Cartier has been universally touted as the definitive expert on jewelry design. Where many companies allow the movement finishing and construction to take center stage, Cartier’s focus generally revolves around case and dial, playing off a rich legacy of pieces spanning nearly 200 years. From Tank, to Santos, to Ballon Bleu, to Crash to Pasha, Cartier’s core models are recognized as some of the most refined dress pieces in the industry.
Culturally within the US, those wearing Cartier pieces have always been viewed as elegant and dignified people of high society. This perception has made Cartier watches representative of an aspirational lifestyle and attitude beyond pure watchmaking. Today, we will analyze some of the most exceptional and significant pieces in their history, spanning from vintage reissues to modern introductions. These are the pieces you should be considering for your next Cartier.
Cartier Crash Reissue 2019
A truly unique design from the Cartier family possessing a considerable amount of lore and legend surrounding its origin, the Cartier Crash is generally considered to have been designed based on a damaged piece destroyed in a car crash. The whimsical and asymmetrical case has tantalized the desires of Cartier enthusiasts since its introduction in 1967. This particular reissue is exclusively available through the London Cartier Boutique in extremely limited numbers (it is believed that only 1 example was made per month). Even if you wanted this piece, the wait list is extensive, as collectors have lined up to put their name in the hat. A beautiful reissue of the original classic, this piece pays homage to one of the brand’s most significant and recognizable styles.
Cartier Tortue Monopoussoir Chronograph
The intersection of design and horological complication, the Tortue Monopoussoir Chronograph is a member of Cartier’s Privé Collection. Inspired by vintage references within the brand, the 1998 monopusher chronograph was released as part of Cartier’s realignment of their collection to further emphasize their watchmaking heritage. The white gold case houses a beautiful silver guilloché dial with blue markings and blued hands. Believed to exist in less than 2000 examples, the Tortue Monopoussoir Chronograph features a sapphire caseback to showcase its hand wound caliber 045MC.
Cartier Santos Dumont 1575 Ultra Thin Limited Edition
Another pillar of the Cartier catalog, the Santos Dumont, with its iconic (as much as I hate the word) case silhouette, was introduced in 1904. The 1575 Ultra Thin Limited Edition with salmon dial was released in commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the model line in a limited edition of 1,997 pieces (1997 was the 90th anniversary since the model didn’t hit the boutique shelves until 1907). The platinum case of the 1575 adds heft to the otherwise petite wristwatch and complements the platinum deployant buckle. Perhaps most encouraging is Cartier’s maintenance of traditional proportions— the case measures just 27 x 36mm. Blued sword hands and a blue strap tie the piece together with a splash of added color that accentuates the striking sunburst dial.
Cartier Privé Collection Tank Asymétrique
Another piece that showcases the brilliance of Cartier design, the Asymétrique is based on the aesthetics of a belt buckle, with the lug system and clasp both exploiting the motif. The 12 o’clock has also been shifted to 1 or 2 o’clock and the lugs skewed to form a parallelogram with the case. While these details are unique to the Asymétrique line, the piece maintains much of the design language of the broader Tank collection, with pronounced brancards and the underlying case to dial ratio. This piece was limited to 100 examples in rose gold. It is always gratifying to see a brand as large as Cartier generating limited editions of such small numbers rather than calling a 1,000 piece run a limited edition (as is the case with many other premier brands).
Cartier Privé Collection Cloche de Cartier
Continuing with the theme of Cartier pieces with unique case profiles, we arrive at the Cloche (translated as bell or dome) de Cartier. The Cloche de Cartier’s history extends back to the 1920s, when Cartier first introduced the model to the collection. Reincarnated in 2021 with a limited edition of 100 pieces in platinum, the piece’s dial rotates 12 o’clock 90 degrees to directly in line with the sapphire cabochon. An ivory dial contributes the nostalgia of vintage references with its off-coloring and subtle warmth. The design is topped off with blued hands for a departure from the otherwise simple palette.
Cartier Santos De Cartier Skeleton
Adapting a time tested design to conform to modern trends and collector proclivities is very hard to do well. Cartier’s 2020 Santos de Cartier skeleton is as successful as a piece of this sort gets. The beauty of the piece is that the carcass of the skeleton dial forms the Roman numerals that aid in time keeping. Each numeral has received anglage and satinated surfaces (much in the way a movement would be finished). The Santos de Cartier was originally added to the Cartier collection in 1904 as a commissioned piece for Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont. After its success, the collection was expanded significantly.
Cartier Tank Chinoise
The Tank is likely Cartier’s most famous collection, with many variations introduced over the years. The most traditional and classic would likely be a Tank Louis with guilloché dial. Lesser known but equally interesting is the Privé Collection Tank Chinoise. Fashioned from platinum, compared to the Tank Louis, the Chinoise has flattened brancards and more substantial sizing. It’s certainly a modern interpretation of the Tank design language, but it nonetheless is traditional and reserved in appearance. The design of the Tank Chinoise was influenced by East Asian architecture and this model was limited to only 150 pieces in its present configuration.
Cartier 100th Anniversary Tank Cintrée
The Tank Cintrée represents the evolution of the Tank through the art deco period. When first introduced, the piece was controversial with its radiused case and crystal. Today, the piece is a popular favorite among Cartier collectors, appreciated for its retro vibes and refinements. Linked above is the 100th Anniversary re-imagination of the design— a 150 piece limited edition in yellow gold. The painted lettering is raised ever so slightly off the dial surface; the creamy dial color has a texture that’s three dimensional in nature; the blued Breguet hands are small but perfectly suited for the piece. It’s surprising how clean and simple the design is without sacrificing interest and magnetism.
Cartier Tank Cintrée Dual Time
If you like the aesthetic of the Cintrée but want a bit more complication, you’ll get what you’re looking for with the Cintrée Dual Time. Housing two independent movements controlling two separate dials, the yellow gold case of the piece preserves the vaulted camber that defines the model line. Once worn by trendsetters, the Cintrée Dual Time is today an acquired taste of very refined dressers and those that appreciate retro styling and unrelenting commitment to craft.
Cartier Pasha Perpetual Calendar Moonphase
Last but certainly not least, we have a Grand Complication, the Pasha Perpetual Calendar. The Pasha is broadly misunderstood, living in the shadow of the Tank and Santos, but this piece is in truth, quite a beauty. The round case is accentuated by oblong oval sub registers that are in turn joined by guilloché engraving. The moonphase at twelve is framed by a flaked gold backdrop that contrasts starkly with the blue of the moonphase. Few know that the Cartier Pasha was designed by Genta, the visionary of the Nautilus, Royal Oak, and Polerouter. This piece is massively underappreciated and deserves significantly more time in the spotlight! If you are searching for a high end Grande Complication from a premier brand that still represents a great value, this is the piece for you.