta

Ilaria Resta, a true symbol of change, excellence, and progress, has taken the helm as the CEO at Audemars Piguet this year. While her predecessor François-Henry Bennahmias set the brand on a phenomenal growth trajectory over the last decade, Resta wants to ensure the brand’s fundamentals function smoothly. She is set on innovating and pushing the boundaries of research that make AP timepieces so coveted and unique. To her, this means exploring new and ergonomic complications while making them relevant to the younger customer and leveraging powerful collaborations with leading names in music and entertainment.

Horology Queens: Women That Made Watch History

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