Women to WatchBy Joy Corthesy
Let’s face it — 2018 is the year of the Woman, capital “W”. In every industry, there’s a change in attitude when it comes to women in the workplace, but the truth is that it’s been a long time coming, even in watchmaking. Revolution talks to the women rising through the ranks, bringing their vision to the table in the spirit of enriching the conversation.
Timepieces Creative Director for Cartier
Joining Cartier this year as the Creative Director for their watchmaking branch was a homecoming for Cérède, who originally started her career in the industry with the maison. Passionate about defining and upholding the brand’s position as tastemakers in style and elegance, Cérède is spearheading the creative vision for Cartier’s watches — modernizing icons while staying true their heritage.
“Cartier has always been my maison. When the opportunity comes to enter the company when you’re young like I was, you just fall in love with it and it doesn’t leave you. It has such a tradition of excellence, of unparalleled richness in its archives, and the emotions its icons have evoked throughout time is a constant source of creative inspiration.
I got into watchmaking very early in my studies, and then worked hard in the industry to move up, meeting exceptional craftsmen along the way, from watchmakers to gem setters. All of those exchanges have contributed to my passion for watches and their timelessness, especially the savoire-faire behind the product. In terms of creativity, I actually enjoy the constraints of the watchmaking techniques and the fact that you have to understand these techniques before transcending them. This makes it necessary to be even more creative if you want the design to come before technique, which remains the maison’s signature. I approach each creation as a challenge.
I really love working with our team of talented designers. It’s a pleasure to work with them every day. First and foremost, I try to cultivate an environment where we can create collectively. I think we can better serve the maison as a group then alone, with humility and honest dialogue. I also enjoy working with the manufacture, who are extraordinarily efficient for us — real workers capable of perpetually evolving and improving on techniques to benefit the design.
Every creation is a different story. The real challenge comes when you need to pick the right creative process for the right product. Reworking an icon is also one of the most demanding tasks, especially when it is known and respected by most. You have to begin by understanding the contemporary values you want to infuse in order to choose the right direction, values that will make it more appealing to our clients — renewing it without disfiguring it. It’s an exercise rife with subtleties. And the best way to proceed with that is to leave room for intuitive thinking without forgetting the brand’s history.
I try to infuse each new creation within the Cartier spirit by keeping true to our heritage and, most of all, our clients — they are the ones who expect something from Cartier they can’t find anywhere else.
I believe in expertise and passion, and those two values don’t lend themselves more to men or women, but to the individual. Watchmaking can definitely have more of a feminine tone and Cartier contributes to that. The only barrier to the industry is one’s lack of knowledge, and that can apply to men as well as women. In my studio, women can design the most beautiful men’s pieces as much as men can also draw the most beautiful women’s pieces. It is not a question of gender; it is only a question of creativity and inspiration.
Founder of Fiona Krüger Timepieces
Kruger came into the watch industry as, essentially, an outsider. At 25, this Scottish artist with a shock of white blonde hair, sharp wit, and a sketchbook set out to design and collaborate on her Skull watch with supply partners, fighting to be a part of the conversation. Now, Fiona Kruger Timepieces creates bespoke Skull watches, with an entirely new collection coming this year.
“Working with all the supply partners and retailers, it initially took a lot of time for them to trust me and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe this is going to be an issue,’ because I couldn’t see anybody else like me, and I thought there must obviously be a reason for that. It wasn’t solely because I’m a woman, but I think it was part of it, in the sense that I just wasn’t what they were used to seeing. I wasn’t being taken seriously in the beginning, but that was because they’ve seen so many brands come and go, so naturally they were very protective of their industry because they’re very proud of it. It took time for them to see that I was serious, and it came about when they saw my collaborative approach and also that every time they had a question, I had an answer for it.
This is an industry that, at least in the past, has been very male-dominated. The bulk of the products produced were made with the male consumer in mind, and most of the CEOs are men, and all the suppliers I worked with were men. But if you look at what a watch is today versus what a watch was, I think it fits with the way a woman’s brain works. Watches have always had a history of being a tool, it’s a very practical thing to have. Now that’s not the case, people literally don’t need what we’re making. You don’t buy it because you need it, you buy it because you fall in love with it. That emotive line of thinking and intuition is something that women just have. That’s what women, if we got more involved in the industry, could bring to the table — the discussion would just be richer. I’m not at all saying that women design for women, or that we need to meet a quota of women in the industry, but I think there’s an approach that suits the way women naturally think, and we can bring something new to the industry.
A way to do this is letting women know that they are welcome and for people to genuinely be interested in what women have to say, but it’s also a woman’s responsibility to put her hand up and say ‘I want to be involved.’ You can’t expect somebody to roll out the red carpet for you. But it’s important that they get the message that the industry wants to listen to them, and I think that’s something women don’t really feel right now. It’s not like if we brought women into the industry there would suddenly be a tidal wave of pink butterfly watches. There’s an emotional intelligence which will be more useful because we’re in the business of selling emotion, so why not engage it?”
Chairwoman and Managing Director of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH)
Lupo has had, without a doubt, her hand on the pulse of watchmaking for decades as head of the FHH. She has been in the unique position of leading an organization whose sole purpose is to promote the industry — doing so with a steady hand while still keeping an eye on the changing tides in watchmaking.
“I’m not concerned about gender in watchmaking. We are first of all human beings — independent of being men and women, we have strengths and weaknesses. We all have the same capacities and the same skills. I think the efforts of the FHH will help, promoting our great industry to both men and women.
Regarding watchmakers, they are mainly men. But, more and more women are interested in watchmaking and becoming watchmakers. Here in Switzerland, watchmaking is rooted in the culture. I think more and more women as customers are interested in mechanical watches and they love these beautiful objects. They don’t just want watches with colors and diamonds, they are also pleased to understand what is inside the watch.
I love to be in charge of one of the most beautiful missions, to spread the culture and know how about this fantastic industry, working with a fantastic team, and I love the freedom I have. If we have good ideas, we are able to implement them. We can create new projects, conferences, workshops and more, always bringing added value to the work of our partner brands. I am in the middle of the industry, working with all the brands. I am in an exciting position, as I can speak to everyone. I think it’s better to be a woman amid all these men. You have a special position, I am seen as a partner not a competitor.
More women will lead to better products designed for women. They are doing less and less the same watches for women and men. They are now developing specific women’s watches. It’s the right direction. You don’t want our watches to just be the little sister of a man’s watch. We need to have our own watches.
I see very few women in power. We have Chabi (Nouri) at Piaget, who is doing a fantastic job. It’s cool to see these young gifted women at the head of these brands and we need more. I am not in favor of the quotas, but I think they will help get more women in positions of power. We are half of humanity, why shouldn’t we be half of the decision makers? I think there should be more women on the boards of the brands, to help implement change and make a difference.”
Director of Movement Creation for Cartier
Once dubbed Cartier’s “Queen of Complications,” Forestier-Kasapi came into the industry at a young age — her passion left her no other choice but to be in watchmaking. With a strong point of view and integrity for the craft, Forestier-Kasapi betters her ideas every year, maintaining Cartier as a king in the watch world.
“I was born in a family of watchmakers — that’s how I got started. My parents had an atelier, and I was always in it after school. That’s how I became passionate about the industry. From the beginning I wanted to work in watchmaking, and I wanted to go to school for watchmaking. When I was a kid in school, everyone was a fan of Michael Jackson, and I was a fan of Abraham-Louis Breguet and all the big watchmakers.
In the end, creating is having ideas, and having a good idea can happen to anyone. Everyone’s going to have a good idea a few times in their lives. What’s difficult is to have a new idea every year that tops the one from the year before, and to be consistent and to build something that makes sense.
On the technical side of the industry, there are actually a lot of women in watchmaking, but it’s often in repetitive tasks that require dexterity and nimble hands. And historically, there are departments where there are more women, like human resources. But in watch development and in upper management, there aren’t many — almost none.
The difficulty with being a woman in this type of industry depends on the position you’re in. What’s difficult is to bring forward ideas as a woman, because people often have a lot of pre-existing notions about you. I find it horrible to go into a meeting where it’s only men. And it really shouldn’t be that way, because when there is diversity in an industry, it’s richer and better for it. If you only have the same men talking to other versions of themselves, then the conversation and the product is less rich.
There haven’t been women that have had long careers in watchmaking. I chose it because I was very passionate about it and because I didn’t think of doing anything else. When you’re young and looking for a job, you need to pay your dues in the industry and prove yourself. And when you’re a woman, you have to do it twice over, once because you’re young and another time because you’re a woman. The problem is men hiring other men. It’s not the girls who are the problem. Honestly, young girls have all the passion and determination in the world, but that doesn’t matter when there are no jobs for you when you get out of school.
If more women were in charge in the industry, the definition of the product, the way of making it, the way of organizing or streamlining the process to the designs — everything would change. The industry is poorer because there is mostly a male perspective, and a perspective is only rich when it’s challenged and diverse and when different points of views cross paths. If the same guy hires a guy similar to him, they’re only going to make similar watches, and the industry is hurt by this.”
Timepieces Director at Fabergé
Winning numerous awards for her creativity and ingenuity as Fabergé’s lead in timepieces creation, Picaud is a creative force to be reckoned with. Her work has been instrumental in establishing Fabergé as a brand to watch in the industry, surprising clients and journalists year after year with new complications and strong collections.
“I am lucky because I love many aspects of my job as Fabergé Timepieces Director. I was awarded so much creative freedom, which was very exciting and something I really embraced, but intimidating at the same time. We only had 18 months to develop and launch a new timepieces collection, including new exclusive mechanical movements, so I had to follow a very strict plan of action. I was also alone in the timepieces team for the first 18 months and, therefore, in addition to working on the first watch collections to be launched, it was also important to begin building a team to be ready when the first watches would come to the market.
Breaking into any industry as an outsider is difficult and poses its own unique set of challenges. In today’s environment, this is happening all the time and the line of gender barely exists. It’s not so much about a woman breaking into a male dominated industry but more about an individual making a mark in an industry that has not been traditionally of their domain.
Watchmaking in general might sound quite technical and remains, in the mind of people, something more adapted to men. We find most of the women in marketing and PR departments even if there are so many more options which could appeal to women. Also, a technical orientation should not scare women, rather it should encourage them to broaden their career options.
An increased presence of women in key positions in watchmaking could contribute to the evolution of women’s watches — women’s watches are still too often considered a simple reduction of men’s watches to which some gemstones are added. Women’s watches are underappreciated and their development would just need to get the same attention as men’s watches. But I am also thinking that maybe the real evolution would be to not separate men’s and women’s watches in two different categories anymore. The idea would simply be to develop and propose watches appealing to the taste of different types of people without any gender consideration.
I don’t think there are any real barriers and being a woman is not always a disadvantage, however, there are for sure some psychological barriers which have been established within our society for many years. I think that we should just all change the way we think and stop having in mind that this is about being a man or a woman: in my opinion, this is more about each individual’s asset and, slowly, I hope we can celebrate a new approach within the watch industry where both women and men have the opportunity to express their talents.”