Watches: How Elle MacPherson changed the watch industry

Ok, so this might be debatable, but for me currently the most fashionable and desirable luxury watch for stylish women is the automatic Rolex Daytona, preferably, according to my wife, in pink gold. This popularity didn't happen overnight, but the repercussions of the demand did create a worldwide trend for women to wear the larger sized, typically mens watches, regardless of manufacturer or value. You could be forgiven for congratulating Rolex on such a great advertising campaign that managed to generate a whole new demographic of buyer for mens watches, however, not for the first time, Rolex seemingly had little involvement in their own success.

 Elle MacPherson wearing a yellow gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona with white dial Ref. 16528, and not much else.

Elle MacPherson wearing a yellow gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona with white dial Ref. 16528, and not much else.

In a time when men wore 35mm diameter watches and women their tiny 26mm feminine versions, a 6ft Australian super-model named Elle MacPheason had made a name for herself after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition no less than 5 times. Aptly nicknamed 'The Body', Elle was often featured in magazines on some beautiful beach wearing a bikini, necklace, and colorful bracelets worn with yellow gold automatic Rolex Daytona (on her right wrist). I recall at the time comments such as, "why is she wearing a mens watch? and "who wears a gold Daytona and bikini?" Still though, few could deny she wore the combination well and looked simply stunning. This was the beginning of the 'boyfriend watch' 

 In my search this is what appears to be the earliest photograph taken of Elle MacPherson wearing the gold Rolex Daytona/bikini combination, although I am sure there are others.

In my search this is what appears to be the earliest photograph taken of Elle MacPherson wearing the gold Rolex Daytona/bikini combination, although I am sure there are others.

Regardless of opinion's on Elle's wrist-fashion statement, and it was a statement, the watch world, meaning at that time the Italians, took notice. Soon similarly statuesque Italian women could be seen wearing the (then) near impossible to find steel automatic Daytona, while their husbands wore the smaller vintage Paul Newman version, a true power-couple. Despite the markets infatuation with steel, Elle's love of the gold Daytona continued as she was rarely photographed wearing any other watch.

From memory it was the less impressive Tara Reid who followed 'The Body's' fashion of bikini and yellow gold Rolex Daytona, not that she was alone as other celebrities including Brooklyn Decker, Paris Hilton, Elizabeth Hurley, Jennifer Aniston, Charlize Theron, Jessica Simpson and Victoria Beckham to name but a few, can all be seen wearing a version of Rolex Daytona in various states of (un)dress. Today the automatic Daytona, whether in steel, rose, yellow or white gold, is a staple accessory in the wardrobe of style-consious successful women around the world, and looks great on all of them.

 Photographed by Giles Bensimon

Photographed by Giles Bensimon

Like the legendary Paul Newman before her, I suspect even the business-minded Elle MacPherson didn't anticipate the influence her love of the Rolex Daytona would have on the industry, those that follow it, and every women who today wears a watch designed for men.

Personally, I think women look much sexier wearing mens-size watches, so thanks Elle, I owe you.