Bringing back the classics with a bang – The evolution of Cartier’s timepieces


Cartier launches amazing reinterpretations, and the results are fascinating

Drawing on archives is one way for watchmakers to enrich the identity of their maison; when it comes to a house with as rich a history as Cartier, there is plenty of room to grow and prune that legacy into incredible timepieces.

If you ask the maison’s international marketing and communications director Arnaud Carrez, he will tell you that this trend of drawing on the past had been the norm since the house’s early watchmaking days, and has never fallen out of fashion at Cartier.

Cartier Privé Tonneau watch

Evidence supporting this short history lesson is this year’s key launch, the reinvented Cartier Privé Tonneau Watch, the earliest wristwatch launched by the house.

“Cartier always remains singularly distinctive,” Carrez says. “We do so by reinventing iconic collections which are already very strong. We are committed to pushing boundaries in terms of creativity and taste, and this creativity is very much a part of what our house represents.”

Cartier is never one to bore with a conventional round watch and the Tonneau silhouette had been a significant part of the house’s watchmaking journey.

“Tonneau is one of the oldest shapes at Cartier, it was founded in 1906,” Carrez adds. “It is quite interesting as a mythical design. We wanted this year to pay tribute to it by launching these amazing reinterpretations, and the results are fascinating.”

“We are committed to pushing boundaries in terms of creativity and taste, and this creativity is very much a part of what our house represents” – Arnaud Carrez

The Privé Tonneau is enriched with watchmaking know-how and was launched this year as an extensive collection with references in pink gold and platinum, and with movements of varying levels of complexity. Between the simple three hands and the dual time zone skeleton reference, the watches share the same elongated shape in two sizes, tapering along the top and the bottom, creating a comfortable curve to rest on wrists of all sizes.

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Carrez stresses that design is always of prime importance at Cartier. “It’s about the timeless design; we are also adding techniques that serve the design, that make the design more powerful. Techniques should be enhancing the design itself. We are not a movement manufacturer, we are building timeless beautifully designed objects, and then we find and develop movements that perfectly match that design.”

To answer the demanding technical requirements of fitting a movement into a case that is neither round or square, Cartier developed a new movement for the dual time skeleton reference – in-house calibre 9919 – in which, unlike previous dual time watches where two movements are used to operate the two different time zones, a single movement propels the timekeeping of the two sets of hour and minute hands.

The Panthère de Cartier with diamonds

Cartier has continued its journey by reinventing two other icons, the Santos and Panthère, with new references added to both collections. “We’ve already experienced a year of success with the new Santos collection, and a successful two years already in the transformation of the Panthère. We are once again reinventing these icons this year,” Carrez says.

The latest chronograph addition to the Santos de Cartier collection.

The square shape of the Santos de Cartier brings out a rigid ruggedness, and the watch’s evergreen design appeals to both genders. This year’s Santos Dumont is presented in both 38mm and 43.5mm, the Chronograph reference measures 43.3mm and the Santos Skeleton takes on a 39.8mm case, all of which are interpretations of last year’s Santos facelift, leaving a range that has been enriched to include cases in steel, steel with ADLC coating, and various hints of gold.

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The Cartier de Santos Skeleton ADLC Noctambule watch

The year’s highlight from the range is the Santos de Cartier skeleton Noctambule, featuring a skeletonised dial and manual winding calibre 9612 MC that is equipped with 72 hours of power reserve. Measuring 39.8mm wide, the Noctambule can accommodate a significant range of wrist sizes.

The Panthère de Cartier, this year reduced in size and presented as the Mini range, is perhaps a nod to the growing stackable bangle trend. The supple gold bracelet of the piece blurs the line between watch and jewel, which, as Carrez points out, is a strength of Cartier.

The Panthère de Cartier cuff watch

“We were born as a jeweller, that gives us a special position in the watch market. Cartier, being a jeweller, addresses the watch market very differently and this is our distinction,” he says.

The Panthère, with its different references of metals and gem set, ensures that the collection ranges from welcoming to aspirational. “We’ve always been committed to remaining very exclusive, and at the same time being very welcoming,” Carrez says. “This is part of our DNA.”

Note – This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website